“The number one reason for procrastination and a lack of motivation is a vagueness or confusion about what it is you’re trying to do.” -Audrey Cannata

Have you ever climbed into bed at night and wondered, “What did I even accomplish today?” It’s demoralizing to realize you’re just treading water in your personal or professional life.

Procrastination is part of the human condition. We put off our bucket lists to address our to-do lists. Occasionally, we look up from the daily grind and discover we’ve made little progress on some of our biggest ambitions.

Is there a way to defeat procrastination forever?

Audrey Cannata, the operations lead at the Digital Growth Institute, joined, James Robert Lay, to discuss this philosophical question. Their discussion is part of the Behind the Cover series of the Banking on Digital Growth Podcast and focuses on Brian Tracy’s book Eat That Frog!: 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time.

Procrastination in the Digital World

The book Eat That Frog is about addressing the root causes of procrastination and facing up to the common obstacles to accomplishing big things. “Eating the frog” is a metaphor that originated with Mark Twain, who said, “Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.”

Imagine that you have to eat a frog today...

Wouldn’t it be better to go ahead and eat it right away rather than dreading the task, putting it off, and still having to eat that darn frog eventually?

The concept is old-fashioned, but still relevant today. Our digital world should make it easier to get things accomplished but paradoxically, it’s now harder to stop procrastinating than ever before.

Countless digital distractions dilute our focus. Even as we attempt to use alarms, calendars, and apps to amp up our productivity, we fall back into the same old patterns of procrastination.

Successful people don’t try to “do it all.” Instead, they develop a keen ability to focus and prioritize. They learn how to do what’s most important.

They also train themselves to leverage digital opportunities to make meaningful progress. Instead of allowing digital distractions to ruin their focus, they use digital tools to accelerate the pace of their accomplishments.

How’s Your Morning TEA?

At the Digital Growth Institute, we follow the TEA methodology. Every morning, you should drink your TEA and consider the following:

T - time. Where are you spending your time?

E - energy. How are you expending your energy?

A - attention. What’s consuming your attention?

This simple exercise brings you to a fuller awareness of your priorities and what could be taking your focus away. It’s a method of highlighting distractions to your desires.

It’s time management in the age of AI. 

Audrey agrees, “We can waste a lot of time if we’re not investing it properly. We can lose a lot of energy if we’re not spending it correctly. We can get distracted if we’re not focusing our attention.”

Take the time to think through your TEA each day and look for opportunities to eat the frog and make progress along the path to your goals.

Don’t Spend Your Time - Invest It

Think of time as something that’s invested rather than spent.

Ask yourself, “What is the value of an hour?” 

When you relate this question to the concept of eating the frog, it can be revolutionary in terms of reallocating your time, energy, and attention. Think about where you feel comfortable investing your time and seeking a return on your investment. You may need to reinvest your energy and attention into new things.

The book Eat That Frog urges you to start “setting the table.”

When you set the table, you eliminate vagueness and gain clarity about the task at hand.

Write down your goals in plain language. Give them tangible form and set simple objectives. From there, you can start to prioritize and create accountability.

Audrey explains that every 1 minute you invest in planning can save 10 minutes in execution later. This is called “10Xing” or multiplying your accomplishments by 10. When you repeatedly spend 1 extra minute planning things day after day, you’ll find you’re getting 10 times as much accomplished over the long term.

Handling a High Cognitive Load

Studies on financial psychology show people commonly describe a feeling of being afloat. They’re drifting in the sea and trying to keep their heads above water.

They might even be drowning.

This feeling comes from the high cognitive load of financial management. Simply put, it’s exhausting to manage your money.

To survive and thrive, you must ask this question: “How do you want to GRO?”

  • G - growth
  • R - roadblocks
  • O - obstacles

Face up to your barriers to growth and look for opportunities to overcome them. The Digital Growth Institute calls these “roadblocks” and Eat That Frog calls them “key constraints,” but they’re both whatever is preventing you from propelling yourself forward.

Identifying a roadblock allows you to prepare for it, then overcome it. Ideally, you’d reassess your roadblocks every 90 days at a minimum. This allows you to have the “aha!” moments you need to address persistent obstacles to accomplishing your goals.

