If there’s one thing I’ve learned this week, it’s that Unexpected Stuff Happens. Always a useful lesson, and one which we humans are surprisingly prone to forgetting, considering how often life provides reminders.
I thought this week’s productivity experiment – using the Master List and Daily Lists – would be a piece of cake. I’ve done similar things before, and they worked ok. Well, this week’s major events were certainly not something I had on my Master List. In fact, very little that happened this week was.
Blogging was, admittedly, and this week I wrote my two most-read posts of all time (one and two, if you haven’t already). I also wrote a letter (not on the list, but probably should have been), posted a parcel, and, along with my wonderful husband the Caped Gooseberry, started work on our taxes for this year.
On which note: the New Zealand tax system is said to be one of the simplest and most user-friendly in the world. People of all other countries, you have my sincere sympathies.
Apart from those few things, this week was something of a shambles. I spent most of it being tired, slightly sick, or seriously indignant. Daily lists were written, but not necessarily daily, and lists written were not always completed. Plus the getting up on time thing failed to stick once it wasn’t something I was Definitely Doing.
That said, this week’s experiment was still useful, in that I learned things.
Unexpected Stuff Happens, for a start.
Another useful lesson: having a Master List always visible, where you can see the list of things that need to be done and aren’t getting done, is a cause of alarm and despondency. Write the list, by all means, refer to the list, but above all, hide the list when you aren’t using it.
On the alarm and despondency note, it is worth observing that seeing things that aren’t getting done is stressful regardless of whether they’re on the daily list or the master list. So don’t pile more on to the daily list than you actually have the resources to do that day – even if it all really needs to be done! And don’t put things on the Master List that, once done, will then need to be done again quite soon. Pruning the garden is one thing but blogging is quite another. Mowing is dubious.
This next week I’m going to attempt another list-based approach: Eat That Frog. Invented – or at least, catchily named – by Brian Tracy, it refers to a quote by Mark Twain . According to Tracy’s website, “Mark Twain once said that if the first thing you do each morning is to eat a live frog, you can go through the day with the satisfaction of knowing that that is probably the worst thing that is going to happen to you all day long.”
It’s also the worst thing that’s going to happen to the frog, but happily amphibian consumption this week is going to be purely metaphorical. (No frogs will be harmed in this experiment.) These metaphorical frogs are the tasks that you avoid doing, partly because you know they’re the most important to not mess up.
There are two aspects to this. The first, as mentioned in the quote, is to eat the frog early. Like ripping off a band-aid, it’s best to get it over with as soon as possible. Or as Macbeth put it, “If it were done when ’tis done, then ’twere well/
It were done quickly”. (No kings of Scotland will be harmed in this experiment either.)
The second aspect is to start with the biggest, nastiest, most intimidating frog/task, and work your way down to the small fry (tadpoles?). Look at Macbeth: first he offed the king, then Banquo, then Macduff’s wife and kiddies. Er…. This metaphor seems to have run amok on me. I think I liked it better when it was only frogs that were buying the farm and handing in their dinner pails.
Anyway, you get the idea. If you are the hero of an action adventure, you may instead be better advised to start with the nameless minions and henchmen and work your way up to the Evil Overlord, but in real life you’d be too wiped after battling your way past all the henchmen to have a hope of taking on the Evil Overlord by day’s end. You’d be dying to put your feet up and have a cuppa instead of surging once more into battle and remembering to fire off suitably witty one-liners while you fight.
So that’s this week’s experiment: List frogs. Eat them.
Have you tried this approach? How did it work for you? What’s the biggest, ugliest frog you could take a bite out of today?