Today is Mark Twain’s birthday, and among the various witty and wise things he supposedly said and wrote during his life was this: “Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.”
Now there is nothing new about the idea of getting the worst task out of the way first. My mom, your mom, everyone’s mom told us this for years. Still, it’s one of the simple things that many of us don’t do.
Because even though it’s simple, it’s also hard. No normal person likes to rush into something unpleasant, and if we put it off, there’s a chance (however slim) that the problem will solve itself. (Once, after a root canal, I was almost run over by a texting teen driver, and I have to admit that I was mostly disturbed by the fact that I would be killed AFTER suffering through a root canal.)
In general, though, after years (decades!) of putting off distasteful tasks, I have finally realized that there is no real payoff. It’s not as if I had a carefree happy time until I took up the dreaded task. In fact, it was the opposite. No, I spent every delaying moment in a free-flowing state of apprehension. My stomach hurt. In the midst of doing something else, my mind would suddenly shift to that undone task, and dread would overtake me again.
So I finally gave in and started “eating the frog.” I fear dentists, so I make the appointment for first thing in the morning. There’s a confrontation that can’t be avoided: It’s on my calendar as the first appointment for the day.
If you’re not sure what your “frog” is, just think of the things you need to do. When you hit the one that makes your stomach lurch or makes you want to dive back under the covers in the morning, you’ve found it.
Doing the difficult thing might not make it more pleasant, but it truly does make it less onerous by freeing it of the accompanying dread. You also gain an incredible feeling of accomplishment, knowing that the worst thing (probably) is over already and there’s only one way to go for the rest of the day: Up.