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Get In The Zone and Eat That Frog! How to Revolutionise Your Time Management

In last week’s message, I talked about the biggest killer of our time – procrastination.

Today I’m going to dig deeper on that topic and share a lesson that I write about at least once per year – “getting in the zone and eating that frog!”

Just like an elite sportsperson you are either in the zone and not easily distracted or you’re not; you have the required determination or you don’t; you have ownership, accountability and responsibility or you don’t. 

This is most important when it comes to focus. Do you have the laser focus on what you need to achieve that will keep you on track?

We all know what it’s like to start the day with a long list of things to do. At 9 am it looks a bit long but you think you’ll get through it okay. By 10.27 am you’ve crossed off only one thing because you’ve spent all your time fixing problems that you should really be leaving to other people. By 4.15 pm you’ve only crossed off three things, and – as you did yesterday – you move the remaining items to tomorrow’s list. 

Because, you know, tomorrow will be different, right? 

Of course tomorrow won’t be different – so you have to be different. It is definitely not okay to have your business focus diluted.

Here’s some strategies to help you focus on what needs to be done. 

Only have 3-4 key things to do each day. 

The first thing you can do is shorten your “to-do” list drastically. Remember, you’re outsourcing, delegating or terminating the less important stuff, aren’t you? 

If you are doing too much at once – such as having many more projects on the go than you can handle or trying to wear every single hat in the business – and you are not getting help, you will get the results you deserve, and they won’t be good. 

You need to be clear about the three vital things that need to be achieved today to get you closer to your goals, not the 50 things that are on your to-do list that will allow you to tick a box but not really contribute to your long-term success.

Do the toughest things first. “EAT THAT FROG!”

The second key to getting through the important things each day is to do the toughest things first. Most people naturally avoid the things they don’t want to do, so they pile up and keep getting put off until tomorrow. 

This keeps happening day after day, so that some things never get done at all. So, each day, look at your list and see what important thing on it you least want to do and do that first.

This will stop you getting distracted, it will stop the procrastination.

This approach has been called “eating the frog” (by Brian Tracey, giving a nod to Mark Twain who once said “Eat a live frog every morning, and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day”). 

If you’d rather stick a fork in your eye than make some marketing phone calls, do these calls first. You’ll feel better after they are done and you’ll be able to get on with your day. And they won’t be as bad as you think anyway – things never are. 

Success often comes from breaking out of your comfort zone, so make it happen! 

Having your day well planned and well structured is hugely important in helping your business move forward. I know what I’m doing each day from the moment I walk through the door. I have everything scheduled, including time for dealing with unplanned issues that arise. 

When I’m in the middle of an important task the phone and the email are ignored and, unless they are urgent, any problems are ignored. I keep that laser focus until the task is complete. 

I’m working out at 6.05 am every day, not because I don’t get much done but because my days are well planned, I have the focus to stick to the plan, and I don’t waste my time on things that are unimportant or that I’m not good at. 

This didn’t just happen. It’s a direct result of my approach to each and every day. Like everybody, I get the results I deserve. 

I’ve had new clients come to me who look like they haven’t slept in a month. They explain to me how they are working 15-hour days and they always seem to be busy, but somehow this isn’t showing up in the bank account.

So what’s going on here? 

These people are confusing activity with productivity, a common problem among small business owners. 

If this sounds like you there are two things you need to look at: you are probably spending your time doing a lot of unproductive tasks that keep you running around but don’t move the business forward, or you might not be charging enough so you’re working below your real value. 

Or, if things are a real mess, you might be doing both!

Don’t let yourself get to the stage of being desperate and dateless, where you’ll say yes to anything and end up working for $12 an hour. This starts a downward spiral that leads to bad decisions which compound over time, and you end up with a business so lacking in direction and focus that you barely know what you should be doing when you arrive at the office. 

When trouble looms on the horizon, tackle it head on, immediately. There will be periods of doubt and there will be negative self-talk. Am I going about this the right way? Have I been brutally honest about what the situation is and how I will realise it? Am I owning it? 

Certain points on the journey will be lonely and scary, and you will need commitment and focus to persevere. You’re not going to come up with a plan in five minutes.

You need laser focus. 

Think about a pilot starting out on a flight from Melbourne to London. That plane needs to be lined up to the centimetre at a specific gate 17,000 kilometres away so that the doors can open safely and the passengers can disembark. Does the pilot start lining up at that gate in London when he’s leaving the gate in Melbourne? Of course not. There are hundreds of steps he has to take in between before he gets to that far away gate. 

First, he has to taxi out to the right runway, then he has to take off safely, then he has to reach the right speed and altitude, and there are stopovers along the way. He takes the plane to Bangkok or Singapore and then hands it over to another pilot. The destination is still London.

All of these are small steps that are carefully planned with the one aim of getting to that gate at Heathrow. It doesn’t matter if the flight gets a little off course here and there, due to the weather for example; the pilot will adjust as the journey continues and the ultimate goal isn’t affected. 

The pilot can do this because he knows his destination. If the pilot wasn’t sure whether he was flying to London or New York, he wouldn’t know what decisions to make along the way to keep himself on course. Throughout the flight he has laser focus on his destination.

Each of his stopovers allows him to get back on track so minor variations in the journey don’t affect the final outcome. This is how you must run your business. If you don’t know where it’s headed, how will you keep it on track? How will you even know if you’re going in the right direction? 

You must master a deep-seated commitment to where you are going. Get this sorted and it’s game on. 

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