Eat a live frog first thing in the morning, and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.Mark Twain
In life, there will always be something to do. You will never have enough time, so you need to focus on your more important tasks to produce the most significant results. One of the biggest issues that hold people and organizations back is the failure to take action on their most important priorities.
In Eat That Frog, Brian Tracy talks about eating that frog, which is defined as:
Frog – “biggest, most important task; the one you are most likely to procrastinate on if you don’t do something about it”
Tracy claims that the key to success is to choose your most important task, concentrate on it, do it well, and finish it completely. In the book, he outlines 21 ways to stop procrastinating and increase your productivity.
1 Set the Table
First, you need to have a vision or clarity on what you want in terms of goals and the steps you will take to accomplish the vision. Tracy outlines the following steps for setting and achieving goals:
- Decide on the high-level goals that you want.
- Write the goals in the present tense, positive voice, and the first person singular.
- Set deadlines and sub-deadlines on your goals.
- Make a list of all tasks that you will have to do to achieve your goal.
- Create a plan by ordering your list by priority and sequence.
- Priority – what is most important
- Sequence – which task you must complete in order
- Take action immediately on your plan.
- Work to take action every single day to move you toward finishing your major goals.
For more, check out our post on setting and achieving SMART Goals.
Action Item: Write your goals and action plan down to motivate you to take action.
2 Plan Every Day in Advance
When you plan for each day, you will overcome procrastination, eat that frog, and become more productive. If you plan for 10 minutes the night before, you will save two hours and increase output by 25%. Make a list of your most important tasks and emphasize the frog or your most important task. Also, Tracy recommends planning and creating the following task lists:
- Master List – write down everything you want to do in the future
- Monthly List – make at the end of the month for the month ahead
- Weekly List – spend a few hours to plan your entire week
Action Item: Spend 10 minutes the night before to plan your day. Make a list of the 3-5 most important tasks with an emphasis on your frog.
3 Apply the 80/20 Rule
Vilfredo Pareto came up with the 80/20 Rule:
80/20 Rule (Pareto Principle) – People in terms of money and influence divided naturally between the “vital few” and the “trivial many.”
Tracy builds on this principle by claiming that your frog or a single task can have a much great result compared to nine lesser tasks. Thus, you need to focus on your most important tasks to have the most rewarding payoffs.
Ask Yourself: How can I apply the 80/20 rule to figure out my most important priorities?
4 Consider the Consequences
It is essential to consider the potential consequences of any task or activity to determine your priorities in life and work. Your frogs, or most important tasks, will have the greatest implications, both positive or negative. Thus, successful people have a clear long-term vision, delay gratification, and make short-term decisions accordingly.
Ask Yourself: What are the potential consequences of doing or not doing this task?
5 Practice Creative Procrastination
You can be more productive by creative procrastinating on smaller low-value tasks:
Creative Procrastination – the art of thoughtfully and deliberately deciding upon the exact things that you are not going to do right now, if ever
High performers use their time wisely by prioritizing high-values activities and outsourcing, delegating, or deleting these low-value activities. So review your life and work and look to procrastinate on and remove time-consuming, low-value tasks.
Ask Yourself: What can I say no to right now that is absolutely not vital?
6 Use the ABCDE Method
When prioritizing your tasks for the day, you can use the ABCDE method:
ABCDE Method – priority setting technique, in which you list everything that you want to do that day and label each item with A, B, C, D or E in terms of value and priority:
- A – very important task that you must do with serious consequences
- B – important task that you should do with mild consequences
- C – nice-to-do task with no consequences at all
- D – task that can be delegated to someone else to free up more time
- E – task that you can eliminate and would not make a difference
You can create subtasks using a dash and number, like A-1, A-2, and so on. Your frog, or most important task, should be labeled A-1, so start your day by eating that frog.
Action Item: When planning your days, use the ABCDE method to prioritize tasks and emphasize on your A-1 task.
7 Focus on Key Result Areas
To be successful, you need to examine your key result areas and continuously work to improve them:
Key Result Area – activity under your control that produces products and output that contributes to the work of others
After determining your key result areas, give yourself a grade for how well you execute your key result areas. Remember, it is your weaknesses that hold back your other skills. Thus, you need to never stop learning and work to improve your products and output.
Ask Yourself: What are my key result areas, and how can I work to improve them?
8 Apply the Law of Three
You can use the law of three to identify your three most important goals:
Law of Three – your three core tasks that will result in most of the value that you contribute to your organization
You can use this law to figure out your three goals in wealth (finances and career), relationships (friends and family), and health (fitness and nutrition). You will seldomly achieve balance, so it is essential to focus on these goals to make the greatest contribution:
Contribution – the value of the results that are proportional to your financial and emotional rewards
Action Item: Apply the law of three to identify your top three goals in a given area of your life.
9 Prepare Thoroughly Before You Begin
After deciding on the task to work on, you should have only the things necessary to eat that front. So you should clear and set up your work environment and desktop to be comfortable and attractive. You should gather the tools, papers, and information need to complete the task at hand. Lastly, remove all distractions and turn off digital notifications as these will distract you.
Action Item: Prepare your workspace and digital environment before beginning the task at hand.
10 Take It One Oil Barrel at a Time
Tracy discusses a story, in which travels used oil barrels to journey though a large dessert. Travelers could only see two oil barrels at a time and had to brave the trip one barrel at a time to survive. Thus, you need to focus on eating that frog, one at a time, when trying to accomplish a large, complex project.
