Over 4 million of us in Britain are now self-employed – more than ever before. Worklifeblog is about sharing tips and techniques to make self-employed working work better. From decision-making to resilience, time-management to forward planning, find ideas here to make your life as a freelancer a huge success on your own terms.

Eat That Frog!

Exclamation marks are a big no-no in writing: they make a sentence look desperate for approval.

In the workshops I run with journalist Dea Birkett, we counsel writers never to use this punctuation mark unless it’s something you intend the reader to shout. (‘Hands up!’ for example, or ‘Checkmate!’)

Eat that Frog!So I probably wouldn’t naturally have chosen to read Eat That Frog! (subtitle Get More of the Important Things Done – Today!) except that it was recommended by my business coach, Claire Fuller. It’s by Brian Tracy (no exclamation mark but maybe he secretly wanted one) and the book offers practical steps you can take to get better, faster results in your work.

It turns out that Eat That Frog! is based around one really fundamental and excellent idea, and it’s this. If you know that every day you’re going to have to eat a live frog, then the best thing you can do it get it over with early in the morning.

Translated into practical wisdom, this means identifying the most significant things you need to do each day to make progress towards your goals, and then doing them instead of anything else.

One of the freeing ideas in the book is that there will never be enough time to do everything that might be worth doing. This chimes with a brilliant book by Pete Scazzero I recently read which humbly suggests that we all ought to take more time off – even though we will achieve less.

Tracy’s approach, of prioritising only the top-ranking ugliest frogs, forces you to narrow down what you do each day – but it guarantees you’ll spend time on the important things that lead somewhere and give you a sense of achievement.

When I read the book I commented to Claire:

The ‘Eat that Frog’ book has definitely made me feel more satisfied if I complete the most vital things, instead of guilty that I didn’t do everything on my list.

So, hooray! for Brian Tracy and Eat That Frog! Hooray!


How to overcome procrastination

Eating cheese…  researching your family history… polishing the children’s shoes… checking Facebook… alphabetising your stationery drawer… what have you done today instead of getting on with your work?

None of these things is intrinsically bad, but they won’t make you any progress towards your goals. And if you’re self-employed then procrastination can make the difference between profit and loss. Every hour you spend doing low-priority stuff means an hour less sleep, fun or relaxation later, because you’ll be catching up on your work.

Douglas Adams famously loved the sound of deadlines as they whooshed past, and most people procrastinate to some degree. There are lots of ways to tackle this tendency, but one that works for me is outlined in this article by Oliver Burkeman in the Guardian. It uses the trick of comparing your current task with things that are much harder to do, instead of the much easier things you naturally tend to compare it with and actually do – eating cheese, cleaning shoes etc.

Imagine there is a piece of work you need to do but you just can’t get started.

1. Instead of the task in hand, actively think about some of the other things that you’ve been putting off doing – professionally or personally. It might be a tricky phone call you ought to make. It might be some exercise or study you should do, a meeting you ought to arrange, some invoices you should send which will be a pain to calculate. Try to make these things niggly, uncomfortable things that you feel remiss about not having done.

2. Write them in a list so you can refer to them later (or easily throw them away).

3. Now consider your task in hand. Doesn’t it seem like a doddle to get on with it instead of doing this other stuff?