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May 27, 2018

Small Business Advice

Don't postpone the difficult tasks in your workday

Jerry Osteryoung | 9/10/2012

"The ability to concentrate and to use your time well is everything if you want to succeed in business--or almost anywhere else for that matter. ~ Lee Iacocca"

People often say they can tell how successful they are going to be in their day based on how it begins. The better it starts, the better it will end.

Of course, the real question is how do you make your day start well?

Mark Twain was an amazing author and a very wise philosopher. He once said, “If it's your job to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning. And if it’s your job to eat two frogs, it’s best to eat the biggest one first.” Obviously, “eating a frog” is a colorful metaphor for those tasks that you dislike but must do.

In my personal experience, when I was faced with a task I really did not want to do – such as reprimanding an employee – I tended to put it off. I always felt that if I avoided the pain, then it might go away.

Of course, as anyone who has ever avoided an unpleasant task can attest, it never goes away. It merely ends up weighing you down and ruining your entire day.

Once I learned to abide by the “eat your frog first” philosophy, however, my life has seemed so much easier and more refreshing.

I have been running for decades, but I can truthfully say that the part I enjoy most about my daily 3-mile run is when it is over. I learned early on that doing it first thing in the morning (eating my frog) was the only way to ensure I got it done each and every day.

When I put it off until later in the day, it just becomes too easy to come up with reasons not to do it or to justify skipping it because I have run out of time. On days when that happens, I just do not feel right.

Having the courage to face the things that you do not want to do early on is vital for every leader as well as for every individual.

I have a very good friend, an author, who has the hardest time getting going in the morning.

Though he likes to write, he just seems to put it off to avoid the pain of writer’s block.

However, once he gets started and he really gets into his craft, things seem to flow without interruption.

The problem for him really is just getting going.

To help him out, I suggested he try implementing the “eat your frog first” philosophy.

He now tackles his writing first thing in the morning before doing anything else, and he says he feels so much better as he no longer dreads sitting down to write.

Now go out and try doing the things you dislike the most first. When you learn to eat your frog first, you get those troublesome things out of the way and open yourself up to having a great, productive and worthwhile day.

You can do this!

Other small business advice columns from Dr. Osteryoung are here. Note: Articles older than 30 days require registration (it's quick and free).

Jerry Osteryoung is a consultant to businesses - he has directly assisted over 3,000 firms. He is the Jim Moran Professor of Entrepreneurship (Emeritus) and Professor of Finance (Emeritus) at Florida State University. He was the founding Executive Director of The Jim Moran Institute and served in that position from 1995 through 2008. His newest book co-authored with Tim O'Brien, "If You Have Employees, You Really Need This Book," is an bestseller. He can be reached by e-mail at

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