Lick a toad without delay

Jan. 1, 2007
DO YOU want to stop procrastinating, but you can't seem to get around to it? Maybe you should try licking a toad. Toads, in the mind of Kevin Lawrence,

DO YOU want to stop procrastinating, but you can't seem to get around to it? Maybe you should try licking a toad.

Toads, in the mind of Kevin Lawrence, are tasks that we have thought about at least three times and have not addressed.

“Lick the biggest, nastiest toad first thing every morning,” Kevin Lawrence told attendees at the Canadian Transportation Equipment Association Manufacturers' Technical Conference. “This will give you piece of mind that you've never had in the past. The biggest toad is the one that causes the most stress in your life. It flashes in your mind between three and 27 times a day.”

Everyone has at least 30 toads haunting them right now, Lawrence said. For 40% to 50% of the population, the toad count exceeds 100.

Toads come in various shapes and sizes, Lawrence said. Some live for years by your side wherever you go. If ignored, they multiply into the hundreds. But all of them can be eliminated because they are the product of procrastination — the master thief of time.

“The process of eliminating procrastination really is quite simple, but it takes work to do it,” he said. “Procrastination is like a wheel bearing that continues to build up too much friction and heat. At first it will create drag and begin to slow down machinery. If you ignore procrastination, just like the excess friction in a wheel bearing, later on you're going to have a really big problem.

“I've worked with clients who have licked tens of thousands of these nasty toads, and I never heard anyone every say ‘I wish I had waited just a little longer.’ It's never as bad as we think.

“The second you've finished this nasty task you have a sense of momentum and energy that's one of the best feelings on earth. You've dealt with a problem, and now you are much stronger and confident.”

Damaging the workplace

Procrastination affects performance in the workplace.

“One of the biggest toads in business is avoiding conflict,” Lawrence said. “So many times I've had a client with a general manager running the business for 20 years doing a pathetic job, and the owner has to do the extra work as a result. It costs the owner financially and emotionally.”

Procrastination also affects personal relationships. It can affect health and safety. “People get distracted, which in itself is dangerous because they are not concentrating on the task at hand, and they also are wasting so much time and energy trying to avoid dealing with a problem,” Lawrence said. “People have so many ways to cope. They medicate with alcohol or drugs. They make excuses. They try to dump the problem on others. They're in denial. They eat a lot, while others don't eat at all. Some even work harder and stay busier to avoid finding a solution.”

Causes of procrastination typically can be divided into three areas:

  • Too many projects with too little time

    “When there is way too much going on at one time, we sometimes don't know where to start,” he said. “This is especially true when there is a new activity or change you want to make in the company. Employees can't see a beginning. They become overwhelmed, and so they do nothing.”

  • Resistance to control

    “Who really likes being told what to do,” Lawrence asked. “People can react to control, be stubborn, and do the opposite.”

  • Fear is the most common reason

    “Fear can be self-fulfilling because you create it in your mind,” he said. “When you fear something, you keep circling around or avoiding it. It consumes your mind and weighs you down.

“Successful business owners figure out what is it they fear, strategically come up with a plan to conquer it, implement the plan, and move on. Whether you have a $5-million company or a $105-million company, the same principle applies to your company and your life.”

Toads you must lick

To solve a problem, identify it. Step one is writing down a list of the toads that are waiting to be licked, Lawrence said. Then make a decision. Doing nothing is the worst option. The problem will continue to linger in the back of your mind.

“Make a list of at least 10 things that you will complete within the next 30 days.” Lawrence said. “From that list, choose the nastiest toad to lick that will make a huge shift in your enjoyment or the performance of your business.”

  • Delegate or automate it

    Delegation can be done internally or externally, depending on the structure of the company and the type of problem that needs to be fixed. “For every task you don't like, there always is someone who really likes the activity. If you don't like doing it yourself, hire someone who enjoys the activity, and they usually will do a better job than you will.”

  • Delete it

    “Do yourself a favor and fill the round recycle bin with all of those reading piles on your desk. Got bad suppliers or employees? Get rid of them. There's no reason for someone to stay with a company if they are dragging down the business.”

  • Date it

    “This is not a procrastination technique. Some projects just don't make sense to start today or this week. So put them on a calendar.”

Steps to take

After you've finished writing the list of toads, follow these steps:

  • Be honest with yourself and acknowledge why you haven't taken any action.

  • Realize the cost. Lawrence said one way to tell that you waited too long to get rid of a supplier or key person is when everyone comes by and says, “I'm so glad you did that.”

  • Divide the plan into manageable steps and deadlines. Break it down into chunks that you can handle.

  • Commit to the plan. “Tell yourself you will do what it takes, not this stuff about trying harder,” he said. “Most people are horrible at keeping their word, and they have wonderful excuses. It's the adult version of ‘the dog ate my homework.’”

  • Get help. A solution always is available to solve the problem or issue that is affecting the profitability of company, Lawrence said. “Sometimes, however, you need an outside source to help give your brain a jump start. Albert Einstein said ‘a problem can't be solved with the same mind that created it.' If you don't have an accountant, an attorney, a business advisor, a mentor who you can rely on to answer questions, get one today. I usually meet half a day with my clients. The solutions most of the time are obvious, but they need time to brainstorm.”

In for a treat

After success, reward yourself and others. “You have to reward people for behavior you want them to repeat,” he said. “I keep my word 100% of the time, because my clients will model what I do, not what I say.”

Company owners also need to avoid business relationships with certain types of personalities who are partners, suppliers, or employees. “One sure way to make a business go flat or go flat dead is to have a committee or a partnership make all of the decisions,” he said. “If my partner has a tough issue with a supplier, and I have a tough issue with an employee, what happens if we don't handle the problems? When we have our next meeting, am I going to give him grief? Heck no, because he'll say I didn't handle the problem with the employee. This is the absolute worst business dynamic. Someone has to deal with the tough issues, or the company falls apart.”

Super control freaks are to be avoided at all costs. “These people are dangerous,” he said. “A control freak who deals with the finances of the company is a major red flag. Either they are doing something ‘funny’ in the company, or they don't want you to know how badly they are messing up the job. People who take control when they are scared are trying to protect themselves.”

A category similar to the super control freak is the multi-tasker who always is starting a new project but never finishes the job. “This is the person who gets every task 95% completed but will not finish the project.

“The unaware underperformer is one of the saddest examples because no one ever told them the truth. I don't believe in firing people unless it's the last resort, and it is your responsibility to tell them what is wrong. Half of the time they will improve their performance if they are told, but they can't read your mind.”