Sunday, February 16, 2014

Swallow The Toad

There is a popular phrase used as a remedy for procrastination, "Swallow the Frog".

And as a morning person, I like the idea.  It basically boils down to doing, first thing in the morning the very thing that you are likely to put off or procrastinate over most.  Get it done, and your day is set.  Anything else you achieve after this will be a bonus.

And I have seen this in practice.  When I run in the morning I feel better about myself, and my life in general for the rest of the day.  Partly that is the physical benefits of running, but partly because I have started my day off right, doing something I enjoy that is good for me - that gives me a sense of achievement.


There is a bit of a flaw in the theory of swallowing the frog.

Doing your daily chores first is a great idea.  But sometimes the notion of it can just make me feel overwhelmed.  And sometimes it is just impossible.

For instance the things that I would like to do daily include (at a minimum) exercising, writing and meditating.  These of course are all thing I would like to do for myself, that I feel would make be a happier, healthier, more well rounded person.  These are the things that, if I were doing them I would feel better, not merely for their physical benefits, but also for the benefit to my mind and my soul.

But realistically if I want to write (45minute minimum) run (45minute minimum) and meditate (20 minute minimum) that's a nearly two hour routine that doesn't include any of the tasks I actually need to do to get the kids and myself up and out the door in time for school and kinder.  It also doesn't get the things done that need to be done to keep the house running.  If I added to these things, do the dishes, wash the clothes, feed dress and pay attention to the kids, well I wouldn't be having breakfast until two in the afternoon.

So while swallowing the frog is alright in theory, perhaps it is best to remember where the phrase originated.  Because it wasn't in actuality an instruction for eliminating procrastination.

In fact is was an acerbic commentary on the aristocracy in pre Revolutionary France:
"Swallow a toad in the morning if you want to encounter nothing more disgusting the rest of the day." Nicolas Chamfort (1741-1794)

Which, really is kind if negative way of looking at life, no?  Do something completely repugnant in the morning and any other horror you encounter will seem inconsequential by comparison.

I prefer not to look at life that way.

There is a backwards kind of wisdom in the whole thing though.  For lately I have found myself speeding up.  When all I want to do is spend time aimlessly playing with the kids, doing what they want to do, be it pretend Royal families, Pirates or Discos, Train Sets or Painting or Hide and Seek.  I find myself always having something I need to do first.

These are rarely things I am doing for my own enjoyment.  Although, yes sometimes it might be a cup of tea and a phone call.  But more often it is some household chore I feel must get done now, before I do anything else or the wheels will fall off altogether.

In my own mind I have convinced myself that this is my version of swallowing the toad.  But it is really the opposite.  What I need to do in these moments is stop the commentary in my head telling me in fast forward self talk to do, do, do and just be.  Be with my kids.  If the dishes are not done, if the dinner is not organised, if the clothes are unwashed (but what about tomorrows school uniforms?!) let it all go and PLAY.

It's easier said than done though of course.  And while it is obvious to me that my kids will long remember that time they dressed mummy up as a pirate and completely forget that they had clean undies to wear the next morning, is it not still important that the have those clean undies?

And I know that there will always be things around the house that need to be attended to, but my kids will only be small and want to play with me for a finite and fleeting moment in time.  But still, the floors need to be mopped at some point.

It's a balancing act that at the moment I have out of balance.  Thanks goodness I am blessed with tomorrow.  

And tomorrow my toad might just be a fairy princess, and I'm going to swallow her whole.

What's your toad?

Listen to Bill Evans & Tony Bennett Some Other Time

Image Licensed Under Creative Commons