Get started, don’t put it off

The secret of getting ahead is getting started.

Mark Twain (1835-1910)

You cannot manage time. Time stops for no-one. And you can’t store time.

You can control how you use your time, what you do first, what you do second and so on.

However, we all procrastinate.

A key to high performance is overcoming procrastination by tackling the most important task, particularly the hardest, biggest, ugliest task, first thing.

Swallow a toad in the morning if you want to encounter nothing more disgusting the rest of the day.

Nicolas Chamfort (1741–1794)

This is likely the basis of the quote attributed to Mark Twain about ‘eating a live frog first thing in the morning’.

Self help guru Brian Tracy uses this quote in his book ‘Eat that Frog’ which is about stopping procrastination.

Throughout my career, I have found a simple truth. The ability to concentrate single-mindedly on your most important task, to do it well and to finish it completely, is the key to great success, achievement, respect, status, and happiness in life.

Eat that Frog by Brian Tracy

It’s a quick-reading, no nonsense, inspiring and practical guide in which Tracy walks us through his top 21 ways to getting our frog eating done.

Tracy describes 21 ways to beat procrastination.

You need to start by having a focus on what is important.

Clarity is the most important concept in personal productivity. The number one reason why some people get more work done faster is because they are absolutely clear about their goals and objectives and they don’t deviate from them.

Eat that Frog by Brian Tracy

Then identify what is most important, the number one goal.

I have found that a useful concept is the Eisenhower Matrix, also known as the urgent-importance matrix, popularised by General Dwight Eisenhower, who later became president of the United States from 1953–71.

The Matrix categorises tasks in a 2 x 2 grid using By assessing whether they are more to less importance on one axis vs more to less urgent on the other.

This enables setting task priority and provides a means to determine the appropriate action, what I call the 4Ds:

  1. Important & Urgent – Do first
  2. Important & Less Urgent – Defer (schedule)
  3. Less Important & Urgent – Delegate (if you can) or Do second
  4. Less Important & Less Urgent – Dump

The late Stephen Covey describes this as Habit 3 ‘First Things First’ in his book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People (first published in 1989!).

Another of Tracy’s ways is the 80/20 rule or the Pareto Principle, which uses the most important tasks to focus on, as this get the vast majority of the results.

And he goes on with heaps more, well 72 ways in all!

So what can you do to overcome procrastination?

  1. Write down all your tasks – get it out of your head and stops you stressing about all the things that need to be done
  2. List the tasks for your day the night before – this gives your subconscious something to work on while you sleep
  3. Start your day by ‘Eating that toad’ – this will give you a boost once you have completed the most daunting task
  4. Break big tasks down to a series of smaller component tasks – than the toad doesn’t seem to be so daunting.

Over to you. Do it!

Recommended reading:

Eat that Frog by Brian Tracy

The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey

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