Will Eating The Frogs First Help You Write More?

You’ve probably had it happen at least a few times in the last few months. It’s Sunday night. You look at the week ahead and think, OK, it’s not too crazy. I see an hour (or maybe two) when I can write.

Is your writing a frog or an ice cream sundae?

But then on Monday your boss hands you a new project, or your child gets the flu, or the roof starts leaking. That hour or so that looked open becomes a time for crisis management. On Tuesday you really need to get caught up on what you missed on Monday.

On Wednesday, time somehow gets away from you, and by Thursday you’re exhausted. You may as well just try again next week.

And so it goes when you’re juggling a full time regular job or profession and trying to write on the side.

Next Sunday we’ll talk more about where and how that time from Wednesday on disappeared.

But for today, let’s talk about frogs.

If you’ve read much on time management, you’ve probably heard the “eat the frogs first” approach. But in case not, here it is in a nutshell.

The idea is that most of us don’t want to eat frogs–the popularity of Hugh’s Frog Bar in Chicago notwithstanding. The frog represents the task you dread and keep putting off. But as you push it toward the end of your day, it weighs on you, sapping your energy and making you less productive. So if you eat the frog first thing in the morning, you feel better, work faster, get more done, and, in a way, create more time for what you love.

So can the frogs first theory help you write more or at least more often? To answer that, let’s first look at how you see your writing.

Is Your Writing A Frog?

First off, to you, is writing a frog? In other words, is it a task you want or need to do but dread? Or is it fun, a reward, what you long for, like an ice cream sundae? (If ice cream sundaes aren’t your thing, fill in your favorite food.)

To find out if writing is a frog for you, ask yourself:

  • Do you fear doing it “wrong?”
  • Are you worried you’ll freeze up and stare at the blank page for half an hour getting nowhere?
  • Does the idea of finishing a story or novel and getting a rejection or bad reviews keep you up at night?
  • Are you excited to sit down at the keyboard?
  • Does time fly when you start to write, so that you’re surprised to discover 30 minutes or an hour has passed?
  • Do you feel more relaxed and energized after you write?

If you answered yes to one or all of the first three questions, writing might be a frog. If you answered yes to one or more of the second three, you might be in ice cream sundae territory.

It’s not right or wrong to feel either way, and it might change  depending what else is happening in your life or what project you’re working on. I feel a little froggy about non-fiction and outlining fiction. First drafting and editing (at least once I’ve decided where I’m going) is an ice cream sundae with super dark chocolate fudge sauce for me.

Making Good Use Of Your Frogs

For your froggy writing tasks, try eating the frog first. Yes, some days you’ll need to deal with the leaking roof. But the next day, rather than diving into your catch-up tasks, unless there’s a true emergency, start out with 30 minutes of eating the frog.

Choose one specific writing task or project, set your timer for 30 minutes, and do only that. See how much you get done and if the rest of your day goes more smoothly. If so, frogs first is your best approach.

If you still have trouble sitting down to write, try the bigger frog approach. Presumably you want to write or you wouldn’t be reading this article or struggling to fit in writing.

So think of that responsibility or task you’d really love to get rid of so you can write, but you’re struck with it. Maybe it’s filling out a report for your boss or ferrying your kids to a track meet or cleaning the bathroom. That’s the bigger frog.

First thing in the morning, think about that task looming over you and how you can put it off for 30 minutes if you write instead. That should get you sitting at the keyboard (assuming it won’t make your kids late for the track meet.)

If that works for you, keep using the bigger frog approach.

Ice Cream With A Cherry On Top

If you love writing, if it’s your catnip or ice cream sundae and you still put it off, your issue may be too many frogs. Or a too highly-developed streak of responsibility.

In other words, you feel like you need to eat all the frogs before you allow yourself to do what you really love.

There are good things about that. It’s probably why you’re a great parent or you excel at your job or profession or everyone turns to you when there’s a challenging task that must be done.

But it’s okay to spend some time on what you love even if everything else isn’t finished. Because the reality is–everything else will never be finished.

How to deal with that and not feel too uneasy about your other responsibilities? Pick one day a week when it’s okay to eat dessert first. Or, if that’s too disturbing, to at least eat dessert mid-day.

Allow yourself Monday and Tuesday to focus only on your other responsibilities. Or pick two big frogs a day to eat first. But after those two frogs each day, or when Wednesday comes, take 30 minutes to do what you love.

Shut the door, turn off the phone, sign off the Internet, and write. Immerse yourself in your fictional world. Tell yourself that when you come back, you’ll be that much more effective and capable because you’ll be refreshed and energized. And you know what? It’s true.

Whether you eat frogs or dessert first, I hope this helps you fit in your writing.

Until Friday–

L.M. Lilly




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