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Last Updated on July 21, 2020

The Secret of Success: 10 Tough Things to Do First

The Secret of Success: 10 Tough Things to Do First

Eat the ugly frog first.

I enjoy tossing that line out when I give a speech, often accompanied on the big screen by a photograph of a large and exceedingly unattractive reptile. But it is based on the truth that if you eat an ugly frog for breakfast, the rest of the day will be much better.

This gets to the heart of procrastination and its counterpart — self-discipline.

Procrastination is more than the art of keeping up with yesterday. It is the active avoidance of doing things that are dull, tedious, disinteresting, boring or stressful. Yet life and business have a lot of these elements. I ran a publicly traded semiconductor company for 37 years, and there were days I did not want to look at the latest financial numbers or help debug production facility equipment issue. But those were my ugly frogs, and I ate them with gusto.

Discipline overcomes procrastination because, and I note in my book Tough Things First, discipline is doing what you don’t like doing and doing it well.

If you have 10 things that need to be done, and you put off the one thing you dislike, it still needs doing eventually. Yet while you do the other nine tasks, the single unpleasant one weighs on your mind, drains your enthusiasm, zaps your motivation, saps your energy, and generally makes you miserable.

Contrarily, if you do the tough things first, if you eat your ugly frog for breakfast, the other tasks fly by. You are liberated from delay, freed from anxiety, and joyful in all other pursuits. I have discovered that my personal productivity rises 20% when my disagreeable task is in my “out box”.

This is not just a business prescription. Life is loaded with ugly frogs. This is why New Year resolutions are always made (because the tough things have fallen by the wayside) and quickly abandoned (because they are still tough things). Yet each procrastination creates a drag on your body, health, mindset, willpower and spunk. Each ugly frog you avoid ingesting is the one you see on your breakfast table the next morning. They simply don’t go away, and they spawn newer and uglier frogs.

Soon enough, you cannot wade through your breakfast nook for the thicket of frogs you have allowed to accumulate.

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Here is a personal case in point. My partner and co-founder Warren led a frog-free life. This included his health habits. He was not one to diet or exercise, and he smoked relentlessly. His life was not devoted to eating the ugly frogs necessary for good health. He died at age 69, while I’m still running strong at age 81 in what can only jokingly be called “retirement”. Truth be told, I’m working harder and enjoying it more than ever.

What ugly frogs do you have in your cupboard? Here are 10 frogs you should swallow.

1. A Rigorous Daily Exercise Program

I once saw a stand-up comedian who said he didn’t exercise because “it is boring, and it hurts.” That’s two ugly frogs on one plate!

But your body and mind are an interrelated system, one in which maintenance is critical. A “healthy mind in a healthy body” is the oldest of adages and was written because it is a core truth.

And here is the fun bit:

Exercise makes all the other tasks easier and more enjoyable because the body and mind are fully ready to take them on.

2. Eat Three Healthy Meals Each Day

I have had employees for who donuts were a primary food group. Some salesmen live on fast food while on the road. Others think whiskey and fried chicken is all they need for dinner. And none of those people excelled.

As with exercise, the body – and thus the mind – cannot operate well enough to do the tough things ahead, and this enables procrastination. This in turn allows the ugly frogs in your life to gather and breed.

Here’s some nice advice for you: 9 Simple Healthy Eating Rules for Busy People

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3. Do the Task You Dread First

Not second. Not after lunch. Not “when I can get around to it.” But now!

Before anyone else has had enough coffee to speak coherently, when you awake, write down the 10 things you need to get done and order them from the least pleasant to the most. Then don’t dare move on to item #2 until item #1 is complete.

4. Repair a Relationship

Find someone with whom you have a problem and do a little work to heal things.

We are not alone in life or in work. We depend on people and they depend on us. When relationships are dysfunctional, so are our lives.

It can be very unpleasant approaching someone with whom you are not getting along, but it is vastly more unpleasant to allow the relationship to fester. Heal it sooner rather than later.

Take a look at these 15 Ways to Rebuild a Broken Relationship and learn how to repair a relationship.

5. Find Someone Different Each Day to Shower Praise

Humans need to feel valued. That is part of the problem in our inner cities – the youth feel devalued and turn to gangs for any sense of validation.

Your family, your friends, your coworkers, your boss, your pastor, your mechanic, your waitress … they all need to feel appreciated because they are all human beings.

Don’t praise only the select few with whom you associate most often. Find someone for whom your praise will seemingly come from out of nowhere. It makes their day.

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6. Read a Good Book Once a Month

Groucho Marx once said:

“I find television very educational. Whenever someone turns on a television, I go into another room and read a book.”

Books are educational. Even good fiction exposes you to other societies, philosophies, cultures and thinking. With the marvels of the digital age, there are more and more books one every conceivable topic hitting the “shelves” every day.

Instead of wasting an hour watching TV after dinner, invest an hour reading.

Leo Babauta has some unique suggestions on picking up reading: 14 Ways to Cultivate a Lifetime Reading Habit

7. Limit Your Time on Devices

We stare at rectangles a lot these days — our phones, our tablets, or computer monitors, and our televisions.

Digital devices do provide a lot of value, just ask any grandparent who gets videos of their grandchildren on a regular basis. But some people don’t know when to stop, endlessly scrolling through page after page of meaningless content.

