“Lay hold of today's task, and you will not need to depend so much upon tomorrow's. While we are postponing, life speeds by.” —Seneca
Inertia is an undeniable force of the universe, possibly the most dominant force known to man.
Several years ago, the legendary writer Steven Pressfield gave this force a name in his seminal book on creativity, The War of Art. He called it The Resistance. And we all struggle against it.
“We don’t tell ourselves, ‘I’m never going to write my symphony,’” Pressfield put it. “Instead we say, ‘I am going to write my symphony; I’m just going to start tomorrow.’”
Why do we do this? Because we’ll be “more rested tomorrow” or some other PLE (perfectly legitimate excuse) to justify our decision to put off till tomorrow what we should do today. Or worse yet, put off till tomorrow what we should have done yesterday.
This is why we must, before bed every night, even the night before we have a day of leisure, start preparing for tomorrow. And we must, most importantly, prepare to attack the biggest, most scary item on our to-do list.
You know the one… the one you’ve dreaded the most, the one that scares you. The 900-pound gorilla in the room. That’s the one to attack first!
It will be tempting to check off the little things on your list first to give you a sense of accomplishment. And yes, I know I told you last month to check off those little things. But we’ve mastered the little things by now… Right? So you will get to them. Right now, I want you to attack the biggest, baddest, meanest problem on your list and get it fixed… or at least get the process of fixing it started.
You know what I call this?
I call it, EATING THE FROG! That’s right. You’ve gotta eat the frog every single day of your life to get the gross, yucky stuff out of the way so you can remove that dark cloud that’s hanging over your head.
A team of data scientists spent six years researching the relationship between workload and task selection. Those participants who choose to complete easier tasks first—a behavior they termed “task completion preference”—suffered long-term deficiencies in performance. Unexpectedly, even in completing easy tasks, their sense of progress wasn’t improved, while fatigue increased. So why do we all tend to fall victim to this? Robert Greene answered this question in our interview with him about The Laws of Human Nature:
We descended from chimpanzees. It’s a fact that we tend to react to what’s immediately in front of our face, like a cow or a dog or anything. We bark and that’s who we are. And we tend to always want things to be easier, to take the path of least resistance. We all have that lower part of our nature and it’s a lot stronger, but at the same time, there’s a higher self that we’re straining to become. And maybe I’m being optimistic, but I’m saying that everybody has that desire to reach the higher self.
So from now on, you are going to “Eat the Frog” every single day of your life, even on leisure days. Why on leisure days? Because if you want to maximize fun, then solve whatever problem is in front of you so you can focus on having nothing but fun for the rest of the day!
Marcus Aurelius wrote in Meditations about holding the reins in his non-dominant hand as a metaphor for doing the difficult thing. Seneca talked about how a person who skates through life without being tested and challenged is actually depriving themselves of opportunities to grow and improve. Seek out the hardest task. Challenge yourself every day. Push yourself to be better. Reach for your higher self. And no matter what: eat the frog.
NEW HABIT: EAT THE FROG
NEW TASK: Identify the frog you're going to eat every night before you go to bed, and write in your morning journal how you’ll feel when you eat the frog tomorrow.