September 13, 2012

The Live Toad Approach to Time Management

Giacomo & Slick

How to Get Your Time Back

Writers often struggle with time management, unsure how to manage the delicate balance between work, writing, social media, and family—so many things to do. And when there are so many things to do, there is something on the list that you really hate. But it’s not just writers who battle time management; a lot of people do.

Ineffective time management might be the single biggest waste of time in all of business. People get paralyzed by inaction. I’ll bet you know what I mean. Have you ever had a task you dreaded so much that it crippled you? I know I have. When faced with this situation…

here’s what most people do.

◆ You write it down.

◆ Pin it up on your computer screen.

◆ Stuff a note into your shirt pocket.

◆ Make reminders on your smartphone. (And hit snooze when they appear)

Hitting Snooze Never Works

How do I fix it? What to tackle first? What to do next?

I was fortunate. I learned early on in life everything I needed to know about time management, and how to focus on getting things done.

I was a teenager, working construction as a laborer for a masonry company. It had rained for days and everything was soaked. The job we had was to build a block foundation on a house, and the footing sat about five feet below ground level. Another crew had pumped most of the water out of the hole the day before, but the site was a mess. Nothing but mud.

Mud Hole

The Mud Hole

We arrived early in the morning, but it was already hot. The foreman, Ed, walked down the ramp into the basement, looked over the area, then jumped—leap-frog style—into the biggest mud hole. It splashed all over his pants and shirt, soaked his boots, and even got on his face.

The rest of us stared, wide-eyed. Ed turned to us with a smile and said, “Now I can get to work. Don’t have to worry about getting muddy.” And he picked up his trowel and hammer and went to work.

I’ll never forget that day. My first impression was that Ed was nuts; later I learned he was absolutely right. The rest of us tiptoed around for hours, trying not to get muddy, going out of the way to avoid holes, careful not to drop anything that would splash. Not Ed. He sailed free all day long.

By noon I was splattered with mud, but still being careful. About halfway through lunch I said the hell with it, and jumped into the same puddle. It was a shock—like jumping into the ocean that first time, when the water is cold—but the rest of the day felt great.

What Did It Teach Me?

Ever since then I have learned to do the most onerous chore first.

Example: Call IRS. (Get this over with. Get it out of your mind, before it cripples you.)

How many times has one nagging chore or task popped up on your todo list? And what have you done with it? If you’re like most people, you hit snooze a few times during the day, and somewhere near 4:00 or 5:00 you hit another button that delays it until tomorrow. The problem is, it will be waiting for you in the morning, and that makes you feel as if you haven’t accomplished anything.

Let’s Fix That. Now!

Open up your todo list or grab your tablet and a pen, if you do it that way. Put your most feared task on high priority. Must do! First thing in the morning. And when it pops up tomorrow, resist the temptation to hit snooze. Just do it! I promise. You’ll feel better.

Cane Toad

Bottom Line

If you’re even thinking of delaying that task, remember this maxim: “Eat a live toad the first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you for the rest of the day.” You could substitute that saying with whatever your worst task is: call the IRS first thing! Make a dentist appointment. No matter what the task is, do it!

What better incentive could you have? Finish your task, and you’re home free. It will make you feel like the last day of school before summer break. No matter how old you are, I know you remember that?


Ciao, and thanks for listening,




Giacomo Giammatteo is the author of Murder Takes Time, and A Bullet For Carlos. He lives in Texas where he and his wife have an animal sanctuary with 41 loving “friends.”

What about you? Got any tips for time management? 

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photo credit: Mark Morgan Trinidad A via photopin cc

4 Responses to “The Live Toad Approach to Time Management”

  1. Coincidentally, I was making out my morning to-do list as I read this!

    Great advice.

  2. Ciao, Aliza: Yeah, and I had one of those calls to make this morning-to AT&T.

  3. I always feel better when I get the hardest things done first. That way it’s all downhill from there.

    The other advice I used to give when I gave time management seminars is to chop a giant project up into little bites. A big project overwhelms some people so putting blinders on and just tackling little chunks makes it a lot more reasonable.

  4. Excellent advice, Maria: Thanks.

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