Adam Mastroianni wrote a really cool piece, “Excuse me but why are you eating so many frogs.”
Mastroianni is referring to the analogy likening eating a frog to doing something that feels difficult every day.
In this sense, I’m a frog eater myself. I started frog eating in the early 2010s in college, because I was experiencing burnout and needed to keep moving forward with my coursework. I didn’t stop; I really felt proud of the frogs I ate. In the mid-2010s, I even worked as a staff writer in a professional frog eating publication, Lifehacker.
The promise of frog eating was alluring: just eat these frogs, and you’ll feel good. You’ll feel excited. You’ll feel accomplished. You’ll feel like you’re in control of your life. Of course, this was all an illusion; a false promise I wanted to hear, because life was scary, and I wanted to believe that I could control what happened next.
So I kept eating frogs.
I’d love to write more about that one day, but I ate too many frogs, and I got sick of it; that is to say, I was sick of productivity methods.
Mainly because it wasn’t working. No set of hacks or scheduling tricks helped me get important things done—things that mattered to me, like writing a book; in fact, all the productivity tricks did, at best, was enable my profitable distractions.
I was building a business in a field that I disliked more and more, I was overcommitted to many creative projects, and my frog eating productivity methods were fueling all of it.
There’ll always come a time when a frog needs to be eaten. So I’m not saying productivity hacks aren’t good (here are my favorites, after a decade of practicing!); I’m just saying that personal productivity is incredibly limited.
Ultimately, perhaps the most important thing is to know why you’re doing difficult work; why you’re eating the frog. Maybe you can’t afford not to eat frogs yet, and you’re working your way towards that. Or maybe you’re okay with eating a frog a day, because it pays rent and the mortgage, and it enables you to not eat a frog the rest of the day.
Nowadays, I don’t eat many frogs; when I do, I know why I’m doing it, and I don’t do it as mindlessly as I used to.