A Frog a Day: How to Get Everything Done on Time

Gearing up for the new semester? Here’s how to get a head start with the help of the father of Russian time management school Gleb Arkhangelsky

Maybe you’ve already set some New Year’s resolutions or maybe with the start of the new semester, you’re just laying down the game plan. In his book “Time-Drive: How To Make Progress in Life and Work,” a Russian guru of time management Gleb Arkhangelsky outlines the principles that you too can apply to get the most out of the 24 hours. You can also take a deeper dive in his time-management league “Vremya.” Here’s what you need to get started:

Eat a frog a day

There are things we need to do, but don’t do them because they are petty and unpleasant. A great example of such tasks is making an important phone call to an unpleasant person or going to the dentist. They need to be done, however, but we can procrastinate forever and put them off. Gleb Arkhangelsky calls them “frogs”. In his book he suggests to make a list of all our “frogs” and “eat” one a day (and mark it as done on the list). Try to make a list and see: which ones of them are still frogs and which ones are nasty huge toads already. Then start eating a toad a day first, until only frogs are left. Pretty soon you’re back to just candy.

Cut your elephant into steaks

Big projects which require a lot of planning and thinking over Arkhangelsky calls “elephants”. He suggests cutting them in “steaks”, namely such parts of the project which can be completed as mini-projects and can serve as stages of the big and important elephant-project. He then suggests planning to “eat” such “elephant-steaks” by allocating time slots for them in our regular day-to-day schedule. Upon completing an elephant-project, celebrate and get a treat.

Note the time

Once you sit down at completing an elephant-steak task or just regular everyday tasks your work requires, take note of the time. Then note it again once you have completed the task or part of your work. Do the same with all the rest and recreation (and procrastination) moments. This way you will actually see the Big Picture and structure (as well as pattern) of your working day: see when you are at the peak of your productivity and when you’re drinking your third cup of coffee only not to do something. This way, you can plan your productive time better and stop pushing yourself when it’s pointless.

Take small breaks

If your interaction during the working day is mostly with your computer screen, get up and move around for 5 to 10 minutes every hour. During this time you can simply stretch or gaze out the window at the life passing by your office window. It is supposed to be good for your health, eye-sight and overall well-being, as well as work productivity. You will first notice that you are looking forward to that planned 5-10 min break. Then you will tell yourself: how did I ever live (and work) without it?

Space out the tasks

Make two columns for each day: the left says “time-pinned” tasks and the right one says “flexible” tasks. In his book Arkhangelsky suggests not having more than three time-pinned tasks of inflexible timed meetings a day and leave a space of at least two hours in between them. All the other tasks should have flexible timing. This way you can fit the flexible tasks in between your inflexible meetings – and complete all planned for each day.

Set the ultimate goal

We all have dreams. Sometimes dreams take the shape of goals. But sometimes they don’t… To turn dreams into goals, one suggestion is to visualize them and describe yourself as you’ve already achieved them. Then see if it’s really what you want to be and where you want to be. The answer might surprise you, and your rocket ship could take a new course straight for the stars.

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