CSW 143: Eat the FrogI had planned to share an interview today, but we had a “first world problem” disaster with airplane tickets to Paris that took up the entire afternoon.

The afternoon that was supposed to be devoted to working on the podcast.

Instead I was canceling and rebooking frequent flier mile airplane tickets — which inadvertently cost us $1500 we are hoping to get back (the jury’s still out on that) — then spending hours on the phone with customer support to try to get seats together.

Yeah, it’s all ridiculously complicated. Don’t ask.

Anyway, interview episodes take a lot of time to produce, so I thought I’d share a new productivity tactic that’s been rattling around in my brain.

It’s unfinished, so you’re getting a behind-the-scenes look at something I’m working on.

These are my early thoughts, as I shared them the earlier this week with my Creative Sandbox Community.

One of my goals for the first quarter of 2018 is to RE-clear my studio of clutter.

I had it so beautifully clear a couple of years back (at least on a superficial level — file cabinets and flat files still needed clutterbusting in a HUGE way) , but time, and the home renovation, got the better of me…

I’ve had a general goal to do “10 minutes a day” of paper busting for WEEKS (er.. call that MONTHS…), but honestly, I’ve barely lifted a finger.

My original goal was to get the studio fully clutterbusted by December 30, 2017…

THAT didn’t happen!

Sigh… Oh, well. Another opportunity to practice self-compassion, right? 

And another opportunity to regroup, and take a fresh start!

This past week I’ve been thinking — and writing — a lot about how to deal with all of the “10-minute” and “15-minute” goals that haven’t been tended to.

Not only is there PAPER (and other physical) clutterbusting to do…

There is DIGITAL clutterbusting, too.

We use YNAB to keep our finances from spiraling out of control, but of course, THAT has to be tended to, by reconciling it on a regular basis…

And because it’s essentially data entry (or data checking, at minimum), a task I do NOT enjoy, I invariably put it off.

So even though it’s ALWAYS on my list — ALWAYS — invariably I end up doing it at the end of the month, right before I pay my bills.

So it then becomes much more onerous than if I were to do it every day or two, when it would literally be a 2 or 3-minute task!

But I can’t seem to make myself get into the habit of doing it every day or two, so it ends up being a monthly task.

Er.. but that’s personal YNAB…

Business YNAB has been avoided for so many months it is now a full-fledged monstrosity! 

Which means I avoid it even more, because it’s even more painful!

Vicious circle, anyone?

My official bookkeeping software, Xero, is the same way. I have a bookkeeper who does the bulk of it, but there are always certain items that she can’t categorize (Amazon purchases, for example), because she doesn’t have access to my Amazon account.

So I have to go into Xero and Amazon and figure out what dollar amount matches up to which purchase, and leave a note, so she can properly categorize it for me.

Again, I really hate doing this. It’s a PITA, so I put it off, which makes it more of a PITA.

If I did it on a more regular basis, of course it would be much less onerous — less time would have passed after a purchse, so I’d more likely remember the purchase, and it would be easier to dig it up, and it would just take a lot less time to deal with it, and there would be fewer of them to dig through, so the whole thing would be less painful!

And yet I’ve never managed to create a regular habit of dealing with these onerous little tasks!

Until Now…?

I’m trying a new experiment I’m calling my CEO Block.

Here’s the deal: I already have my Morning Ritual, which I love. Or at least I love parts of it.

This is the part of my day when I write, and do my daily doodle, and several other things that are pretty much baked into my day.

It’s based on the idea that “the thing you do first is the thing that gets done.”

But of course, you can only have ONE first thing, right?

Aha, but you can have a CHAIN of firsts! A habit chain!

Whatever is part of the habit chain is practically guaranteed to get done (of course barring emergencies or weird monkey wrenches).

It’s like a row of dominoes: knock the first one over, and the rest are GOING to fall over!

Mine starts with my morning stretches in bed.

