Nothing is so fatiguing as the eternal hanging on of an uncompleted task. ~William James

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Procrastinating 101—Devouring Hideous Amphibians

First, the title. Procrastinating 101—as in “Overcoming…,” as in “Dealing With.” Not as in “The Art of…,” or “How to Keep on…” Devouring Hideous Amphibians—as in Eat That Frog! 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time, by Brian Tracy, which I began reading yesterday.

If I were a character in a TV show, one of my characterizing quirks would be my reflexive library runs in response to life challenges.  Dyslexic kid?  Hit the shelves.  Panic attacks?  Pull out my library card.  Plumbing leak?  How-tos beckon.

So naturally, I have read a thing or two about procrastinating.  And my quest for remedies continues.  Somewhere in what I might loosely term “the literature” on why so many of us avoid getting to the things we supposedly want to do, there must be some useful ideas.  In “Procrastinating 101” posts, beginning with this one, I will consider the approaches recommended by my leaning towers of books on the subject.

I was led to pick up Eat That Frog! by its intriguing title.  In the first three chapters, read while my two-year-old grandchild napped (I succeeded, at least, in putting him to bed), I learned that:

1. Brian Tracy has also read a lot of books about procrastinating, time management, productivity, etc.;

2. the title refers to something I should probably have already heard of, since

it has been said for many years 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.
 3. according to Brian Tracy, the frog stands for the most important thing we should be doing, and that we are most likely to procrastinate on;

 4. it has also been said [though Tracy doesn’t say by whom], “If you have to eat two frogs, eat the ugliest one first;” and

 5. "[i]f you have to eat a live frog, it doesn’t pay to sit and look at if for very long."

Upon this amphibian foundation, Tracy erects a fairly common structure of rules and principles, with, thus far anyway, an emphasis on lists and written goals and plans.  I am struck by how gendered his orientation seems to me. 

He appears to assume an expanse of designated work time, if not space, that has eluded me for years; and a clear singularity of purpose that I find completely foreign.  I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised that career success, measured by financial reward, is his focus.

He offers advice to be used in identifying my biggest, ugliest frog.  But in my woman’s life, and mind, and heart, I am having difficulty in applying it.  Is my frog the novel I want to be writing?  Or is it the teenagers I haven’t finished raising?  Or the tangle of health bills and insurance E.O.B.’s from which Obama hasn’t rescued me, which, left to their own devices, could bring down the house?  Or the paid work that produces the monetary band-aids I stretch over the cracks?  Or my small contributions to an effort to address entrenched minority joblessness in my city?  Or…?

I think I could bring myself to “just eat it” if I could figure out which one of these leaping green creatures was “the one.”

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