Addressing Feelings of Inadequacy

Do you ever feel not good enough?

It’s a common feeling shared by even the most successful people in the world. Everyone has doubts and fears that pick away at their confidence.

Audrey admits, “Sometimes I feel that I don’t have the skills to accomplish a task. So I shy away from it. I don’t even want to get started because I don’t want to feel like a failure.”

When this happens, look for ways to leverage the power of the digital world to inspire you to move forward. A simple Google search or YouTube video can be enough to spark the insight you need to accomplish a difficult task.

You can even reach out to someone new in your field or have coffee with someone in a totally different field, like art or music. Seek inspiration that opens you to new perspectives and adjusts your mindset.

Audrey is also a fan of goal-setting for the next day before going to bed at night. If you spend just a few minutes planning what you’d like to accomplish the next day, your subconscious mind can work on it overnight and incorporate it into your thinking patterns for the next day.

Stoic Wisdom in the Age of AI

Plants need energy to grow. For plants, the biggest burst of energy comes from the sun.

For people, a burst of energy often comes from getting into what’s known as a flow state.

A flow state is a physiological and mental state where you’re so laser-focused that you’re lost in what you’re doing. Hours become minutes. You can increase your productivity exponentially because your momentum is propelling you forward.

Many people feel that their mind is exceptionally clear when they enter a flow state. Try using the Pomodoro Technique to enter and remain in this state. Long stretches of productive time are interspersed with short, refreshing breaks, with longer break intervals introduced after 4 or so consecutive work intervals.

It’s rooted in ancient stoic wisdom and it’s still applicable in the age of AI. It’s a way of escaping the cave of complacency that traps us into doing things the same old ways.

Can You Find Your Why?

Audrey shares a reminder that it’s important to periodically stop during your busy day and ask yourself, “Why am I doing this?” Take a moment to reflect on what you’ve been doing that day and where you’ve been spending your energy.

It’s easy to forget that you’re part of something bigger and more important. This is particularly true when you’re dealing with negative situations that are beyond your control. You numb out or even become angry without asking, “Why am I reacting this way?”

Negative news stories and social media drama can push you deeper into procrastination. It’s easy to become bogged down by the weight of the world and lose your desire to be someone who accomplishes things. 

To overcome this, you have to flip the script and view technology as an opportunity rather than a limiter. As it says in Eat That Frog, “Technology is a terrible master but a wonderful servant.”

Even boredom can be a barrier or boost, depending on how you use it. If you feel a lack of inspiration, ask how you’ve reached that moment and why you’re not adjusting your focus. View boredom as a luxury that leaves time and energy to focus your attention (TEA!).

Audrey likes to remind struggling people that small accomplishments can lead to big things. Achieve something small and you might suddenly feel more inspired to achieve something big. “Sometimes you need that microdose of endorphins,” she says.

Resisting the Lure of YOLO and FOMO

Research shows that people are no happier today than they were more than a decade ago when social media first had a huge surge in interest. In fact, today, people are slightly more depressed overall.

This leaves us wondering. how might we as individuals, teams, and organizations make ‘positive deposits’ in peoples’ minds rather than leaving negative impressions?

Opt For Optimism is an attempt by Frost Bank to meet this challenge. It’s based on the idea that optimists generally have better financial lives than pessimists. The financial brand behind it is helping people make more positive financial choices.

Opt for Optimism is a counterpoint to modern ideas like you only live once (YOLO) and fear of missing out (FOMO), which go hand in hand with our digital world. Human beings might philosophically understand the idea of “quality time” but they still tend to focus on quantity over quality. Your FOMO kicks in and you start scrolling, scrolling, scrolling through social media.

Then 15 minutes pass. Another 30 minutes pass. An hour is lost. You’re still scrolling along and losing precious moments that could be spent engaging in higher-quality activities.

Multiply this loss by the number of people on your team at work. Do the math across your entire organization. Calculate how many hours are being lost to digital procrastination.

Now imagine: What would it be like to wake up tomorrow and finally just eat that frog?

To learn more about these concepts, read Brian Tracy’s book Eat That Frog!: 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time. You’re also welcome to reach out to James Robert Lay and Audrey Cannata at the Digital Growth Institute or connect on LinkedIn.