Brian Tracy wrote the book ‘Eat That Frog. It describes a productivity method where you choose the most important task of the day then do it before you work on anything else.
Whilst this is a very brief synopsis of a whole book there is some very valid thinking behind the principle.
Many of us suffer from procrastination and put off the important tasks because it is difficult, boring or overwhelming. Eating the frog first thing in the day means that it isn’t hanging over us like a big cliff face that we have to climb later.
That cliff face tends to get higher and more difficult as the day progresses.
One client I worked with was struggling to get important tasks done early in the day. In practice they were not getting to their important work until well into the afternoon.
They were aware of the frog eating principle but had not been able to implement it. They were being very hard on themselves for not being able to focus.
They were doing easier and more fun tasks early in their work day. Sometimes it was near 4pm before they tucked into their frog.
The thing is, once they started eating their frog they kept going until they had eaten it all, even if this meant working longer hours than their standard work day.
Given the theme of many of my writings you may have noticed some traits that are common amongst people with ADHD. It’s true, this client had an ADHD diagnosis.
It didn’t stop them from being hard on themselves and thinking they were failing though.
They were not failing. The important work was being done, just not the way they thought successful people did it.
For some people, and very commonly amongst people with ADHD, the principle of eating the frog early in the day is counterproductive.
Some people need to fire up their engine first. It’s a process that takes a bit of time.
A coal steam engine needs the fireman to start the fire and warm up the boiler before steam is generated and the engine has the energy to pull the train. Without external assistance this process can take up to 6 hours. With prewarming using a separate steam source you can get this down to about an hour.
For ADHDers the energy source is dopamine. It takes time to build the dopamine levels up so that you have a head of steam.
Someone with ADHD cannot jump into a difficult or boring task with just the promise of dopamine later.
One of the best ways to build up dopamine is to do the quick, fun and easier tasks first. You can build the dopamine ready to dig into the bigger less exciting tasks.
We need to reframe the procrastination of an ADHDer to reflect their neurology. They need time to fire up their engines. That time can still be productive if the right mix of tasks is available. It can also be viewed as getting into the right place to do the work, often in a very focused way that produces great results.
Knowing about the principles of building dopamine allowed my client to plan their workload differently, in a way that worked for them. They were able to build their dopamine more effectively and not use it up by thinking they were wasting time.