Set a daily limit on your device time and stick to that limit. Here’s a simple guide on how to do it: The Ultimate Guide To Unplugging Technology For A Better Life

8. Work No More Than 48 Hours per Week

I ran a semiconductor company in a very competitive industry for 37 years and rarely worked longer than this.

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If you find yourself working long hours, then add this ugly frog to your list for tomorrow:

Discover and cure what is dysfunctional in your job, team or company that is causing you to work overtime … and fix it.

9. Be Frugal – Spend Wisely

Money is like oxygen – life gets unlivable if you run out. Yet people commonly spend on things they don’t need, stuffing older possessions into storage to make room for the new items.

Being frugal is not being cheap. It is merely not spending on things you really do not need.

By not spending, you both increase your cash/oxygen and remove the stress of wanting “things”. The Buddhists are right in observing that desire is the source of much misery.

Get more inspirations from this article: 7 Ways To Spend Money Wisely

10. Learn to Love What You Hate Doing

Enjoy your ugly frogs. When I ran my company, I found joy in joyless tasks by knowing that my attention to those details and seeing how every aspect of my company was operating, fulfilled my vision. Eating my ugly frogs led me to being profitable 36 of my 37 years in business.

Above all else, know that doing is the soul of life. Doing what you don’t like doing, and doing it well, brings vast rewards … but only after your plate of ugly frogs is cleared.

More About Achieving Success

Featured photo credit: Eunice De Guzman via unsplash.com

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Ray Zinn

Ray Zinn is an inventor, entrepreneur, investor, angel, bestselling author and the longest serving CEO of a publicly traded company in Silicon Valley.

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Last Updated on August 6, 2020

Why Working 9 to 5 Is Outdated

Why Working 9 to 5 Is Outdated

Bristol is the most congested city in England. Whenever I have to work at the office, I ride there, like most of us do. Furthermore, I always make sure to go at off hours; otherwise, the roads are jam-packed with cars, buses, bikes, even pedestrians. Why is that? Because everyone is working a traditional 9 to 5 work day.

Where did the “9 to 5” Come From?

It all started back in 1946. The United States government implemented the 40 hour work week for all federal employees, and all companies adopted the practice afterwards. That’s 67 years with the same schedule. Let’s think about all the things that have changed in the 67 years:

  • We went to the moon, and astronauts now live in space on the ISS.

  • Computers used to take up entire rooms and took hours to make a single calculation. Now we have more powerful computers in our purses and back pockets with our smartphones.

  • Lots of employees can now telecommute to the office from hundreds, and even thousands of miles away.

In 1946 a 9-5 job made sense because we had time after 5pm for a social life, a family life. Now we’re constantly connected to other people and the office, with the Internet, email on our smartphones, and hashtags in our movies and television shows. There is no downtime anymore.

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Different Folks, Different Strokes

Enjoying your downtime is an important part of life. It recharges your batteries and lets you be more productive. Allowing people to balance life and work can provide them with much needed perspective and motivation to see the bigger picture of what they are trying to achieve.

Some people are just more productive when they’re working at their optimal time of day, after feeling well rested and personally fulfilled.  For some that can be  from 4 a.m. to 9 a.m; for others, it could be  2 p.m. to 7 p.m.

People have their own rhythms and routines. It would be great if we could sync our work schedule to match. Simply put, the imposed 8-hour work day can be a creativity and morale killer for the average person in today’s world.

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Productivity and Trust Killer

Fostering creativity among employees is not always an easy endeavor, but perhaps a good place to start is by simply not tying their tasks and goals to a fixed time period. Let them work on their to-do list at their own pace, and chances are, you’ll get the best out of your employee who feels empowered instead of babysat.

That’s not to say that you should  allow your team to run wild and do whatever they want, but restricting them to a 9 to 5 time frame can quickly demoralize people. Set parameters and deadlines, and let them work at their own creative best with the understanding that their work is crucial to the functioning of the entire team.

Margaret Heffernan, an entrepreneur who previously worked in broadcasting, noted to Inc that from her experience, “treating employees like grown-ups made it more likely that they would behave the same way.” The principle here is to have your employees work to get things done, not to just follow the hands on the clock.

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A Flexible Remote Working Policy

Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer famously recalled all her remote workers, saying she wanted to improve innovation and collaboration, but was that the right decision? We’ve all said that we’re often more productive in a half day working from home than a full day working in the office, right? So why not let your employees work remotely from home?

There are definitely varying schools of thought on remote working. Some believe that innovation and collaboration can only happen in a boardroom with markers, whiteboards and post-it notes and of course, this can be true for some. But do a few great brainstorms trump a team that feels a little less stressed and a little more free?

Those who champion remote working often note that these employees are not counting the clock, worried about getting home, cooking dinner or rushing through errands post-work. No one works their 9-5 straight without breaks here and there.  Allowing some time for remote working means employees can handle some non-work related tasks and feel more accomplished throughout the day. Also, sometimes we all need to have a taste of working in our pajamas, right?

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It’ll be interesting to see how many traditional companies and industries start giving their employees more freedom with their work schedule. And how many end up rescinding their policies like Yahoo did.

What are your thoughts of the traditional 9-5 schedule and what are you doing to help foster your team’s productivity and creativity? Hit the comments and let us know.

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