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Should a frog be your first meal of the day?

Getting into Productivity

I have been doing a lot of work with groups lately looking at iterative processing and the delivery of services. Its taken me back to when I was studying for various qualifications and how my approaches to these changed as I got older, and as I began the continuing search for ways to be more productive.

Leaving it to the last minute

Lets face it the majority of students at some point in their lives have left things to the last minute, whether thats revision for an exam or churning out a dissertation. I remember at one point acting as scribe for one of my house mates as he strode backwards and forwards in the library dictating the works for his final year project. He couldnt type that well and had left it too late to do it himself and had not written up enough of it to send to a professional typist.

What’s really struck me is how wedded people are to this approach in their professional lives, even when it causes them significant amounts of unnecessary hassle and panic. Leaving things to the last minute and not tackling things in smaller blocks, particularly when it’s clear that taking this approach could make their lives easier and help with reducing stress further down the road.

Translation to the workplace

How I have seen this translate over and over again in the workplace is the habit of leaving smaller jobs till you have enough items to make them a big job that takes more time.

Often this is because there may not be an immediate need for these items to be completed. Payroll or sickness data only needs to be submitted at the end of the month, or the attendees for an event don't need to be collated until shortly before it happens for example. So the obvious thing to do is to leave this all to build up until it gets close to (or more frequently on) the deadline and then have a few hours work to get it all done.

Finding a way forward

When I work with clients who do this over and over again and as a result have experienced real stress when deadlines come around it has left me mystified. I don't leave getting clean to shower day for example. Its too much hassle to take a 5 minute shower every day of the month so I leave it all to a 2.5 hour shower on the last day of the month. Its much more efficient and I can really concentrate on getting clean.

If you take this approach in the workplace, more often than not what happens is that some big ticket items appear out of nowhere that need your attention. So now you have two conflicting pieces of work and the resultant stress of trying to deliver them both, or decide which is the priority of the moment. Much better if possible to process the small easy tasks and get them off your plate quickly.

Eating that Frog

Mark Twain’s quote around eating the frog first thing in the morning has fostered a fundamental principle of the productivity industry. Personally I think its a misinterpretation of what he originally intended, but the basic principle is to get the big thing out of the way first thing in the day. Whether that's writing your blog article, generating a report or unblocking your plumbing, just get it done and get on with the day.

Get yourself moving

This approach may be fine and dandy for a lot of people, but it does not work for everyone however. Sometimes you need to get yourself going in the morning, so along with the coffee why not trip out the small iterative tasks where you can? Run through these, get them done, and straight away you have a feeling of accomplishment and get yourself ready for that frog you need to eat.

Similarly we all have those times of the day where our energy is low and we struggle to find a focus. For times like this you can still be productive and prevent yourself from saving problems for further down the line by doing these small pieces of work.

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