If you’ve ever pushed off a difficult task until the last minute—or avoided it altogether—you’re not alone. Psychological studies have found that almost 20% of adults are chronically affected by procrastination habits. Additional studies have found that nearly 25% of adults consider their procrastination inherently part of their personality.
Poor time management skills are common among many workers, and the availability of digital technology and social media doesn’t help. Data from TeamStage says that 50% of employees report being distracted by their cell phones.
One of the solutions to this productivity conundrum, as author Brian Tracy proposes in Eat That Frog!, is to tackle your most challenging—yet most significant—task (your frog) each day first. Tracy is a leading international speaker, author, and advocate for growth and self-development. He’s written more than 80 books on personal success, created a 14-step goal-setting guide, and teaches seven keys to have a positive personality.
To regain control of your productivity and avoid procrastination, use these seven tips inspired by Tracy’s methods for “eating the frog.”
- Almost 20% of adults are negatively affected by habits of procrastination.
- 98% of U.S. employees are interrupted at least three times each day.
- Nearly 70 million Americans suffer from insomnia due to anxiety about work.
- 91% of workers agree that having good time management skills reduces stress.
What Does It Mean to “Eat the 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
To “eat the frog” means to accomplish the most challenging and most important task of the day first. The saying originated from a quote said by Mark Twain and was later popularized by Brian Tracy’s book Eat That Frog! Today, it’s promoted as an effective mental productivity method to help people stop procrastinating and accomplish important tasks first. As the imagery suggests, it points to the one task on your list that feels the most overwhelming, difficult, or “ugly,” and advocates for doing that one before all the rest.
Why Is It Important to Eat the Frog First?
“You cannot eat every tadpole and frog in the pond, but you can eat the biggest and ugliest one, and that will be enough, at least for the time being.”Brian Tracy
Eating your frog first can set you up for success for the rest of the day. Statistics by TeamStage show that 98% of the U.S. workforce is interrupted at least three times a day and that it takes 23 minutes to recover from each distraction. Interruptions are unavoidable, of course, but by eating the frog first, you’ll have optimized your uninterrupted time and accomplished the most important task.
5 other benefits of eating the frog first:
- It builds the habit of practicing deep work and getting into a flow state of productivity.
- It puts you in control of your daily agenda.
- It establishes a positive foundation for the rest of the day.
- It utilizes your mind and energy during peak performance.
- It cultivates intrinsic motivation to accomplish challenging tasks.
For more resources on building strong time management skills, read 9 Time Management Activities You Can Try.
How to Identify Your Frog
“If you have to eat two frogs, eat the ugliest one first.”Brian Tracy
If you’re lucky to have multiple challenging and high-priority tasks to complete, it can be difficult to know where to start. Fortunately, there are some simple questions you can ask yourself to identify your true frog.
5 tips for identifying your frog with these questions:
- “Which task will take me the longest to complete?”
- “Which task most affects or delays others from completing their tasks?”
- “Which task am I most resistant to beginning?”
- “Which task can I effectively complete in a few hours?”
- “Which task has the greatest long-term impact on future tasks?”
7 Tips for How to Eat Your Frog
“The hardest part of any important task is getting started on it in the first place. Once you actually begin work on a valuable task, you seem to be naturally motivated to continue.”Brian Tracy
Being able to eat the frog may, at first, seem simple. Over time, however, certain scenarios may arise that prevent you from being able to do so consistently or with good judgment. For this reason, it’s important to learn the strategies that can help ensure you continue to eat the frog effectively and with long-term success.
1. Eat Only One Frog at a Time
While it may sound more productive to multitask, the American Psychological Association warns of the negative effects of doing too many things simultaneously. Studies by the University of Southern California even found a decline in cognitive performance when survey participants attempted to multitask. For these reasons, it’s best to eat only one frog at a time.
Tips for tackling tasks one at a time:
- Write down all of your tasks for the day.
- Order them based on importance and level of difficulty.
- Use time-blocking to schedule time for each task.
- When one task is complete, move on to the next.