I’m currently experimenting with the order of the rest, but right now they are:

– Writing (longhand in journal)

– Daily doodle

– Shower + get dressed (yoga wear)

– Micro-workout (squat jacks + 3-min plank)

– Meditate

– Wim Hoff breathing + pushups or rows

– Ming Chew stretches

– Feed kitty, breakfast, tea

This whole routine can take a few hours. It’s not for sissies! But it keeps my body, mind, spirit in good shape, AND I get a lot of good writing in as well. 

All first thing! BEFORE my work day has “officially” started. BEFORE I step into my studio.

CEO Block

Meanwhile, it occurred to me that there are a handful of things that, ideally, I would love to do “first thing” at the start of my “official” work day:

  • attack some paper piles/clutterbust!
  • attack some digital clutter/catch up on YNAB or Xero!
  • Business development – send out emails to potential clients and influencers (gah!)

My “Small to Big” business coach says after years of being in business, she still hates doing business development, but “I eat the frog first thing, then I can get on with my day and feel great, with nothing weighing on me!”

Hmmm… “Eating the frog” first thing is a lot like “the thing I do first is the thing that gets done!”

Except that of course when I developed “the thing I do first is the thing that gets done,” I was thinking about things I wanted to do, but wasn’t giving myself permission to do, not things I was avoiding because I didn’t actually want to do them…

But it comes down to the same thing!

Whatever the reason is that you’re avoiding it, it doesn’t matter! The point is to do it FIRST THING!

And after my Morning Ritual is done, when I step into my studio, that is a new First Thing moment in my day!

SO, it occurred to me, why not create a NEW, totally separate BLOCK, or ROUTINE?

Why not combine the various items I’ve been avoiding into one, solid block, and do ALL OF THEM together at the start of the day?

It could be a massive failure…

or it could be the start of something really, really good!

And the only way to know is to try it.

The one thing I know is that what I’ve been doing up til now has NOT BEEN WORKING!

So I created this template, which I fully expect to evolve over time:


  • 15 min Paper Attack
  • 20 min YNAB
  • 10 min Xero (or continue on YNAB)
  • 30-45 min Biz Dev emails

I plan to use a TIMER and MUSIC during this block (lyric-free music during the email-writing part).

We shall see how it goes!

It’s an experiment.

Sunday I intended to test it out for the first time… but I got carried away with my Paper Attack, and just kept going. 

I did get quite a lot of paper clutter dealt with, which was great!

Monday I thought would be the acid test. Or, rather, this WEEK will be the acid test.

And in one sense, so far it’s been a huge failure. I have gotten very little else done.

But really, it’s not a failure at all. It’s simply data. 

The biggest challenge I foresaw was sticking with my planned schedule. And indeed, this is a challenge.

And the biggest obstacle is my iPhone… It is so danged tempting to check email / Facebook / etc…. And when I do that, it throws me off my schedule! 

The second big obstacle is getting sucked into whatever novel I’m reading… Yes, I confess, that is also a temptation I have very little willpower to resist sometimes.

The most important question to ask myself: “Is this moving me forward? Or is it self-care?” If I can’t answer “yes” to either one of those questions then I probably shouldn’t be doing it.

Anyway, the fact that I’ve gotten little else done besides my Morning Ritual and my CEO Block is not, in itself, actually a failure. It is, however, a sign that both habit chains could use some adjusting.

Along with my expectations…

AND it made me more mindful of how I’ve been spending (and not spending) my time. Always a good thing.

I will keep up this CEO Block experiment, assess, and tweak, and we shall see how it evolves.

Life, after all, is an ongoing experiment.

Oh, and one really good thing? I’m finally making progress on clearing the clutter — both in my studio, and in my bookkeeping. So that is a major win.

Onward, ho!

Something Cool

I just discovered this guy — he does, I don’t know what you call it, interpretive mime? Dance? Whatever. Johann Lippowitz, aka David Armand. He’s amazing.


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Want a creative kick start?
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What would change for you if you could totally revel in the joy of creating? You CAN, with The Creative Sandbox Way!

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ChrisGuillebeau“It’s one part field guide, one part creative practice—and I loved it. The Creative Sandbox Way is an adventure packaged as a book.”

~Chris Guillebeau
NYT best-selling author of The Happiness of Pursuit and The $100 Startup

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