So, it’s back to work next week. A new school year, new children, new pencils, new work books and new goals, aims and ambitions. New beginnings are refreshing and energising. They present us with fresh challenges and signal a movement away from what has gone before. They can though be daunting as well. I’m sure I’m not alone in seeing a fresh start as a chance to set myself new targets, to give myself a challenge and to surpass my previous achievements. In short, I have a habit of taking a new start and turning it into a personal pressure to be better than before.
The return to work challenge can take a number of forms: aiming to build a successful football team; aspiring to use more ICT in your lessons; getting the promotion that has been eluding you; or a favourite of mine – saving time and being as productive as possible.
I am an organisational obsessive. My husband tells me I am an ‘efficiency expert’ and secretly I can admit that I am rather good at getting things done, but like all true obsessives I am on a quest to be even better. Even more organised and even more efficient – I’m sure it’s a teacher thing. Something along the lines of: pencils in the right pots; headings underlined with a ruler; coats on the correct pegs and children walking on the correct side of the corridor. It’s a neat and tidy thing, but it goes further. How many times have you said, “I’m going to get all my marking done straight away, this year.” or, “This year I am going to make sure that I take one evening off each week.”? You have, haven’t you? It’s part of the teacher thing – you want more time and you know that to get it you have to be more organised than the Olympic Organising Committee.
I’m not a huge reader of self-help books. However, a few years ago when juggling the full-time job, motherhood, housework, and a university course etc., I was pointed in the direction of Eat That Frog! By Brian Tracy. Unlike most self-help books this is tiny – just 126 pages. It’s also written in accessible prose and doesn’t rely on the pseudo-psychological babble that you find in some books of this type. It is just a simple list of 21 Top Tips for helping you to “Seize the Day”, stop procrastinating and just get on with getting stuff done so that there is more time for the things that you really want to do with your life.
If you are a list-maker you will love this book. Brian Tracy instructs his readers to make lists and as new ideas come into your head you are told to add them to the list. Wonderful. If like me, you write things onto your list, just to enjoy the pleasure of crossing them off, you will like this book – he doesn’t tell you to stop doing this, but he does give you strategies for organising and classifying the things that you put on your list. The over-arching strategy being, “To eat that frog!”
“There is an old saying that if the first thing you do in the morning is to eat a live frog, you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing that it’s probably the worst thing you will do all day.” Brian Tracy
Quite simply your metaphorical frog is the biggest, ugliest job that you need to do each day. The one that would traditionally fall off your list to be added to tomorrow’s list (whilst you busy yourself adding nice little jobs to the list just so that you can cross them off!). Drawing on his experiences in business, Tracy shows that jobs we procrastinate over are the largest jobs and that invariably it is these jobs that would make us more successful. With reference to the proverb “Procrastination is the greatest thief of time” Tracy reminds us that whilst we are putting off doing the big jobs we are still thinking about them, they don’t go away and they end up eating into our personal time.
This is a great little book. The advice is practical and easy to apply. I’ve loved dipping back into this book and when I return to work next week, with my personal challenges, target-setting and goal aspirations I will be making sure that I start each day with the biggest, ugliest, wart-covered frog that I can find and eating it down in one hearty gulp.
Rachel Clarke, Coventry Primary English Consultant.