It’s that issue (or those issues) that linger on your to-do list, lodged in the purgatory between the easy-to accomplish and the must-be-done. It’s the mundane yet complex, the dull yet time consuming; the issue you can’t get away from, but cannot bring yourself to confront.
It’s these issues that, like a low-frequency background hum, irritate daily, and often grow in criticality due to your neglect – a neglect steeped in that fact that you only bring them to heel when you’ve got nothing more productive left to do. It’s these issues that I’ve always hated the most.
For me, these issues have a few other common characteristics. For one, they usually involve calling a customer service line, which conjures up thoughts of a phone tree where the voice recognition is useless, the options irrelevant, a human impossible to summon, disconnection at the hands of the indifferent but imminent, and the wait time infinite. The problem is usually complex, possibly involving one party blaming the other (computer vs. app vs. network, for example). More often that not, the issue involves (wait for it …) the medical field and (wait for it again …) insurance. As many of you know, combining those two offers a potent morass of frustration, stress and lost time.
But the thing about these issues, which I mentioned above, is that their mere existence saps their strength by being ever-present. They don’t go away on their own and, in fact, get more serious and damaging as we leave them to fester. From time to time I would attack one, but only when I had absolutely nothing else calling for my attention, and even then, I’d search for an excuse to stay away with every ounce of my creativity.
However, when I did get up the gumption to slay one of these dragons, I felt absolutely fantastic, and would then go right for the next one. The feeling, you see, was contagious – I wanted more and more. But when I was done, and some time had elapsed, I’d fall back into my old habits, leaving the worst for last, or never at all.
So it was revelation when I read an article called “Eat a Frog Every Day” in the “The Hartford – Small Biz Ahead” newsletter. The column described almost exactly the troubling dynamic I detailed above and offered a new way to think about it. Rather than running from our difficult or annoying challenges (the frogs), it advised running towards them, appreciating the danger they present to our success and peace of mind, and gobbling them up.
In the article, author Michael McDevitt reveals how his mother’s age-old tip provided a way forward.
“My mom has always had an uncanny ability to send me a message that unknowingly provided me the exact wisdom I needed for that day. The message in this email simply said, ‘Eat a live frog first thing every morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day,’” he writes.
To facilitate taking time for the meal, McDevitt advises the Identify-Rank-Schedule method, with the scheduling part being the key. “We are each creative at different times of day, physically energetic at different times of day, and sociable at different times of day,” he wrote. “Knowing ourselves and knowing the top priority for each day, we would allot two hours in our daily calendar labeled ‘Frog-Eatin’ Time!’ Then we’d build the rest of the day around it.”
Something about the image worked for me. Not that I’m partial to frogs, but it helps me understand, and embrace, the concept. Now I don’t run from my issues — I relish eating them. I look forward to putting that time on my calendar, and no longer view it as a waste, but as a stress-reducing opportunity. My frogs have moved from the bottom to the top.
As McDevitt observes, “You have to eat the frog, or the frog will eat your whole life.”