What’s the first thing you do in the morning?

-Procrastination is attitude's natural assassin--There is nothing more fatiguing than an uncompleted task- William James

Many of us are familiar with Stephen Covey’s “Big Rocks” illustration. When we spend our time on the easy and unimportant little things (the small rocks), we run out of time for our most important priorities (the big rocks). To accommodate this time misallocation, we make tradeoffs in our relationships and our health.

It used to be that, as soon as I awoke, I would immediately check my emails. One email led to another, and soon it was time to leave for work. I had not accomplished my key priority nor done any exercise that morning. I would get into my car, feeling unorganized and a little down.

Today, I don’t start my day with trivial things. Here’s my new approach to time management:

  • 4:30 a.m. Frog Eating: There is an old saying about eating frogs: If you have to eat 3 frogs, don’t spend a lot of time looking at them, and don’t start with the smallest one. Eat the biggest one first. When I wake up, I get dressed in my workout clothes first thing, and then I tackle my most important task from 4:30 a.m. – 6:30 a.m. Once accomplished, I reward myself with exercise and my healthy shake.

    eating frogs

    Teddy knows a thing or two about eating frogs.

  • Follow the Schedule: To make sure I’m focused on my big rocks, my goal is to accomplish everything on my schedule for that particular day. I know that if I do not accomplish what I have scheduled for that day, it will have to be moved to the next day. By following my schedule, I generate personal energy instead of exhaustion. I feel that I am in control of my schedule, rather than a schedule victim.
  • Evening Brain Release: Before I go to bed every night I review my schedule for the next day and ensure I have everything planned and noted—this is key and if I skip this step I cannot sleep well. My brain will worry that I may forget something and it processes all night. I need this brain release.
  • Weekend Review & Planning: I review my schedule for the upcoming week and I schedule everything on my calendar. Not just my meetings, but also exercise, reading, writing, preparation time, get-togethers with friends.
  • Document & Schedule the Tasks: I document all of my tasks on my Google tasks list and attach a due date to each. These all appear on my calendar so I can adequately schedule work time to complete them. Tasks are blue and my meetings are green on my schedule.

Focusing on my big rocks and eating frog at 4:30 in the morning has changed my productivity and my attitude. And that’s no bull!

Tammy Berberick is the President and CEO of Crestcom International, a worldwide leadership, sales, and management training business in over 60 countries. You can read more of Tammy’s writings on leadership, purpose, and life on her blog, Tammy’s Corner: Everyday Wisdom for Business Leaders.