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Mark Twain's Tip for Employees: Eat the Frog!

“Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day” noted Mark Twain. It’s been over a hundred years since the famous author and satirist came up with this memorable sentence, but these few words still resonate throughout the working world.

Eating the frog has become a practice used to build productivity levels and nip procrastination in the bud, but what does it really mean? Of course the term isn’t meant to be taken literally; having a serving of toad alongside your cereal and toast in the morning certainly isn’t recommended. In this case, eating the frog is the worst task you have to do in day. It’s the job you are dreading and you have every urge to put it off for as long as possible because it’s difficult, tedious, unpleasant or boring. This task is the last thing you would ever want to do and you can’t stop thinking about the fact that there’s going to come a time when you can’t put it off any longer. You don’t ever want to eat the frog, but it’s your job to do it.

So, what does Mark Twain suggest you do? He recommends getting it over and done with, not letting procrastination take hold of you and instead getting that awful job done first thing in the day. This is a brilliant time management technique because once you’ve done the big, bad job, the rest seem easy and painless. Rather than filling your working day with meaningless tasks and taking longer to do them because you’re procrastinating, you’ll find you work more efficiently and with more concentration. You’ll also find that you are more motivated for the rest of the day’s to do list because you know you’ve already made a big accomplishment and you’ll be basking in the glow of it.

Of course, eating the frog in the morning can be easier said than done but there are a few ways to make it more palatable:

  1. Set the scene. Make yourself a tea or coffee, give your desk a quick tidy and make sure you have everything you need within reach. By doing this, you can fully dedicate yourself to the task at hand and won’t get distracted every time you need to go and find a pen or get a drink.
  2. Break the job down into manageable pieces. When you have a big job to do at work it can seem daunting. Write down a list of all the different things you need to do in order to complete the project and tick them off as you go along. You’ll be able to see how well you are progressing and by concentrating on one section at a time you won’t feel so overwhelmed.
  3. Promise yourself a small reward for completing the task. It could be a cupcake from the bakery near the office, buying the CD you’ve wanted for weeks or even just watching your favourite TV show when you get home. Give yourself something to look forward to once you’re finished and you’ll care more about completing the work than putting it off till the last minute.

No matter what line of work we are in or how much we might enjoy our jobs, occasionally everybody is faced with work they’d rather not do. While it’s tempting to bury your head in the sand and try to forget about it, it’s a much better idea to follow Mark Twain’s advice and get it over and done with so you can enjoy your day. Will you be having frog for breakfast tomorrow?