I was teaching a class on Emotional Intelligence to a group of men who were various ages. The Amygdala hijack and the pause between stimulus and response (Viktor Frankel) were the topics of the moment. Mike, about 25, was quietly listening in the back of the room when he suddenly burst out of his seat leaning forward almost standing. “That is exactly what happened to me – I totally get it” He had so much passion and energy as he told his story to the entire class.
The wave demolished me as I was surfing on South Beach. It pulled me down, down. I got caught in the current – rip tide – rocks. I felt stuck. I panicked. I couldn’t breathe. The current was all around me pulling me, pushing me. This was the closest to death I had ever been in my life. Then everything suddenly went into slow motion. I slowed down – totally – got my head straight. I knew that I needed to let go and let the current take me – let it pull me out. Then I had to swim diagonally with the shore to get out of the rip tide. I made it to the shore.
He then explained that he started meditating about two years ago because of his anger management issues. He learned how to calm down when he felt his body get tense, hot and angry. Mike had never heard of the Amygdala hijack – when the emotional part of the brain takes over the prefrontal cortex (the logical part of the brain). As we were discussing the emotional intelligence concepts in class his near death experience suddenly came flashing back to him. This time he now understood what had happened. He realized that his meditation and training his brain and body to relax had saved his life.
Yes, research shows that for humans there is a pause between stimulus and response. That pause is usually only lasts for a second – but as Mike described- that second can go into slow motion and feels longer. We can train our brain to control our bodies to relax so we can think more logically without the clogging of emotion. I am not saying that meditating can save your life one day. But, Mike sure did.
Time management has never been an issue for me until recently. I find myself getting lost doing the “fun” things and not wanting to do the “boring” things that I really need to do for my business. So what does a frog and big rocks have to do with time management? The answer is…SOOOOO much. Now that I know how to eat the frog and put my big rocks first – time management is a bit easier.
A few years ago I asked a colleague, Michael Wharton, to teach a seminar on time management for Faculty and Staff Enrichment Day at George Mason University. That is when I was introduced to the book, “Eat that Frog”by Brian Tracey. The concept is very simple. You get a big ugly frog at 8am and have until 5pm to eat it. Most people procrastinate and moan and groan that they have to eat that frog thus wasting valuable time. If I just ate that frog first… all problems solved. So, do that tough thing, first thing in your day. You will be happy it is out of the way and you don’t have to fret or worry. (or moan and groan). Usually, frogs are not the big projects that you need to complete – they are the phone calls you don’t wish to make, the filing that has piled up or the one task that seems too boring or difficult.
Big rocks on the other hand are the very important projects or planning that need to get completed or at least – started. Stephen R. Covey’s famous Seven Habits of Highly Effective people introduced me to Habit 3: Put first things first. One of the biggest things (pun intended) is putting the big rocks first. He has an awesome exercise (volunteer needed) to experientially demonstrate how we should put the big rocks first because these are the most important things. The little rocks (or not important things) can fall away and we won’t notice much. Sometimes it takes days to complete the “big rocks” so I break them down into a few big rocks and try to do one each day.
I have a frog on my to do list (literally – a picture of a frog) to remind me to do this thing first thing in the morning or when I sit at my computer that day. Most days I do eat that frog first thing in the morning, however, my most recent frog has jumped (yes I did write that) from one to do list to another over the course of a week. I just got busy, I tell myself. There are other things to do today, this week, this month (please not this YEAR!). So, how do I get back on my lily pad and get things done? I found 5 things that worked for me.
- I make the to do list simple – only 1 or 2 things on the list – that way I am forced (by myself) to do these things. I hate a not done “to do” list.
- I make those frogs bigger – literally make the picture of the frog huge.
- I use the Bridget Method – my most wonderful former training assistant, Bridget, used to put post-it notes all over to remind her (OK… seriously, mostly me) do to something. I put a post – it note on the screen of my computer.
- I ask someone to help me. My first accountability partner, Patrick is excellent at sending me reminder and summarizing emails. Then I have Marie who holds me to one thing each week (I choose that thing) and I do the same for her.
- I celebrate! When I finally ate the frog and removed the big rocks I do something that I love to do. Recently, that has been setting aside time to read murder mystery novels.
Hopefully, when you can’t eat that frog and the rocks are all falling this simple list may give you some ideas on how to motivate yourself to get done what you need to get done. Now go out there and eat that frog!