As much as I despise advice on productivity, I appreciate that it is a topic that has a universal appeal. Some of the most-read posts on this blog are on productivity. Even though I avoid the topic like the plague, please don’t ask me why. I probably have had too much of it over the years! Or perhaps, I’ve come to realize that most people seeking advice on productivity don’t want to work but read about how to get the work done. That’s one annoying paradox.
Anyway, in my opinion, “eating the frog” has been the most useful advice I’ve ever received. The concept, popularized by Brian Tracy, builds off of Mark Twain’s infamous quote, “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.” I once heard Zig Ziglar say, “If you’re going to have to swallow a frog, you don’t want to have to look at that sucker too long!”
Besides the corny frog quotes, I’ve found mind-mapping an excellent tool for thinking and organizing your thoughts. I’m a chronic mind-mapper and have been using it since 2001 when I first read Tony Buzan’s book on the concept. It immensely helped me digest volumes of pages from my high school textbooks in a matter of minutes by merely glancing at a few paper sheets! And I’ve been hooked ever since.
That said, I don’t prefer to mind-map everything, it’s a great thinking tool, but when it comes to implementation, I suggest you default to how you work — linearly. I’m talking about the effectiveness, and it’s a well-documented fact that multitasking isn’t useful in the long haul.
That means I plan out my year, months, and weeks via a mind-map, but my daily to-lists are always linear. Why? Our brains want to entertain tons of information when we see things from a 10,000/20,000 or 30,000-foot view. Jotting all that information down in a linear fashion will make the whole exercise impossibly slow. So, you mind-map your way to clarity. When it comes to your daily lists, however, your focus is just on that particular day. And obviously, you can’t possibly knock out all the things you’ve laid down for the week in a single day. So, you pick and choose the 6-8 most important things you want to achieve that day. Knock out each item one by one.
That’s how you get things done. Someone wise once said, “We overestimate what we can do in a single day and underestimate what we can achieve in a single week.”
Mind-mapping isn’t a hack but a tool to help you work with more clarity. I don’t see a point in approaching your workday with a thousand things on your mind when all you can achieve is six of the most important things that matter the most.