Revisiting the frog (and other productivity hacks)

A while back (or むかしむかし for those of you following along in Japan), I wrote about one of my all-time favorite quotes and how I believe it applies to productivity in the office:

“If it’s your job to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning. And If it’s your job to eat two frogs, it’s best to eat the biggest one first.” – Mark Twain

And at the time of my original article, I wrote: “From a business perspective, this great quote really hits home. Look at your to-do list and find the item you’ve been dreading most. Perhaps it’s difficult, confusing, or you have just been avoiding it. That’s your frog. Do it. Get that task done (or if it’s a huge project, get it started). Once you eat that frog, the rest of your day will be looking good. You’ll feel great too; relieved that you finally got around to that task that’s been a chip on your shoulder.”


To this day, I continue to practice the frog-elimination* strategy, and I continue to experience the sense of relief after completing dreaded tasks. However, I started to experience what I’ve coined as to-do list dodge ball. This is the act of adding lots of stuff to your to-do list, doing a lot of stuff, and repeating this over and over again – without ever tackling the frogs. The frogs sit around and carry over from one list to the next.

If this happens, I first need to evaluate whether I really need to do the task. Sometimes, something grows old and the ROI I once thought it brought to the workplace diminishes. Other times I really do need to complete the task.


I came across a recent article that discussed scheduling time your Outlook/calendar for work on these types of projects. You essentially force your self to work on the frogs. And, to better enhance your chance of completion, you make it into a meeting with yourself. You silence the phone, put the office line on DND, close email, and dig in.

It’s been about a week since I’ve been doing this in my work and home life and I can tell you that the frogs are disappearing quickly and life is feeling pretty good.

*No actual frogs are harmed as part of my work routine.

50 shades of “it doesn’t really matter”

I just read a brief post by author and marketer, Seth Godin that reminded me of a decision I made in the office last week. He references multiple choice tests… and while my job is very far from multiple choice tests, sometimes I find myself belaboring over diminishing returns, the lesser of two evils, or multiple positive outcome-related multi-variate decisions. For example, we’re running a program whereby we are sending new students a logo polo shirt. This is a really cool item and this program is not run by most other schools. I won’t go into the why or how of the program, but I will say I was asked to choose between a few different grey colors as the option for the shirt (and an even more heinous light blue one). After looking at them all, and disliking them all, I realized it didn’t matter so much as to what shade of grey, but rather, that we were sending a decent shirt out at all. I wouldn’t have enough data in the test set to determine if one shade would be better than another if I wanted to further segment the testing.

I just needed to pick one and move on to more important decisions.

You have to remind yourself, and your staff, that some decisions should not require too much time. Focus on what matters. The 50 shades of your decisions probably won’t matter most of the time.

10 things that impede your success in the workplace

Do you want to get ahead at work? You probably think there’s a formula for being noticed and getting ahead. Well, you are correct. One important aspect of the advancement equation is eliminating habits that are holding you back. These are the same habits that are holding everyone back and hurting the collective productivity of your office.

  1. Arriving late. Even if your office has flexible time, those around you notice if you are the last one to arrive each day. That looks like laziness. Whether or not it is does not really matter if your co-workers are thinking that it is.
  2. Allowing your meeting to run late. If you are the meeting organizer, it is your obligation to ensure it starts and ends on time. This shows respect for your co-workers’ schedules.
  3. Joining a meeting late. If you are invited to a meeting that begins at 10:00 a.m., then you should be ready to start at 10:00 a.m. Do not plan on leaving your desk and walking up three flights of stairs to arrive at 10:04 a.m. That shows disrespect to the organizer.
  4. Not replying to a meeting request. If you are invited to a meeting, you should indicate your status by accepting or declining. If you are not certain you will be able to attend, reply as tentative and explain. It’s okay to say “no”. Your schedule is sacred. But so are the schedules of your co-workers.
  5. Not providing an agenda for a meeting. If you are the meeting organizer it is your responsibility to send an agenda that explains the purpose of and goals for the meeting. After the meeting you should provide notes summarizing the action items, outcomes or other important business accomplished during the meeting and provide that in a timely manner.
  6. Scheduling a meeting during the lunch hour, or at the very end of the day. These are bad habits and demonstrate a disregard for the schedules of others — unless of course, you are providing lunch or ensuring that (for end of the day meetings) it will end on time to allow the attendees to get back to their respective offices to finish up whatever it is that they need to finish or close down.
  7. Not acknowledging correspondence in a timely manner. Blowing off emails from co-workers is disrespectful. If you do not have an answer, take 20 seconds and reply that you need more time to provide one. If you know you are going to be unavailable for a set period of time, consider putting up an auto response.
  8. Being loud. In an open workplace, this is one of the fastest and surest ways to become known as “the obnoxious one”. Loud, disruptive co-workers develop reputations for being lazy and unproductive because people only remember the disruption they cause.
  9. Stinky food. Okay, you can have your tuna fish and broccoli sandwich that you just heated in the microwave. But consider that you may be now associated as the one with the stinky food.
  10. Printing personal documents. When you send personal documents to the public printer, other people are likely to see them if you are not able to retrieve them immediately. Invariably, you will get distracted at some point after printing such an email and your mortgage statement or tax return will be sitting out far longer than you would like.

