I have zero intentions of eating frogs.
You’ve heard this theory right? The “Eat the Frogs First” thing? Life and business coach extraordinaire Brian Tracy coined it after reading a quote from Mark Twain. Good old Marky T Mark says “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 worse thing that is going to happen to you all day long.”
In other words, Brian looks at the tasks you need to complete in these four ways:
1) Things you don’t want to do and actually don’t need to do them.
2) Things you don’t want to do and need to do.
3) Things you want to do and need to do.
4) Things you want to do and actually don’t need to do them.
The amphibians in question are the number 2’s. This way of thinking says that in order to have a more productive day, you need to prioritize. And the best way to prioritize is to get all the things you don’t want to do (but have to) out of the way, first thing in the morning.
As an entrepreneur for the last seven years, I can tell you that I followed this piece of advice pretty religiously. I would hop and croak through those frogs like a good student.
But what I didn’t realize at the time was that I was dying a little inside each time I did.
Dramatics aside, back then as an entrepreneur these froggies would feed my left brain. My business self. My CEO mindset.
But what does that mean for the writer that was still lurking in there? The writer that had been there since I was five? The writer that had been waiting patiently for me to come to my senses (and for the love of god, stop eating slimy-squirmy-no-I-will-not-kiss-you frogs)?
Back then I neatly placed my creativity into category four:
Things you want to do and actually don’t need to do them.
That’s what my entrepreneur self (and past mentors, and Brian Tracy, and Mark Twain) thought about my writing. And it wasn’t until I had a breakdown about four years into my business that I realized what I was doing to myself.
If you’ve been reading any of my blogs over the past year and a half, you won’t be surprised to hear me say that creatives are different.
Real creatives know that we don’t have to be a cliché: starving for our art, dying for our art, prostituting for our art.
Instead we know that our art is like air and water; we can’t survive very long without it. Every thing else is just gravy. Or cookies. Or fancy raspberry cheesecake cupcakes. (Clearly I need to go eat something).
However, the problem here was that even when I stepped up as a creative, I was still keeping my writing in category four. Because that is what non-creatives have pounded into our minds.
“You want a productive day? Then don’t you dare pick up that canvas. Or that pen. Or that camera. Eat the frogs, frogs, frogs, frogs.”
Suddenly my weeks would start filling up with things I was convinced I needed to do but didn’t want to. Things like spending twenty minutes a day on my Facebook Page to make sure my platform was booming. Things like going through my email. Things like getting my receipts in order. Things like laundry.
All of these things would get done one after the other until I pushed my writing back to the end of the week, leaving it vulnerable, shaking, and giving me its best doe eyes for attention. My writing was relying on me and all I did was push it away. And away.
Like a good little frog eater.
Brian Tracy wants our days to be productive by listing our tasks and putting them in this order:
2, 3, 4, and 1
But I say screw that. So let’s look at the categories a little closer and find a way to eff it all up by putting our own spin on it. Frogs be damned.
1) Things you don’t want to do and you don’t need to do them.
Why the hell does this category even exist? Throw it out with the empty cupcake wrappers.
2) Things You Don’t Want to do And You Need to Do Them
Laundry, financial, email, watch kitten videos, call the client back, have meetings that go round in circles, clean the bathroom, pay bills.
3) Things You Want To Do and You Need to Do Them
You. And your creative thing.
4) Things You Want to Do and You Don’t Need to Do Them
Digitize your photos, learn to crochet, eat those damn cupcakes
And our new order of categories…
3, 2, 4 (we don’t believe in category 1…read above)
Yes, if I were to eat my frogs (#2) first thing in the morning I know my day will be productive. But, will it be fulfilling?
Real creatives know that they need to put their art first. Whether than means learning your lines for a play that you aren’t getting paid for, or writing that new scene for your screenplay, or writing at least 500 words every day, or painting, or designing.
Our days shouldn’t start with miserable tasks. If they have to get done then they’ll get done. We’re not morons here. We’re responsible adults. We’re real creatives.
So instead, we’re going to start the day with something that makes us happy. Something that isn’t frivolous or “doesn’t need to get done.” Real creatives start their day with fulfilling themselves, with getting the juices flowing, with building their confidence.
Leave the frogs in the garden. It’ll get done. It’ll all get done.