Productivity Methods Series: Eat That Frog

“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

This quirky piece of advice by Mark Twain is the basis of a simple productivity method called Eat That Frog. It was developed by Brian Tracy, a productivity consultant, who wrote the book Eat That Frog! 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time.

Book Summary - Eat that Frog: 21 Great Ways To Stop Procrastinating And Get  More Done In Less Time
Source: Readingraphics

According to Tracy, your “frog” is your “biggest, most important task, the one you are most likely to procrastinate on if you don’t do something about it.” He feels that focusing on the “ugliest frog” is the path to success, happiness, respect, and status.


Who should try this method?

If the following sound like you, then you should give Eat That Frog a try:

  • You get many tasks done during the day, but don’t make progress on the most important ones.
  • You find it difficult to follow the popular productivity systems.
  • Your to-do list is so overwhelming that you put off starting work on it.
  • You procrastinate because you have trouble starting off on your most difficult tasks.
  • You have trouble deciding when to do which task.

Bill Clinton had said that we tend to overestimate what can be done in a year, but underestimate how much can be accomplished in a decade. This is true of shorter periods, too.

We overestimate how much can be done in a day, but underestimate how much can be completed in a year.

Eat That Frog helps you overcome the mental resistance to starting bigger tasks and gives you the push needed to tick off the most important tasks on your list first.

When applied consistently, Eat That Frog will help you get the most difficult AND important tasks (that help you get closer to your goals) done.


Steps of “Eat That Frog”

In his book, Tracy explains 21 steps to plan, prioritize, and execute your most important tasks. He surmises that people tend to do one of these when faced with a huge list of to-dos:

A – They procrastinate on big, important, and difficult tasks till the deadline is almost up and ramp up stress levels

B – They do “busywork,” i.e. finish off all the tiny, not-so-important tasks to avoid having to do the big tasks.

Both approaches are wrong because they’re not helping you get close to your goal in any way. You must focus on the impact of each task you’re doing and not depend on ticking tasks off a checklist.

The core of this productivity method is, however, a simple three-step process:

  • Identify your frog i.e. most difficult AND most important task. This task helps you reach your goal (s).
  • “Eat your frog” first thing in the morning i.e. don’t put it off for later.
  • Repeat every day.

Once you’ve got the frog out of the way, you will find it easier to get the rest of the tasks done.

The cumulative effects of this simple habit will result in big accomplishments.

Why should the frog be tackled in the morning?

That’s because you tend to be the most productive first thing in the morning and can focus your energies on getting the high-priority tasks out of the way. It also makes for a more relaxed, pleasant rest of the day.


How do you identify your “frog?”

You use the Eisenhower Matrix to label and prioritize your tasks.

The Eisenhower Matrix
Source: Clockwise

First, you create a list of tasks that you need to complete the next day.

Next, place them in one of the four quadrants of the Eisenhower matrix:

Quadrant 1: Tasks that you don’t want to do, but must complete

Quadrant 2: Tasks that you want to do, and must complete

Quadrant 3: Tasks that you want to do, but don’t need to complete

Quadrant 4: Tasks that you don’t want to do, and don’t need to complete

Your “frogs” will lie in quadrant 1 – everyday tasks you’re dragging your feet on, but you really must get them done. These tasks are also called the Most Important Tasks (MIT).

Work on the tasks in quadrant 1 first thing in the morning and then move on to the other quadrants.


What happens if you have two frogs?

If you have trouble prioritizing between two seemingly ugly, important, and difficult tasks, use the ABCDE technique to decide.

Create a list of the tasks that you need to complete the next day.

Label each task with a letter:

A – most important task that will lead to serious consequences if you don’t get it done

B – next most important task that may not have as serious consequences but still needs to be done

C – a task you could do but won’t have any serious consequences if you didn’t do it

D – a task that you can delegate to others to give yourself more time to do “A” tasks

E – a task you don’t really have to do and can remove from your list

Finish “A” task first and only then move on to the others.


Benefits of Eat That Frog

  • You use the most productive hours of the day to get important tasks done.

  • It’s simple, flexible, and almost universally applicable.

  • It helps you set your own agenda instead of focusing on doing other people’s work.

  • It encourages a habit of doing deep work i.e. distraction-free blocks of work time.

  • It forces you to focus on less and prevents you from overestimating the number of tasks you can do in a day.


Tips to get the most out of Eat That Frog

  1. Pick tasks that can be completed within 1-4 hours.

Your “frog” should ideally be completed in 4 hours so that you can check the task off your list before lunch. Clearly define the task so that you’re not afraid to get started.

2. Break down big tasks into smaller ones.

If your “frog” is too big to be eaten before lunch, break it down into smaller sub-tasks. Each of these sub-tasks is a new frog.

Collect your to-dos and organize them as tasks, projects and big projects
Source: Toodledo

3. Don’t schedule tasks way ahead in time.

It is not possible to accurately forecast tasks well into the future so avoid the temptation of scheduling your “frogs” for the week. Identify your frogs one day at a time.

4. List your frogs the night before.

Before the end of the day, plan your frog(s) for the next day. You have enough information to know what to do the next day, but not so much that you feel like procrastinating.

Start with one frog for the day and if you get comfortable with the concept, increase the number. There’s no set number of frogs to be done in a day.


Final Thoughts

The effectiveness of Eat That Frog comes from its focus on the impact of tasks rather than completing a set number of tasks. By getting the most difficult task out of the way in the morning, you set yourself up for a happy, endorphin-filled rest of the day. It works wonders for your motivation to get through the day.

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23 thoughts on “Productivity Methods Series: Eat That Frog

  1. quadrant 1 is very important to do first as quadrant 2 is the motivation/incentive you get after doing the stressful quadrant 1. Hope I got the concept right. It’s new to me.

  2. Very valuable suggestions. I have seen a lot of people who procrastinate tasks to the last minute just because the tasks are rather ugly frogs.

  3. I always look forward to read your posts. This article is for me. I am a huge procrastinator and this technique definitely going to help me. Very well written post.

  4. This is just the right information, I needed right now. Thanks for such a nice write-up. I do not know when I can read this book.. but this is enough for me to act and overcome my procrastination.

  5. Now, I know what I am doing wrong. I try to complete all the short tasks and keep avoiding the frog and so at the end of the day that important, time-consuming task is still looming over my head. Thank you for sharing such amazing productivity tips. This is a super useful blog post. Saving it for future reference as well.

  6. This is an extremely important blog post for a big procrastinator like me. Thank your for these super tips. Now I will make sure to start my day by eating the biggest frog!

  7. Many years back, I read a book in such the Author suggested to eat a frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen during the day.
    Excellent review.

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