Eat that frog…
Mark Twain – American writer and humourist
When I was growing up in rural Australia, frogs were part of life. Normally they were green tree frogs and could often be found resting inside the overflow of the rainwater tank or in the toilet cistern. As children, we sometimes kept them as pets in a glass tank and fed them insects. However, I was never tempted to eat a green tree frog – although I must admit I have tried frog’s legs in a French restaurant.
How does the metaphor ‘eating a frog’ relate to productivity?
As managers and business owners, we are confronted each day with tasks and the challenge is to prioritise them. We can create a ‘to do list’ and then assign importance to each task:
- A – most important,
- B – next most important,
- C – not important.
Determining what is important is a challenge.
Managerial tasks can be:
- Urgent and important – crises, deadline-driven activities, customer issues
- Not important and urgent – interruptions such as phone calls and emails, some meetings
- Important and not urgent – strategy and planning, building relationships, major projects
- Not important and not urgent – activities not beneficial to goals, personal emails, internet browsing.
One of the major problems for me, personally, and when speaking to other business owners, is that we do tasks we like doing rather than the tasks we should be doing. We procrastinate and often avoid the really difficult chores such as dealing with an employee’s performance or visiting a disgruntled customer.
Time is the great equaliser, as you cannot create any more time. Everybody has only 1,440 minutes in a day. The challenge is to manage time to get the best outcomes. The decision-making matrix for time management is a good model to use when determining where your priorities lie and where you should direct your energies to get the best results.
Brian Tracy, in Eat that Frog!, outlines some great ways to stop procrastinating and become more productive. Tracy recommends you tackle the most important task first. Likewise, Kevin Kruse, a best-selling New York Times author, recommends that you identify your most important task (MIT) and tackle it first thing in your working day in 15 Secrets Successful People Know About Time Management. Kevin Kruse says the most productive hours of the day are first two to three hours where your energy and cognitive ability is at its highest. Your mind is clear and uncluttered by the day’s happenings. This tends to be the best time to tackle the task that appears to be the most difficult and insurmountable
By way of comparisons, like Mark Twain, I recommend tackling the hardest task first rather than the most important. That is my frog. While eating your frog may not be the most enjoyable outstanding task, it will energise you to then concentrate on other more important tasks to be completed during the day. These can be prioritised using the 80/20 rule or Pareto Principle. Having a clear set of goals and a business plan is a good place to start.
For example, I needed to advise a sportswear customer that we would be increasing their rates as they no longer reflected the costs of their new order profile, their contract conditions no longer applied and, because of this, we were losing money. I kept putting off seeing the owner, who was a difficult personality, as I wished to avoid a confrontation – despite this costing the business money. When I finally met the owner, the meeting was less difficult than anticipated and we parted on good terms. Often, when the most difficult task is completed, the rest of the day gets easier and, more importantly, it is not as difficult as first thought. This was certainly the case with the sportswear customer.
How do you manage your time?
Do you have ‘to do’ lists but don’t prioritise your most difficult or important tasks?
What is the best use of your time to achieve your goals and the business’s plans – remembering you only have 1,440 minutes in a day?