Eat the Frog: Managing Unpleasant Tasks with Intention

Managing unpleasant tasks is exhausting

Our days usually involve managing unpleasant tasks.  And in an overly-edited world, where social media users can crop out sadness like plastic surgery, we might even begin to pity ourselves for the burden of these tasks.  Why do I have to clean the house this weekend instead of going skiing like that girl on Instagram?  Why am I the one stuck with giving the worst employee their performance evaluation?

The more we think about the unpleasantness of these chores, the more of a boogeyman they become.  Cleaning the house isn’t just lame, it becomes eternal.  Giving feedback isn’t tough, it becomes exhausting.  We’ve talked ourselves out of action before we’ve even finished our coffee.  Our narcissism convinces us that our problems are special, that they’re bigger than those of our neighbor.  And as someone smart once said, “It’s amazing how long it takes to complete something we’re not working on.”

The result of this gargantuan waste of time and effort is to delay tasks that are necessary and inevitable.  Of course you need to clean your home.  Of course you have to give feedback to your employees.  We squirm under the weight of (often minor) responsibility while our most important tasks are being pushed into the infinite ‘tomorrow’.  But it’s these important tasks that may actually improve our lives.

Eat the frog

One of the first and best cures for this dilemma comes from Mark Twain: “Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.”  Managing unpleasant tasks sometimes fills us with dread.  We can remove this power by just ‘ripping the band-aid’ and doing the work.  We can do even better by getting intentional with our schedule.

Our willpower is finite, and we have more of it at the beginning of the day.  So give yourself a fighting chance by flipping your day upside down and begin with the worst task in front of you. Take the three things you hate doing the most and knock them out before your coffee has cooled.  Go for a run, talk to your partner about that thing that upset you, write the first page of that paper.  Spend the rest of your day reveling in your success.  Celebrate your independence from the tyranny of the to-do list.  

Try it tomorrow.  Instead of checking social media for thirty minutes when you wake up, start your day with intention by knocking out an item or two that you’ve been dreading.  Then see how much smoother that cup of coffee tastes.

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