By Haile Clifton, Creative Coordinator, Spring 2020
Procrastination is something we all face, and we all hate. But if the anxious, dreadful feeling of procrastinating is so bad, why do we continue to do it? And how can we stop? First, it's important to realize that procrastination doesn't always look like scrolling through your phone or lying in bed, but procrastination can be productive. When I have something daunting on my to-do list surrounded by a variety of other smaller tasks, I tend to start those smaller tasks instead to give myself a sense of productivity. But at the end of the day, if I spent all my time doing the less important things, the big task that was stressing me out is still there and I still feel stressed about it.
Mark Twain referred to procrastination by saying, "If it's your job to eat a frog, it's best to do it first thing in the morning. And if it's your job to eat two frogs, it's best to eat the biggest one first." If you have something daunting on your to-do list, your "frog”, you should always do it first thing in the morning. If you have multiple tasks you dislike, you should always do the worst one, or the "bigger frog," first so the others don't seem as bad in comparison. It seems like a simple idea, but this way of looking at procrastination changed the way that I prioritize my work, and helped me get more work done every day.
Of course, "eating the frog" is easier said than done, especially without a plan. Whether your bad procrastination habits lie in spending your time avoiding your to-do list or in knocking off the easy tasks to feel productive, here are some tips on how to get back on the right track and "eat the frog" every day.
The Night Before Each night before you go to bed, make a list of the top three things you need to do the next day, with the one you're dreading the most at THE TOP. I like to write them on a sticky note and put it on my desk or right next to my bed, so I don't have to move far to see it when I start my day.
First Thing in the Morning As soon as you wake up, before you check your phone or scroll through any apps, do the task at the top. It's awful, and it's painful, but then it's DONE. I won't lie, this is the most difficult part to make a habit of. But every time you get the sense of accomplishment that comes with knocking that daunting to-do off your list, it becomes easier.
The Smaller Frogs Now that your daunting task is out of the way, you can feel a weight lifted off your shoulders and a sense of accomplishment that just doesn't come from doing the little, petty tasks. With this relief and motivation, it now becomes even easier to sit down and do the other two items on your list right away.
Enjoy Your Day! Once you've finished the top three tasks for the day, you can go into the rest of the day actually doing things you enjoy and not feeling bad about them, because there isn't anything you're avoiding.
The nervous, uncomfortable feeling that accompanies procrastination can cloud an otherwise nice day. Taking these steps to "eat the frog" first thing in the morning will help you to be not only more productive but happier, too. Once you make a habit of knocking the tricky things off your list first, you can focus on hobbies, friends, and really enjoying your work instead of dreading it.