Swallowing the big toad first

Posted: October 1, 2013 in writing life
Tags: , ,

My favourite teacher in sixth-form, the waistcoat-wearing, philosophy-spouting, local councillor Mr Anthony, had a slogan on his maths room wall:

‘If you have to swallow two toads, eat the big one first.’

photo by erikpaterson via flickr creative commons

photo by erikpaterson via flickr creative commons

It’s good advice, but easy to forget. When I’m trying to get started of a morning, I’ll often do a small, easy piece of work, to ease myself into the day. Then another, for the sense of satisfaction. And so on, picking off the easy fruit first.

The problem is, this means that the later tasks seem more daunting – everything’s harder than what I’ve done before. Whereas if, at the start of the day, I took a deep breath and did the big task, then everything would be easier from there on.

I’m trying to get back into that habit. It’s not easy, but it’ll make me more productive, and less bowed down under the weight of big tasks I’ve put off.

Anybody else got words of wisdom on this subject? How do you organise your work to be most productive? We’re all different, but I’m curious, what works for you? And who was your Mr Anthony?

  1. skudssister says:

    I’ve recently been doing some work towards a qualification in bookselling (which I am doing through my work) and we have just done some stuff on time-management. One principle was that 20% of the work takes 80% of the time (with the horrible maths of working out that you then have 20% of the time to do the other 80%) and the other was Parkinson Law – which Rob defined as ‘a task expands to fill the time available’. So far this hasn’t helped me to organise myself any better but I do know what I’m doing wrong….

    • Ah, Pareto’s 80/20 principle – I used to deal with that a lot in work, mostly as ‘80% of our wasted time comes from 20% of the time-wasting causes’ – my job was to find and eliminate those bits. A much cheerier reading of it is that 20% of effort achieves 80% of the end results, so if you can work out your productive 20% you can get to feel productive pretty quickly.

  2. […] wrote a whole other post about this, so I’ll direct you to that rather than repeat […]

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