The Procrastination Chronicles: Eat the Frog!

Do you tend to leave things until the last minute? Do you stress about upcoming deadlines or postpone dreaded tasks? In this blog post, Lúcia delves into the frog analogy and how it can help tackle our procrastination.

Procrastination is the root of all my evils. Sometimes it comes from a lack of organising skill, forgetfulness, but more often than not it comes from anxiety and perfectionism. I used to think that my procrastination was because I was lazy and disorganised, but I recently found out it has more to do with wanting to have the perfect moment to do something. Sadly, in life, that’s not how things work.

Have you heard of the Eat the Frog analogy? Imagine you are put in a room, an office, and were told that you can only leave that room when you’ve eaten a frog that is jumping and croaking around the room. You have other routine tasks to complete, but no matter how much you do, there is no going out of that room unless you eat that frog. You have two choices: you either eat the frog first thing, get that over with; or you’ll avoid eating the frog but won’t be able to concentrate on your other tasks because you’ll see that frog in your peripheral vision. And worse, you won’t be able to forget the fact that at some point you will have to do the weird task of eating that frog. What would you do?

Sure enough, eating a frog is a delicacy in some places/cultures around the world, but that’s not the analogy. You won’t have salt and pepper and other spices to cook and then eat the frog, you just must, simply, eat the frog. 

Procrastinators usually would resort to postponing the dreaded task of amphibian degustation until the last possible moment. Procrastinators who also have anxiety, like me, will postpone the task but won’t be able to relax or fully focus on the other tasks because they will be always thinking about the imminent frog eating that will have to come along. The process of eating it will be the same either way, leaving until the last moment will not change the taste of it, and it will be an uncomfortable situation. Why then would some of us leave this dreaded task until the very end?

We either have hopes that 1. the frog may be old and may die in the meantime 2. Someone will come along and say “It’s all good, you don’t have to eat the frog anymore” 3. You and the frog will become friends and join forces to tackle the injustice of this forceful frog-eating analogy. To be fair, in this context, these options are all mostly unlikely. But why do we hold onto that 1% possibility that maybe the frog (and the problem) will go away?

“Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day”

Mark Twain

The friend who told me about this works in a school, and they, like me, dread having to talk on the phone. But their job requires them to call people almost every day. When they get to their desk in the morning and look at their list of tasks, come hell or high water, there are at least a couple of names on a list of people they must call that day. This friend told me that they sit down, think of the frog, call these people and then the rest of the day goes swimmingly. All tasks sound easy after you’ve tackled that dreaded first one, and you’ll also feel good about yourself as a result.

So, be it E-mail admin, organising your data, writing a chapter draft, emailing your supervisor, whatever it is: eat the damned frog! 

How do you beat procrastination in your daily life? What are the frogs you should be eating? Tweet us at @ResearchEx, email us at libraryblogs@warwick.ac.uk, or leave a comment below.

Lúcia Collischonn is a third-year PhD student in Translation Studies at the Warwick Writing Programme. Lúcia is an award-losing literary translator, writer and language nerd. Her translation of Yoko Tawada’s Etüden im Schnee was published in 2019 in Brazil. You can find her ramblings on twitter @lucycolli.

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