27 September 2023

Lick your toad before it licks you

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Michelle Bakjac* has advice for workers facing unpleasant but necessary tasks that are easy to put off, but will still be there the next day.

Ask yourself: How do I rate at making sure annoying little things get done before they pile up?

There is a great little strategy I love which comes from Kevin Lawrence, the author of Your Oxygen Mask First.

He talks about managing procrastination and freeing up your time and energy for bigger and better things.

Lawrence asks you to imagine being given a big, smelly, fresh out-of- the-ditch toad that you are going to have to lick it all over by the end of next year.

Let’s assume that that’s 12 months from today.

When are most people likely to actually go and lick that toad or do that ugly nasty task?

Most people will tell you they’ll do it right away, but they’re lying — or they’re lying to themselves.

Most people are going to wait until the end of the year, and then this ugly, smelly task will be haunting them, and they’ll be thinking about it constantly.

Likely the toad will gather more friends, the next thing you know, one toad turns into 20, turns into 50, turns into 100.

When they’re sleeping, they’ll be having nightmares about it.

When they wake up, they’ll be dreading looking at it.

It’ll follow them around and weigh them down.

At the very end, when you actually have to go and lick this thing — let’s say it’s New Year’s Eve and it’s 11pm.

We get down to five minutes before midnight, one minute before, 30 seconds before, just imagine how you’re feeling: your heart’s going to be pounding, your hands are going to be sweating.

You’re going to be thinking about doing this thing — anticipating it, and feeling absolutely horrible.

Finally, at the stroke of midnight, one full year later — after thinking about this thing over and over again, day and night, and wondering about it, and thinking about it, and dreading it.

At the stroke of midnight, you finally lick this thing and get the task complete.

What’s the first thing you say to yourself? Usually it’s: “Phew! Glad it’s over.”

Then for most people it’s: “That wasn’t near as bad as I expected — why did I waste a whole year of my life dragging this thing around?”

That’s what toads are about.

They’re these seemingly inconsequential things that for some reason we dread dealing with.

As a result, we drag them around, and they aren’t high value.

They don’t lead to our organisational goals or our personal goals or our life goals, but they burn an unnecessary amount of energy.

It’s actually a complete waste.

So, the idea here is to not let these little lingering things build up.

They can be anything from not having your will updated, or getting life insurance, to getting some dental work done, going to the doctor, fixing a lose moulding in your office or your home.

Maybe it’s a toilet that keeps leaking, maybe it’s a light that’s burnt out, maybe you need to get your gutters cleaned.

There can be tonnes of these — little inconsequential things that build up, and weigh us down bit by bit by bit.

We can get buried by these things.

The little things you procrastinate over consume far, far more energy than you believe — and that they deserve.

We’ve got to get them out of the way today.

If you are procrastinating use one of the five ‘Ds’.

Do it: Bite the bullet immediately.

Don’t do it: Say ‘no’ to the person who requested it, if it’s simply not yours to do.

Delegate it: Assign an appropriate person.

Delete it: Let go of it entirely. Decide it’s not going to happen.

Date it: Commit to completing it by a specific date sometime down the road.

Figure out which one of those techniques you will use.

Delegate is my favourite.

Find someone else who’s willing to take that on, and have them get it done — even if it seems silly.

Ideally, lick a nasty toad first thing each day, and get them out of the way so all this clutter and burden doesn’t build up.

*Michelle Bakjac is an experienced Adelaide-based psychologist, organisational consultant, coach, speaker and facilitator and a Director of Bakjac Consulting. She can be contacted at [email protected].

This article first appeared at bakjacconsulting.com.

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