Eat Your Frogs Early and Often

On a plate full of French delicacies—oysters, crepes, cheese, truffles—it's the frog that stares at you. And it's not letting you go, either. It just sits there on the plate. Staring. Maybe eat some cheese first? Drink some wine? The frog, yes, of course, gotta try! But later.

You're not gonna eat that one, are you?

Frogs are the things you hate doing. You'll do them later. You'll do them right after this. You'll do them tomorrow, promise.

You'll never do them.

I've two rules for my frogs:

1. Frogs come first

I'm very good at postponing frogs. And the days go by. Each day that the task remains undone is another failure, making me feel more miserable, making it less likely for me to actually do it: a classic vicious cycle.

So the first rule is about getting it done. It's about not procrastinating. If you really need to get the task done, then there's no avoiding it in the end. So, in my daily planning, I put the frogs first. Nothing gets started before the frogs are done. I hate it, I wiggle, but then I do it and feel much better.

This is not a new idea, of course. There's a ton of blog posts about frogs, for example on The Art of Simple or Nipenda. Eat that frog is even the title of a book about stopping to procrastinate.

Go read how others make themselves eat their frogs and then figure out the best way for you, and try eating them first. :)

2. Find new frogs

Frogs are not only tasks that I avoid. A frog is anything out of my comfort zone. There are frogs of behavior: I love walking. When I do, I am often deep in thought and on the way to Somewhere. This thinking-pacing is so captivating that people greeting me usually don't get more than a “hi” while I speed by. It's nothing personal, no judgement involved. I've this plan to get to A, and that's what I'm doing. I'm terrible at stopping. Just slowing down is hard. Here's a social frog: Being shy, I hate late-joining a group of people that know each other and have fun talking. My comfort zone is staying just where I am or escaping as quickly as possible. (I'm very good at that.)

I try to remind myself what my comfort zone really contains (it's crazy). Here are other things where I break out of it: Not thinking for 5 minutes. Yes, just that. Not easy. For 15 minutes? Nay impossible! Greeting disappointment with laughter. Surrounding myself with people better than me. (That is a self-confidence thing. I know it's the best way to grow and I love it when I do, because I learn like crazy, but it is a frog.)

Here's the thing: I believe it's very healthy to consciously and repeatedly break out of our comfort zones. No matter which they are, no matter how established they are, how useful they are. That rule goes for any kind of habit, of thinking pattern. The things that I listed above as not natural yet for me: I love doing those. It feels great.

As Steve Ilardi says: experience changes the brain. He cites traveling is an example for a brain-advancing experience. The stranger the place you're going to—wonderful is a nice word—the more you take home with you. And the same goes for stepping out of your comfort zone: the farther you step, the less often you've diverged from it before, the further you are being propelled.

All this I boil down to: Eat your frogs, early and often. Cheese and wine come later, but then they taste all the better. And sometimes it's good to lift the plate up and have a look at what's below, just because you never did.