“Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.” ― Mark Twain
Writer Mark Twain wrote the above quote to encourage people to get up and tackle their hardest task before launching into their days. The basic idea is that if you wake up and do the most disgusting or unpleasant job on your to-do list first — something difficult like “eating a frog” — then all the other tasks you do later that day won’t be nearly as bad.
This is a creative productivity technique I’ve been using to stop procrastination in its tracks. By planning the night before that I will “eat the frog,” I’m giving myself space to acknowledge that even when some tasks are tricky, they are totally achievable.
Rather than festering away at the mid-section of a lengthy list of tasks, choosing one task that you’re dreading and knocking it out first thing is incredibly liberating. So for this open discussion, I’m asking you to share your thoughts about “eating the frog.” But first, I want to share some tips to help you figure out how best to eat your frogs.
This may seem like an obvious tip, but don’t wake up, do your morning routine, and then spend time considering or reasoning with the frog. You and the frog aren’t friends, you just need to eat it and get it over with. Don’t give your brain time to stop and reconsider (or talk yourself out of) what you’ve planned to do.
Think of eating the frog the same way you would brushing your teeth — which is gross, but bear with us. It should be part of your daily routine. It should become a habit and you should stick to it. If you’re consistent with your frog eating, you can start to asses how it’s impacting your creative work. For example, in the past I would have thought my frog would be writing 500 words before lunchtime, but now, I can see that my frog is answering emails. So first thing in the morning, I chomp the frog, and start responding.
Try figuring out what the frog will be the night before. By considering what you have on the docket the next day, you’re already making life easier for yourself. Some nights, I realize that my frog is starting a new artwork that’s due in months, or it’s organizing my dropbox so I can send off exhibition proposals. If your frog is a moving target, it’s important to trap it before you eat it.
Allow yourself enough time to acknowledge that some tasks aren’t quick fixes or easy to tackle in just a few hours. By breaking them down into manageable chunks you can create a series of frogs you can eat over a number of weeks or months, which ends up being deliciously satisfying. Some creative projects are huge, so give them their own time and space to be as big as they need to be while still remaining organized.
This tip took me a while to grasp. But some days you’re going to have a bunch of creative tasks to do, which means that you might have more than one frog to eat. That’s okay, and you can plan for a second frog to tackle straight after the first. Basically Twain’s tip is to give yourself as much foresight before executing your creative job as quickly as possible. If you can be flexible with your number of frogs and commit to just getting them eaten, you’re golden. And full. Full of frog.