Wednesday, 10 January 2018

Eat The Tomato Frog

"Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day" - Mark Twain

It's simple really, you should pick the biggest, ugliest task that needs doing and that's the first thing you do. Almost inevitably it's the task you want to avoid or forget about. You swap to other activities because they're quick wins, and give you a little dopamine hit because you did A Thing, but often you're just left treading water.

We can agree procrastination and social media are time killers, right? They destroys efficiency. It's the junk food of time. Initially satisfying, but 30 minutes later you're left back where you started.1 In a work environment I heavily encourage the frog concept for better time management and meaningful achievements.

But, the notion of eating a frog is awful ... so I have mine with tomato so it's easier to swallow.

Here's my approach.

I was supposed to be tidying a room when I stopped to read Twitter and now here we are, with me writing a blog post because of something Kouhaikou (https://twitter.com/kouhaikou/status/947797476127502337) said to me. Brilliant. Well done me. But I can redeem this.

We're on a tangent from what I started, so the best way to get back to the original job in hand is to finish this one.2 Focus. Don't go looking at your social media, or flick over a TV channel.3 No, seriously, focus. You're probably thinking "man, I bet something amazing just happened on Twitter" and the finger starts to drift toward the app button, but it'll wait. It's fine. Stick with it! Then you've wrapped up a loose end, and can get back to the task in hand - rather than leaving half a completed blog post sat here.

The second step is that I'm giving myself 25 minutes to complete it.4,5 Why 25 minutes? Pomodoro! Treat yourself to a quick read (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pomodoro_Technique) rather than have me patronise you by rehashing a well written article. I work in 25 minute bursts and use a tomato timer (https://tomato-timer.com/) to monitor that. After 25 minutes I evaluate what progress has been made, and decide if another 25 minutes is appropriate or if I'm done, or even if it'll do (https://nerodine.blogspot.co.uk/2016/09/the-art-of-itll-do.html) just fine. The timing also provides a great opportunity to stand up, go for a stroll, get a drink, change background music, have a pee, or any combination thereof.

Now that 25 minutes obviously doesn't always go according to plan. I had six interruptions in this one. They're annotated above.
  1. Daughter #2 let me know she'd dropped her favourite hairband in the toilet and can I help get it out.
  2. Daughter #1 asked for help straighting a dolly's hair. Because a bald man in his forties has to develop these life skills as a dad.
  3. Son came in demanding lunchtime milk.
  4. Daughter #2 had a poo-mergency assist required. When the poo calls, you answer.
  5. Wife wanted help choosing the right storage box for her sewing machine feet.
  6. Son wanted a cat and a house drawing on the blackboard. I'm awful at both, but he loves them.
You can't avoid those interruptions, but you can avoid the distractions and tangents of your own making.6

2018 will be a year of treating my free time more like I do my work time, which seems like a perverse notion until you realise this can make it more productive and satisfying.

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