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Set the Table & Eat the Frog

My roommate bought a very large water filter that now sits on the counter between our sink and our refrigerator. It takes a while to filter and, as we are a well-hydrated household, we both spend a lot of time refilling it. This week has been mind bogglingly busy in the kind of way that leaves you feeling physically, mentally, and creatively drained.

One evening, as I plodded into the kitchen for dinner, mind going a mile a minute of what needed to be done and when I would be able to do it, I noticed the water level was maybe at 80% full. So, I took a moment and filled the filter and walked away knowing that by the time I came back to refill my water bottle, the reserve would be back at 100.

Ah, I could do something. An easy win. A small victory. Does it matter that the water filter wasn’t at 100? Of course not. But did this 10 second break filling it back up not give me a small moment of peace and accomplishment? Strangely, yes.

When you don’t know where to begin, find your water filter. Find your simple task that will take less than five minutes to complete and cross it off your list. As silly as it sounds, I immediately recognized that I’d been doing this all week—filling up the water filter and leaving feeling lighter and focused. That was easy enough… so the next thing on my list might be easy enough too.

Now there can be a flip side to this which anyone who has ever had a deadline is all too familiar with. It’s the idea of “well, I’ll just do all these little things that need done first.” And before you know it, it’s 11:24 PM and that midnight deadline is looking pretttttttty daunting. Sure you may have cleaned your whole house, alphabetized your spice rack, and organized your bookshelf by color, but was that the most important thing that needed done?

I had an old manager who reminded us to eat the frog first. The idea was to start the day with the ickiest task… the thing you least wanted to do. Once that was done, the rest of the day would be a breeze because you got the hard thing out of the way. They repeated this so often that at one staff meeting, we all received tiny plastic frogs to put on our desks as a reminder.

And while I like the eat the frog philosophy, part of me wonders if we might not set the table first. I am immediately drawn back to childhood and placing 5 plates, cups, and napkins around the dinner table in my family’s kitchen. A simple task. Less than five minutes likely. Filling up a water filter.

So maybe this is our Hannah Montana best of both worlds moment. Start by setting the table and then eat your frog. Take your confidence boost of a tiny accomplishment, but don’t let it distract you from the real work that needs done.

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