Eating Frogs

The early morning is the only time I really seem to have any time or energy to write.  That leaves me with just about an hour to get anything out, to feel productive in my daily goal.  Yesterday, instead of immediately sitting down to write, I ended up poking around on other blogs out of curiosity.  This left me only about 10 minutes of writing to attempt, and I was extremely close to just saying “I don’t want to; I don’t feel like it.”  I forced myself to do it, though.  You only have 10 minutes left, what are you possibly going to be able to do with 10 minutes?  Ah, Nagatha, where would I be without you?  Your constant, irritating, negative voice.  I’ve almost come to enjoy this little negative voice in my head, because more and more it seems that when it pops up, I do the opposite just to spite it.  I can almost hear it shrieking in rage and pain every time I succeed at thwarting it.  As though it could melt just as easily as the Wicked Witch of the West.  Oh, what a world!

Well, I’ll tell you what I was able to do.  I was able to write about 5 sentences in one of my unfinished stories.  That might not seem like a lot, but it was something, and it was certainly a lot more than zero.  I’m currently working on trying to build this habit of working on my blog one day, and working on a piece of fiction the next until I find a groove either in the pattern, or in one or the other – because there’s no sense stopping a flow once you’ve found it.

Anyway, today is blog day, and besides my little hurrah at being able to fight the negative voice in my head yesterday morning, what I planned to write about today is a book I’ve started reading at work.  It’s called:  Eat That Frog! 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time.  This sounds great!  Who doesn’t want to get more done in less time?

Why is it called Eat That Frog?  Don’t worry, it’s not actually some exotic cook book or anything (Kermit is safe).  The concept of it is built off a Mark Twain quote that basically says if the first thing you have to do in the morning is eat a live frog, then that’s pretty much the worst thing you’ll have to do that day.  In other words, get the unpleasant stuff done first.  I think most of us know and understand this concept.  “No duh,” we might say.  What I’ve found interesting about it so far is that, as far as work goes, I already do most of the recommendations.  There are times I do actually catch myself procrastinating on some of the uglier tasks I just “don’t wanna” do, though.  The ones I should be doing first.

The more I read through it (and I’m only on chapter 5), the more I keep thinking I can apply this to my personal life.  I feel like I could benefit from it directly at home.  At home I allow myself to be lazy and procrastinate because I don’t have anyone to hold me accountable.  I don’t have anyone to answer to.  I won’t get in trouble if I don’t do something.  I just have myself and Nagatha McNaggy Voice, and she only comes in when I’m trying to be productive, so she’s no use.  That said, maybe this book can help me.

Here are some things I’ve taken away from the first few chapters:

“Visualize yourself as the person you intend to be in the future.  Your self-image, the way you see yourself on the inside, largely determines your performance on the outside.  All improvements in your outer life begin with improvements on the inside, in your mental pictures.”

Like the concept of ‘eating the frog’, I feel like this one is kind of one of those that most people already know.  I certainly had that “no kidding” moment when I read it, but then I stopped and I looked at it again.  Do I really believe it, though?  What do I see when I close my eyes and see myself in the future?  I answer this question all the time, both in my head and out loud.  You know the question.  “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?”  I see myself writing, already published, and maybe even working part-time, just a few hours a day to get myself out of the house.  But do I really see it?  The answer is no.  I’m not actually visualizing in my head what that looks like.  To me, it’s something I say, because it’s something I want.  When I try to picture it, it’s almost as though it’s clouded, surrounded by fog.  Is this the same for you, too?  My next challenge for myself – write out what a day in my life will look like for this future me, in detail, and actually see it.  If you’re struggling with this, too, join me!

“Always work from a list.  Make your list the night before for the day ahead. …When you make your list the night before, your subconscious mind will work on your list all night long while you sleep.  Often you will wake up with great ideas and insights…”

Okay, so I do this all the time both at work and at home. I LOVE checklists to the point of neurosis.  There’s something about the feeling I get when I can scratch something off of it, an almost violent ha! die, foul beast!  Except, I only ever make lists to work from at home when I’ve either got packing, cleaning, or grocery shopping to do.  Hm.  I sense something exciting here.  What if I make the checklist for the day and keep it somewhere I will see? I meant to start this last night, but forgot, so tonight my new plan is to try this out.      I imagine it will look a lot like this:

  • Wake up
  • Feed cat
  • Get cup of coffee
  • Bring laptop to kitchen
  • Write in story
    • DON’T STOP TO EDIT (you’ll do that later)
  • Go to work
  • Come home
  • Research other blogs and writing stuff

“What is the most valuable use of my time right now?”

This one was interesting to me.  It’s a great question to start with, and it’s actually part of three questions you’re supposed to ask yourself to help maximize your productivity.  That’s great! Except, when I’m at home, how do I know what is the most valuable use of my time?  How do I get past that urge to be lazy and procrastinate on everything from writing to cleaning the toilet?  Because I am a pro at putting off the chores!  I’m guessing that more ideas on how to avoid this will come in later chapters, so for the time being I’m just left wondering.  And value is such a subjective thing–which I suppose is exactly the point.  Likely there isn’t a right or wrong answer here.  Today, the most valuable use of my time right now is to be sitting here and writing, because I only have that 1 hour window in the morning and by the time I get home I’ll be too tired.  Saturday, though, the most valuable use of my time in the morning might be to sweep the floor.

So, my interim review of Eat That Frog! is that I like it.  It has helpful tips that are kind of standard, already-knew-that information, but it serves as a good reminder.  I find I often need reminders to keep my better habits in check.

____________________________________________________________

  1. Struggling with visualizing yourself as you want to be?  Write it out!  It could be in any form.  Write a poem, write prose, get creative and make it fictional if you want to.  If you do write it out, post your blog in the comments to share it with me!
  2. This evening, make out your list for tomorrow and see if it makes a difference.  Let me know in the comments.
  3. What are your values? How do you assign value to the things/tasks in your life? Share in the comments below!
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