Chances are, you’ve done a few of these on the list — we all have. But, being respectful of your co-workers and their schedules will take you very far in your organization. The fact is, your co-workers see everything and talk about everything they see. So remember this the next time you show up late to a meeting that you had not rsvp’d to with a tuna fish sandwich in hand.

Handle negative buzz like the pros

ClickZ Live

ClickZ Live – Register today!

I’m excited to share (and self-promote) that I will be participating in the ClickZ Live annual marketing conference in New York City.



From ClickZ:

Creating the Ultimate Customer Experience

April 11-13, 2016

Attracting 1,000+ marketers and business leaders, our 17th annual event in New York will equip you with cutting edge strategies to inspire, acquire, convert and retain your customers.

Here’s information on my session:

Engage & Convert

Handle Negative Buzz Like the Pros

Trolls are not just pink fuzzy haired dolls; they are lurking in the corners of the ‘net waiting to tear your business apart. But it’s hard to know how to respond or if you should respond. In this session, Dan will take you through several real-world case studies of various strategies for handling negative buzz, working in your organization, and injecting a little levity to keep things calm. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, but most importantly you’ll learn how to use best practices for review engagement to make your brand stand out in new digital era to create real street cred.

Attend this session and:

  • Review real case studies across a number of scenarios
  • Learn when you should and should not reply
  • Discover techniques for replying and converting negative moments to positive wins
  • Unlock the “L.E.A.D.E.R.” acronym and achieve success fast

Essentially, I will spend the session walking participants through the LEADER methodology that I have developed over the past decade with regards to handling negative comments that pop up online.

When an employee is miserable… then what?

One of my roles as head of marketing at a large employer is dealing with the ramifications of unhappy employees that insist on staying in their jobs and complaining instead of quitting or resigning. It happens at all companies, no matter the size. It’s the job of management to make sure employees don’t hit this stage of the workplace happiness cycle. There are always ups and downs; highs and lows. That’s the natural ebb and flow of our lives, the nature of work many of us perform, and it can take a toll on those ill-equipped to handle these emotions. Employees who are underperforming or have the wrong attitudes should be counseled and remediated; and if improvement doesn’t occur, the company should separate (fire the employees). Or, the employee should just simply quit. You should not be a in prolonged state of misery because this means that most likely the employee is not positively contributing ROI to the business, not optimally serving the customers or stakeholders, and is unproductive. What a huge liability. Yet, in large workplaces, this seems to persist… and time and time again I find my self dealing with negative employee reviews on The common thread is that these employees are junior and they compare themselves to others. They also lack maturity and experience… but management let’s them coast right along.

Here’s my advice if you are unhappy at work:

Don’t measure yourself through the eyes of others around you. Measure yourself by looking in the mirror and saying, “I can do better, I can achieve more, I can be great.” Then, stop gazing and go out and do it.

In other words. Quit your job now. Otherwise, shut up and work to better yourself, what you do and your contributions. You can control your destiny if you work hard.

Steve Jobs said, “Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is

By many reports, Steve wasn’t necessarily beloved by his employees… but Steve loved his job. And many people around them did so too… which is why Apple has achieved so much.