“Eat a live frog first thing every morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.”
This quote from Mark Twain has changed my life. Seriously.
Now that I have your attention, let’s back up here a bit.
Pictured: Not a Frog
Psychologically speaking, procrastination is more than just “putting it off” or being lazy. Procrastination is a chronic avoidance of difficult activities or decisions. It’s a constant struggle with “I don’t feel like it;” your lack of self-control takes precedence over your important goals. What happens next? You might know. You don’t do “the thing,” you feel terrible about it, you don’t meet your goal, you feel bad about that, and the feel-bad-spiral begins.
It’s interesting to note, though, that perfectionists are often procrastinators. It’s easier to never do “the thing” at all than to do it imperfectly or incompletely. Also, procrastinators have been found to have a faulty sense of time. We think we have more time to do something than we actually do. Have you ever heard someone say they “Work better under pressure?” It’s a classic procrastination excuse.
This photo came up when I searched “under pressure.” It’s far better than the other photos that came up, so we’re going with this one.
What does procrastination do to us? I’m so glad you asked, but you’re not going to like the answer. Stress, health problems, poor performance, sleep issues, guilt, shame… it’s a laundry list of psychological and physical pitfalls.
But you know I don’t come to you without solutions! There’s always a way to improve ourselves!
Let’s come back to eating that frog. Here’s a website that explains it in a little more detail. There are entire seminars dedicated to this idea (not that I’ve been to one or recommend that you spend money learning more). This is just to say that there are a lot of people who are spending their lives devoted to the idea of eating frogs.
Here’s the deal. Think of something you really don’t want to do today. Or this week. How long have you been putting it off? Why? It certainly doesn’t feel good in the long run, does it? “Future me” doesn’t thank “past me” for doing that; procrastination is only a gift for “present me.” That’s when it’s time to eat that frog. The frog is that phone call you don’t want to make. It’s that hard conversation you don’t want to have. It’s the home improvement project you don’t want to finish. Do it. Eat the frog, do the hard thing and everything else is cake.
The metaphors just keep coming in this post.
This eating a frog idea has kept me a happier person for some time. I put frogs in my planner, in fact, to keep me on the straight and narrow.
But I realize that the “Just do it” path isn’t going to work for everyone. I got you.
Stop making mountains out of molehills. Running around complaining about what a huge task you have in front of you is not helping anyone or anything, especially you. You’re getting yourself all worked up, likely for nothing.
Eye on the prize. Studies have shown that a goal-focused approach is actually a great way to win against procrastination. Visualize your results, visualize your barriers, and visualize how you’ll get there. Do this on a regular basis, and you’ll much more likely to get there.
Get a calendar and, you know, use it. Stop saying “when I get some time,” and start making the time.
No excuses. Some of us can be excuse machines. “I need ___________ to happen before I start.” “I’m going to wait for someone to help me.” “I just don’t have the time.” “I’ll do it tomorrow.” Ugh. Gross. Put those things away.
Eliminate “noise.” When you finally start your task, make sure you aren’t interrupted by your technology. Turn off your ringer and notifications, turn off the television if it’s a distraction, and clear your area of anything else that might be a trigger for you.
Set up a reward system for yourself. Not too long ago, I had a very long day ahead of me that I was not looking forward to. I needed lots of willpower to get through the day (we’ll talk about willpower soon), and I had some tasks to do that I definitely did not want to. Someone had texted me a link to a preview for a movie that I’ve really been looking forward to. I saved that link until the end of the day to reward myself for getting through it. It’s not much, I know, but it was something to look forward to, it was free, and it wasn’t food – all qualities of a good reward.
So there you have it. “Where’s my TED Talk,” you ask? Well, here it is!