Saturday, 21 July 2012

Still working on overcoming procrastination, or.... how to eat a frog

I'm  really, really busy at the moment.  I'm teaching IELTS and Academic Reading and Writing, and also preparing my lesson plans and materials for my first ever TEFL Weekend course.   

I'm really having trouble getting started on my stuff for the TEFL Weekend, because it seems overwhelming - I could have up to 20 students, and I need to prepare 20 hours of teaching materials.  I know what I need to teach, but it feels like I need 40 or even 60 hours to cover everything the trainees need to learn.  I'm going to have to be very focused and very creative to work out what to do and what to leave out.  The experienced teacher I observed during my training was amazing - I've got a lot to live up to!

I've written about my tendency to procrastinate before - here - and my method using a 15 minute timer to get myself started is certainly helping me to get focused on my work generally.  The problem is that while I've been doing fine focusing on my work in general, I wasn't really getting started on my biggest, scariest project - the TEFL Weekend.  I needed to learn to 'eat my frog'......

A writer called Brian Tracy has written some interesting stuff about procrastinating in general but also the difficulty of focusing on the really difficult - but really important - tasks, which he describes as being like live frogs which you are being forced to eat.  Although I'm sure there are cultures around the world where people eat cooked frogs (for example, in France frogs' legs are a great delicacy), I'm English and the thought of eating any frog, let alone a live one, is not appealing.  However, sometimes we have to do things we don't want to do, so here's how to eat that frog:

  • Eat it first. Some children, and probably some adults, when faced with a plate of food containing something they don't like but which they feel they must eat (out of politeness, or for health reasons), eat the horrible thing first, to get it out of the way.  Then they can enjoy the rest of the meal. It's the same with the horrible or difficult task - just do it, and do it now.  The rest of the day will be so much more pleasant because you won't be dreading having to deal with that frog.
  • Don't sit there looking at it for too long.  Looking at it makes it seem worse than it really is - you just need to get started.  As I mentioned in my previous blog post on this topic (see the link above), I just set the timer on my phone for 15 minutes, and really focus on getting started, even if all I do is read over what I did last time I worked on it.  Then I take a short break to do something more enjoyable.   After exactly 15 minutes, I go back to my 'frog' and give it 15 more minutes of undivided attention. After that, another break, followed by another 15 minutes of concentration on the task.  It sounds a lazy way to eat the frog, but it works for me.  If I know I have to spend a whole hour dealing with that frog, I never get started.  I'm a quick worker when I get going, and I can usually do an hour's work in 30 minutes if I really, really work hard.
  • If you have two frogs to eat, eat the ugliest one first.  Always start with the task you dread the most - after that, things can only get better! Your sense of achievement from completing the worst task will make the second frog look a whole lot more beautiful...

So, I'm off to eat my frog - in 15 minute chunks, with 15 minutes of reading my Ruth Rendell detective novel inbetween.  Later we're going out walking in the countryside, making the most of the sunshine, and I'll be able to do it with a clean conscience, knowing that I've eaten today's frog.  If you'd like to read more about procrastination and eating frog's here's the link to Brian Tracy's free e-book.

Have a great weekend!

1 comment:

  1. Helpful analogy! We all have our own frogs to eat, and this reminds me of mine.