I am often told that I’m super productive and efficient – which I consider a great compliment! But the thing is… being effective at productivity is not a secret or something I was born doing – I’ve been studying and cultivating my productivity over the past couple of years.
One of the main things to understand about time management is that you’re really not managing “time”. Time management becomes obsolete if you’re being productive… suddenly you have time, because the time you do spend doing something is very impactful! So what you need to do to be good at time management is to become more productive.
Productivity means that you’re managing yourself (self discipline and mental component), your energy (truly how your body is feeling, mentally and physically), and focus or attention span (distractions).
When there is a task or responsibility with no specific due date, or maybe it is tedious, hard, or uncomfortable, we tend to procrastinate and delay checking it off the list. This could be anything you never really “feel” like doing. Expenses, prepping for tough conversations, filling out a meticulous database, going back in to update a meticulous database, reading that clinical study, listening to your voicemails, the list could go on…but we all have something that falls into this category that we must accomplish, whether we “want to” or not!
A great productivity strategy I’ve adopted is to “Eat that Frog” two mornings a week.
“There’s an old saying: if you eat a live frog first thing each morning, you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing that it’s probably the worst thing you’ll do all day. Using “eat that frog” as a metaphor for tackling the most challenging task of your day, [or] the one you are most likely to procrastinate on” – The “Eat that Frog” Book Amazon Page
This strategy has provided me with two “wins” …
- The annoying little stuff gets DONE and I’m rewarded with a feeling of accomplishment, having something checked off the list, and knowing I was already productive early in the morning. This feeling, for me, produces ENERGY
- Getting the “ankle biter” things out of the way, or the tough and uncomfortable stuff handled or prepared for, means I have a clearer head and less distractions to focus on the other important, high impact tasks I may need to accomplish for the day. This allows me to FOCUS more fully
So how do I really tackle and deal with these “frogs”?
- I block time on my calendar, and make it about 5 minutes shorter than I think I need. One of two things happen : either I meet that time allotment and by just sitting down and knocking it out (managing myself through self-discipline, then I feel even more accomplished for doing the task in less time than I was expecting. OR, when I get close to the end and I’m not finished “eating the frog”, the added time pressure is motivating for me. Not everyone “works best under pressure” but if you do, use that to your advantage to knock things out, then reward yourself with a break or “choice time” before diving into the next thing
- I make sure that I’m focusing on just the next, immediate, task. Often times, what I think are “frogs” are huge looming projects, or things that seem daunting, in addition to being tedious. If I focus just on the next move, the next step, the frog doesn’t seem quite as intimidating.
- PDA : public displays of accountability. Tell someone your plan, and ask them to follow up on your frogs… getting affirmation from an outside source when you do sit down and “eat that frog” is a great strategy when building a new habit or behavior to keep you motivated
As I mentioned earlier, you may be surprised by the result and attention you’ll get for knocking out those tedious, daunting, or difficult tasks – it’s impressive and causes other people to take notice! And I’m not the only one!
I was recently reading the book “Meet 100 People” and the author, Pat Hedley, shares a story about an intern who was charged with entering prospective clients into the database. The intern was very aware of the tedium of the task, and the daunting number of entries ahead of her. Nonetheless, she sat down and “ate the frog” and added in over 70 new accounts in less than 2 hours. the VP of sales came by her desk after the two hours and said something along the lines of : “As its your first day as our intern, its no surprise that you don’t know that the entire leadership team gets an email every time a new prospect is entered into our database. The President wants you to stop by at lunch because he wants to meet the intern who added 70 accounts in 2 hours…and therefore added 70 emails to his inbox! But… before you add anyone else, let’s turn off that notification system!”
Highly productive people manage themselves, their energy and their focus. “Eating that frog” is a great strategy to help you move towards increased productivity.
Want more? A favorite resource of mine on productivity is the book, The Productivity Project.