How do you rate at making sure annoying little things get done before they pile up? Here’s how to stop procrastinating, and free your time and energy for bigger and better things.

Lick Your Toads…this goes back to a keynote I used to do about 20 years ago, and it’s all about procrastination.

I’ll tell you the story about it in a minute. First a question:

How do you rate at making sure annoying little things get done before they pile up?

I want you to imagine that I just told you that I’m giving you this great, big, smelly, fresh out-of- the-ditch toad, and that you’re going to have to lick it by the end of next year. And when I say lick it, you have to lick it across its back, across the top of its head, under its slimy chin, under its underbelly. You’re going to have to lick it all the way around – one full lap of the toad. Let’s say you had till the end of the year to do it, and let’s assume that that’s 12 months from today.

When are most people likely to actually go and lick that toad or do that ugly nasty task?

Well, most people will tell you they’ll do it right away, but they’re lying – or they’re lying to themselves. Most people are going to wait ’til the end of the year, and then this ugly, smelly task will be haunting them, and they’ll be thinking about it constantly from now until then. And likely the toad will gather more friends, the next thing you know, one toad turns into 20, turns into 50, turns into 100.

When they’re sleeping, they’ll be having nightmares about it. When they wake up, they’ll be dreading looking at it. It’ll follow them around and weigh them down. At the very end, when you actually have to go and lick this thing – let’s say it’s New Year’s Eve and it’s 11 o’clock and we’ve agreed that at the stroke of midnight – you’re going to finally lick this thing.

We get down to five minutes before, one minute before, 30 seconds before, just imagine how you’re feeling: your heart’s going to be pounding, your hands are going to be sweating, you’re going to be thinking about doing this thing – anticipating it, and feeling absolutely horrible.

So finally, at the stroke of midnight, one full year later – after thinking about this thing over and over again, day and night, and wondering about it, and thinking about it, and dreading it – at the stroke of midnight, you finally lick this thing and get the task complete.

What’s the first thing you say to yourself? Usually it’s, “Phew! Glad it’s over.”

What’s the second thing that’s going to go through your mind? For most people it’s, “That wasn’t near as bad as I expected.”

And, “Why the heck did I waste a whole year of my life dragging this thing around?”

The Nature of the Beast

And that’s what toads are about! They’re these seemingly inconsequential things that for some reason we dread dealing with. As a result, we drag them around, and they aren’t high value. They don’t lead to our big company goals or our personal goals or our life goals, but they burn an unnecessary amount of energy. It’s actually a complete waste. So, the idea here is to not let these little lingering things build up.

Now they can be anything from not having your will updated, or getting life insurance to getting some dental work done; going to the doctor, fixing a lose molding in your office or your home. Maybe it’s a toilet that keeps leaking, maybe it’s a light that’s burnt out, maybe you need to get your gutters cleaned.  You’ve got leaky air in a tire, you’ve got a long-lost friend you haven’t talked to, or an item that you borrowed from someone else that you haven’t returned.

There can be tons of these, – little inconsequential things that build up, and weigh us down bit by bit by bit. Believe it or not, I’ve seen a number of very successful high performing people get buried by these things.

You need to work on this – and you need to think about it – if:

  • I’m already making you nervous just talking about these, and lots of ideas are flashing through your head of items that you know that are lingering loose ends that you need to tie up
  • That it’s not unusual for to-dos to kick around for a month or more
  • Certain lingering to-dos cause you frustration, anxiety, panic attacks – your heart skips a beat because they stress you out
  • People repeatedly ask you to follow through on certain tasks that you keep putting off. Some people are noticeably annoyed at your lack of follow-through on some important things to them, although for some reason they’re not important to you.

Key point: the little things you procrastinate consume far, far more energy than you believe – and than they deserve.

We’ve got to get them out of the way today.

The secret to licking toads, usually, is don’t do it yourself.  Find someone else, or another mechanism, to get them done.

How to Stop Procrastinating Using The Five D’s

In the book Your Oxygen Mask First, I talk about five D’s, or five different techniques.

  1. Do it. Bite the bullet immediately.
  2. Don’t do it. Say ‘no’ to the person who requested it, if it’s simply not yours to do.
  3. Delegate it. Assign an appropriate person.
  4. Delete it. Let go of it entirely. Decide it’s not going to happen.
  5. Date it. Commit to completing it by a specific date sometime down the road.

Read about them, and then figure out which one of those techniques will you use. One of the D’s is to delegate – it’s my favorite. Find someone else who’s willing to take that on, and have them get it done – even if it seems silly.

Look at the tools in Chapter 17 – at the master plan, which is the integrated plan for your entire life, and your basically existence, as well as the quarterly version of the plan. On the quarterly version, there’s a section every quarter to make a list of six toads you need to clean up. Two at work, two for self, two in life. Just keep managing this list, and don’t let them build up.

So there you have it: Lick Your Toads, lick your nastiest toads. Ideally, lick a nasty toad first thing each day, and get them out of the way so all this clutter and burden doesn’t build up.