2020-07-12

Icky frogs

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.
― Mark Twain

Sometimes I go whole days shadowed by icky frogs: tasks I don’t want to do or even think about. They stay on my to-do list and drag me down: both reminding me of the task itself and my inability to do it. The problem is always a lack of motivation, not a lack of ability.

I think there might be a feedback loop along the lines of believing the task is hard because I’ve neglected to do it for so many days, so I neglect doing it on that day too.

My most common icky frog is replying to certain emails or messages. I’m unsure exactly what it is that makes some emails feel so much scarier and harder for me to reply to. Often, it is that I really have to think about what they have written, and sometimes about something I don’t like thinking about (often identity-related).

Recurring frogs are bugs: systematic things that go wrong in your life. It is possible that all frogs are evidence of an underlying problem and that investigating the aversiveness towards them is a valuable activity.

Some ideas for eating and preventing frogs
  • Allocate some time every day for frog-eating (maybe the morning, following Mark Twain)
  • Use Gendlin's Focusing on the feeling of aversiveness
  • Set a 5-minute timer and just do it, or superCommit to doing it within a short time
  • Set a penalty for uneaten frogs (e.g. committing to a friend, using Stickk.com)
  • Keep track of uneaten frogs (e.g. in a daily journal) and review the list to spot common themes and tackle a more general problem

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On email and instant messages specifically, I am setting a bounty. Although the intersection of “people I haven’t replied to” and “people who have read this” is small, I will PayPal £5 to you if you have not received a reply from me within 5 days of your email or instant message. Chase me up on it!
5 Tristan Cook: Icky frogs 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 b...
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