Swallow the Frog – How Tackling The Hard Stuff First Makes You More Productive

In college you would have thought I was majoring in procrastination. Regardless of what class it was for, if you saw me tackling a big project – especially one that would involve a presentation of sorts – you could bet it was due in the very, very near future. Afterall, why do something today if you can wait until tomorrow and do it under the weight of added stress?
The reality is that our lives are busy and filled with never ending tasks most weeks. It’s far more common to approach a task list with the plan of crossing off the simpler things and moving the “big ones” to the bottom in an effort to feel more productive and accomplished. What so many don’t realize is that there’s actually a better way!
Instead of jumping to the smaller tasks, hop on over to your most challenging one and try “swallowing the frog” instead!

What exactly does it mean to “swallow the frog”?

Don’t worry, no actual frogs will be hurt in the process! Whether it’s the task that takes the most time, the one that pushes you outside of your comfort zone or simply the one you’ve been dreading,  embracing the most challenging “to-do” on your list follows the “Swallow the Frog” productivity method. This method is centered around prioritization to avoid procrastination. By prioritizing the most difficult task it frees up your mind and allows you to think more clearly as you approach the balance of your items that need accomplishing.

How do you define your unique frog of the day?

One of the hardest parts of being productive isn’t actually doing the things, but having an actual plan of attack to get them all done. When you embrace the “Swallow the Frog” method it’s important to be highly critical of what you’re going to prioritize first as your frog. First, admit to yourself that checking email, replying to calendar invites, organizing your desk are never going to be your frog. Instead, look at the things you need to do that may play a larger part in your other tasks, the ones you need to do before you can move forward on something else. Another identifier is the time it takes to accomplish the task. Look for something that is going to be more time consuming than the rest and may take a little more brain power – there’s your frog!

Have you heard that the early bird gets the worm?

Well, in this case it’s the early frog I suppose! The best thing you can do to create a mindset that allows you to accomplish more in less time is to start your day off by “Swallowing the Frog.” Once you identify which task is your frog, that’s your cue to get to work! When you push yourself to get that task done first thing as you start your day you are basically telling procrastination to kindly see its way out. Make it part of your routine at the end of each day to look at what’s on your list for tomorrow and identify your frog!

What about days when you don’t want to “Swallow the Frog”?

Here’s the thing about frogs – nobody wants to eat that sucker! In fact, that’s why I think it’s called “swallow the frog” and now “eat the frog” – you have to close your eyes and get it down quick before you realize what you’re doing! Meeting with an employee where you have to have an uncomfortable conversation can be something you dread doing, so why not get it out of the way first thing in the morning? Have a presentation due to your boss that you know will take a while? Get started as soon as you sit down at your desk.  There’s going to be days when you want to work on the quick and simple tasks and that’s ok, but try to remind yourself how much better you’ll feel if the harder things are completed and out of the way!
Challenge yourself tomorrow to start your day and “swallow the frog!” I’m sure you’ll see a difference in your day and what you accomplish.


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