The first time I heard the adage that “If you eat a frog first thing in the morning, nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day,” I was about 8. It was printed on a sign over someone’s desk. Adults will glance at things like this and forget them five minutes later. A little kid isn’t inured to this sort of thing yet. Every time I saw the sign, I wondered whether it would be expected of me to swallow frogs as an ordinary part of adult life. Why on earth would someone swallow a frog? Unless you’re a heron, it hardly seems necessary. If you did find yourself in the sort of scenario where frog-swallowing seemed like a good idea, surely once would be enough to prove your point? You would seriously consider taking a job that required it every day?
On the other hand, it didn’t seem that much worse than voluntarily drinking coffee. I mean, ew.
Life is full of odious tasks. Life is about 80% maintenance. Almost everything we do, from personal hygiene to commuting to working to shopping, is just stuff we can’t not do. The consequences get worse the longer we delay. It’s not that we enjoy waiting in line at the grocery store so much as that we do not enjoy opening an empty fridge. When it comes to routine daily tasks, I do prefer doing a little every day. That’s because I am obsessed with preserving my High Quality Leisure Time. Weekends are the time my husband and I can relax, which is easier in an orderly house, and do fun things, which is easier when there are no demands on your time. I’ll be hog-tied if I’m going to spend any of that HQLT doing housework. Errands are better for weekdays, too.
The trick is how to deal with the one-off tasks. The same task will be interesting for one person, unremarkable for another, and like pulling teeth for the third. There are some things nobody likes, like waiting at the DMV, because the time commitment is unpredictable and it’s hard to combine with other tasks. It’s like being in Limbo. All the other lost souls are swirling around and moaning and time has no meaning. Plus Muzak. At least we know we’re not alone… Sometimes, though, it’s impossible to explain why we find something aversive that wouldn’t bother someone else. We just… don’t wanna.
That’s where Ugh Day comes in. We’ve started to build up a long list of these aversive tasks we don’t want to do. Just knowing these things aren’t done casts a dark shadow. It makes it impossible to fully relax. We know it’s going to take massive willpower just to get started. The idea is to suck it up and just tackle as many of these annoying jobs as possible in one day. For instance, my husband and I both hate making phone calls. We can’t really trade each other for a different task because it’s impossible to say which of us hates it more. But once one is done, it’s easier to maintain momentum and go on to the next call than to hang up, knowing we’ll have to stoke the engine and get to full steam all over again. Just say, “Ugggghhhhh!” and get it over with.
Ugh Day is great for days when you’re really not feeling it. Everyone has this tendency to wait for motivation to come along. We think we’re going to be “in the mood” one day and we’ll “feel like it.” Seriously? If I ever feel that kind of transcendent high-energy quantum leap in mood, why would I waste it doing drudgery and scutwork? It makes more sense to me to use the lowest-energy days for doing low-energy jobs. If it’s the thing I hate the most, I’m not going to let it stain an otherwise good day, when I feel more like doing awesome things. I’m going to use the exhausted, headachy, moody, cruddy, bad-weather days. If it’s already going to be an Ugh Day, I can use the ugliest chores and the biggest bummers to help make the time pass. “If I can just get through this day… “ Then, when it’s all over, there’s the couch and the pajamas and the snuggly animal and maybe a hot bath. No frogs were swallowed.
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I've been working with chronic disorganization, squalor, and hoarding for over 20 years. I'm also a marathon runner who was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and thyroid disease 17 years ago.