2. Avoid Planning Which Frogs You’ll Eat in Advance
The concept of “eating the frog” works best when applied fresh each day. It may be tempting to identify your frogs days (or weeks) in advance, but doing so doesn’t allow room for the inevitable unknowns that will arise. Maximize your daily efficiency by keeping your frogs in the present and focused on daily short-term goals.
Examples of daily short-term goals:
- Training a new employee.
- Finishing a report.
- Meeting with an important client.
- Publishing a piece of content.
- Closing a deal, sale, or new contract.
3. Reframe Your Mindset on Eating Your Frog
When it comes to productivity and success, mindset is key. Psychological studies have shown that those with positive emotions, like gratitude, joy, and contentment, cultivate better personal and professional outcomes. Further, 50% of people who set goals don’t achieve them because they don’t have a growth mindset. For these reasons, reframing your mindset toward the most positive and growth-oriented framework is essential.
What having a growth mindset looks like:
- You dive head first into challenges.
- You accept mistakes will happen and learn from them.
- You see effort and progress as part of the process.
- You’re committed to personal growth.
4. Eat the Frog in Smaller Pieces
If you ever had to eat a live frog, you’d unlikely do so all in one bite. Such an unfortunate task would probably be done piece by piece. Accomplishing important tasks should be done in much the same way. To optimize your time management skills and tackle a challenging task first, try breaking it down into smaller steps.
How to break a large task into smaller steps:
- Identify the task.
- List all of the concrete, individual steps required to complete it.
- Group related tasks into phases or categories.
- Use time-blocking to schedule each phase of the task into your day.
- Work until all phases of the task are completed.
5. Pick a Frog You Can Eat All at Once
The term “eat your frog” refers to tasks that can be completed in the same day. If you have multiple important tasks you could complete the same day, begin with the one you could “eat” all at once. This might look like an important task that you can do by yourself right away and relatively quickly.
Tips for knowing if its a frog you can eat all at once:
- It can be done within 4–6 hours.
- It doesn’t need to be broken down into smaller steps.
- It isn’t dependent on other tasks.
6. Prep Your Frog the Night Before
Most of us have experienced stress the night before having to complete an important task. According to the Cleveland Clinic, nearly 70 million Americans are affected by insomnia, with work anxiety as one of the biggest causes. Fortunately, preparing to “eat the frog” the night before can help mitigate distress and promote success.
How to prepare to eat the frog the night before:
- Set an alarm.
- Remove unknowns by writing down a plan.
- Establish good sleep hygiene habits.
- Eliminate any distractions that night and for the following morning.
7. Eat the Frog First, No Matter What
When you’re feeling some mental resistance toward a particular task, the temptation to divert and do something else can creep in. In these instances, it’s important to remain diligent and eat the frog first, no matter what.
A strong morning routine is one of the best ways to cultivate discipline and set yourself up for optimum performance. In fact, 92% of highly successful people engage in a full morning regimen before beginning their work, according to ThriveMyWay.
Tips for a morning routine that includes eating your frog first:
- Go to bed and awake at the same time each day.
- Avoid your cell phone, social media, and other distractions for the first hour.
- Create a habitual practice that mentally prepares you for the rest of the day.
- Generate energy and positivity by working in some morning movements.
Time Management Skills for Personal and Professional Success
“What is important is seldom urgent and what is urgent is seldom important.”Dwight Eisenhower
91% of those polled in a recent study agreed that having good time management skills would reduce work stress. While learning how to “eat the frog” can boost daily success, this mental tool still needs the support of other productivity methods for it to work. One of the best supportive strategies for eating the frog is the Eisenhower Matrix.
To practice the Eisenhower Matrix:
- Draw four different boxes, two on top of two.
- Name the boxes on the top (x-axis) as “Urgent” and “Not Urgent.”
- Name the boxes down the side (y-axis) as “Important” and “Not Important.”
- Where each box overlaps, like “Important” and “Not Urgent,” list the tasks that apply.
- Once the tasks for each box are identified, determine which tasks need immediate attention, which can wait, and which can be eliminated.
Want more productivity tips? Read 6 Time Management Skills That Increase Productivity.
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