Mark Twain once said, “Eat a live frog first thing in the morning, and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day”. As unpleasant as that sounds, it has a practical application as it relates to productivity for you and your team.
On a regular basis, we hear from clients that they are busier than ever. Meetings fill your day and there’s an overabundance of things that require your attention. Yet if you are like most people, there are nights when you get home from the office and you don’t really feel as if you have accomplished anything of real value.
You Are Busy–But Are You Working on the Right Things?
This happens because even though we are busy, very few of us are working on the “right” things. Those things that will move a project forward, or that hold real strategic value if they get checked off the list. Much of this happens because we are all really good at using tools to track all the tasks we need to keep our arms around. Many of us use tools to automate the process. In our organization, we use Asana as an online project management and task tracking tool. These tools are great containers and you can add a due date to give you the added comfort of some built in accountability. What they can’t do, however is prioritize the work for you. That requires good old fashioned, and non-technical, thought process.
I’m not saying we don’t prioritize. We all do it to some degree. What I’m saying is that our prioritization is often flawed. Let me give you an example. I love to write these blog posts. I am really happy when I’m writing just about anything. And, creating these posts are on my task list. Also on my task list is sitting down to make telephone calls to clients and prospects in an effort to generate more business. That is not my favorite thing to do. Which one do you think I choose if I’m given the freedom to do what I want? You are absolutely right. I choose the one that’s fun. There’s always time to do the phone calls. The problem is that the phone calls keep sliding down the list until there’s no more time left in the day.
Enter Mark Twain and his frog. Using his advice, I would understand that even though I would rather not make those calls, if I just sit down and get them out of the way first thing in the morning, the rest of the day will be a breeze. Here’s the crazy thing that also happens. When you do that, you will still find time to take on the projects and tasks that are fun and exciting. You find the time because they are fun and exciting!
Tips on Managing Your Task List
Here’s a tip for you. Teach this to your team and everyone will be better for it. Before you close up shop for the day, sit down with your task list and look at all the things you have to accomplish tomorrow. Pick out the frog before you go home and move it to the top of the list. By doing this, you are mentally preparing to eat that frog first thing in the morning. When you get to work tomorrow, sit down and knock it off your list. Do it before you get your coffee if you have to! I guarantee if you get into this habit and stick to it for a couple of weeks you will start to see the quality and quantity of work increase.
When in doubt. Ask Mark Twain. He seems to always have the right answer.