Action Item: Focus on the smaller task at hand, and don’t worry about the more extensive, daunting project.
11 Upgrade Your Key Skills
Over time, knowledge and skills will become obsolete, so you need to upgrade your key skills:
Key Skill – your expertise or ability to do something well
You need to identify what you are great at and what you can do better, and then focus on improving these skills. The better you become at specific skills, the more motivated and confident you will be to get your work done and excel. Additionally, Tracy outlines the following three steps to achieving skill mastery:
- Read about your field for at least one hour every day
- Take every course and seminar available on the key skills that can help you
- Listen to audio programs during your commute
Ask Yourself: What skill, if I developed it and did it well, would positively impact my work?
12 Identify Your Key Constraints
We all have key constraints (bottlenecks or chokepoints) that get in the way of eating that frog:
Key Constraint – factors that set the rate at which you achieve your goals
We need to identify the limiting factors that hold us back:
- 80% of constraints are internal, or those that exist within you or your company; examples include personal qualities, ability, habits, disciplines, or competencies
- 20% of constraints are external, or those that exist outside you or your organization; examples include competition, markets, governments, or other factors
Since most limiting factors are internal, we need to accept responsibility for our lives, issues, and actions.
Ask Yourself: What is it within me that is holding me back?
13 Put the Pressure on Yourself
Successful people self-induce healthy amounts of stress on themselves to perform at high levels. Thus, you should set high standards and form the habit of putting pressure on yourself. Don’t wait for someone else to come along and do it for you. When you perform to your own pressure, you will feel accomplished.
Action Item: Choose your frogs and then make yourself eat them in order of importance.
14 Motivate Yourself into Action
Optimism can be one of the most important qualities you can cultivate for success in work and life, as optimists:
- Look for the good in every situation
- Always seek the valuable lesson in every setback or difficulty
- Always look for the solution to every problem
- Think and talk constantly about their goals
Thus, you should work to stay motivated by staying optimistic about yourself with encouragement and positive self-talk. You should resist the tendencies to criticize, complain, or place blame.
Ask Yourself: How can I be more optimistic about myself to motivate myself to take more action?
15 Technology Is a Terrible Master
Technology can be our enemy, especially when we want to eat that frog. Thus, for you to perform at your best, you should detach from tech regularly. Turn off your notifications, put your devices away, and unsubscribe from unwanted email newsletters. In the long-run, you will see the benefits of improved memory, deeper relationships, better sleep, and clearer decisions.
Ask Yourself: How can I reduce my dependency on technology to get more done?
16 Technology Is a Wonderful Servant
In contract, technology can also be a tool to enhance our lives and improve our productivity. You can use these tools to remind you of your priorities, tasks, and appointments. You can protect your time by using tools to block websites, disable notifications, and schedule time in your calendar. Thus, you should master and incorporate technology to work for you and get more done.
Ask Yourself: How can I master technology to get more done and stay connected?
17 Focus Your Attention
During our day, many distractions give us dopamine hits like responding to emails, texts, and DMs. So you should focus your attention on eating that frog first thing in the morning and minimize distractions by:
- Not checking your email and messages first thing in the morning
- Checking quickly, if you need to, and getting back to work
- Resolving to check your email only two times per day
Do not multitask, as people can only focus on one task at a time. “Multitasking” is really task shifting, which causes you to work harder and get less done with more mistakes.
Action Item: Spend the beginning of your day, focussing your attention on your most important task.
18 Slice and Dice the Task
When dealing with significant, complicated activities, we can deconstruct them into small, digestible pieces with these two methods:
- Task-based Method – layout the activity in detail, writing down all steps in order, and resolve to do one task at a time
- Time-based Method – set aside a specific period to time, and decide to work on one task for that period
When you work on a small work item at a time, you will develop forward momentum on your larger goals.
Action Item: Break down your large, complex activities into small, bite-sized tasks or time blocks.
19 Create Large Chunks of Time
When planning your day, you should schedule large deep work blocks in your calendar for the most important tasks. Within each work block, eliminate all distractions and focus on eating that frog. Accomplishing these high-value, highly productive tasks will significantly contribute to your work and life.
Action Item: During your nightly planning session, schedule deep work blocks in your calendar for your most important tasks.
20 Develop a Sense of Urgency
Successful people take quick, bold actions on their most important priorities. Thus, we need to develop a sense of urgency by taking action on what we need to get done. When you work on your most important tasks, start immediately to get into flow:
Flow – the state in which you function with clarity, creativity, and confidence to be most effective
We can develop urgency for our day by eating that frog first thing in the morning.
Action Item: When you see an opportunity or problem, take action on it immediately.
21 Single Handle Every Task
Successful people will fully accomplish what they need to get done whether they like it or not. So you need to make a habit of altogether eating that frog:
Eat That Frog – the ability to select your most important task, start working on it, and concentrate on it until completion
You need to discipline yourself to continue working on eating that frog without diversion or distraction until the task is 100% done.
Action Item: Set clear priorities, immediately start on your most important task, and continuously work until the job is 100% done.
I hope this post has helped you be more productive and inspires you to get your own copy of Eat That Frog!: 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time. If you have any further questions or need additional help, feel free to comment below or send me an email me at email@example.com. Also, if you are wanting more Process Hacker content, you can subscribe to our short weekly newsletter on Productivity, Habits, and Resources.