Eat that Frog: Get More of the Important Things Done Today

Brian Tracy

  1. (Originally published in 2001). 126 pp.  Hodder & Stoughton Ltd, London.

You have a live, slimmy frog sitting on your plate and you have to eat it. Repulsive? Yes. Can’t really get your head around doing it? That is exactly were Brian wants you to be when you start to read this book.

Of course he doesn’t really want you to eat a frog. That task is an analogical parallel to that of setting about completing the tasks you hate doing in your work or personal life. You know. We all have them. They are the tasks that repulse use for a huge number of reasons. For example, fear of failing, feeling overwhelmed, using your lesser skills, not enjoyable and so on. Whatever the repulsion we are wonderfully adept at procrastination, avoidance, even denial that the ‘frog eating’ tasks do have to be done.

We live in an age of IT connectivity and workload expectations overload us. As Brian writes:

“The fact is that you are never going to get caught up. You will never get on top of your tasks…No matter how many personal productivity techniques you master there will always be more than you can ever accomplish in the time you have available to you…You can get control of your time and your life only by changing the way you think, work and deal with the never-ending river of responsibilities that flows over you each day…Start spending more time on the few activities that can really make a difference in your life” (ix).

Now let’s get back to eating the frog. How is this related to Brian’s focus. Well as he writes:

“Mark Twain once said that if the first thing you do each morning is to eat a live frog, you can go through the day with the satisfaction of knowing that that is probably the worst thing that is going to happy to you all day long. 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. It is also the one task that can have the greatest positive impact on your life and results at the moment” (p.2).

So to learn some or all of the 21 methods to stop procrastination that Brian shares and get more done in less time, then you first must make the decision to do so. Second you need to discipline yourself through practice and and third you need to back yourself with determination.

I would encourage you to try as many of Brian’s strategies as possible. They are simple and you might even be doing a number of them already. Don’t be fearful of making adaptations if that will work better for you. For example, ‘Put the Pressure on Yourself’ (p.76-79). This works so well for me that it has become a game-like technique. For this technique, I choose my own frogs and attach them in their order of importance and set my own deadline. Brian suggest that you works as if you had only one day to get the important tasks done. I tend to select a big task, life writing a book, and give myself what might seem to others as an unrealistic timeline, rather than a day.

In the case of my book it was 16 days timeline. Now don’t get me wrong I was not sacrificing myself on the altar of unrealistic expectations. I knew what my strengths were, was happy to exclude all other work from those days and I loved the notion of immersing myself in the activity of writing. So I allowed 2 days for each of the 8 chapters of the 35,000-40,000 word book. This was a push but I had confidence that I was able to achieve it. The strategy worked must better than I had expected. I finished the book in 15 days which included 5 editorial runs of the whole book in that time.

What I had learnt and combined somewhat by accident, was not only the time pressure technique, but the exponential benefits of being immersed in one goal with one type of energy and activity essential to achieving that goal. The accumulated confidence as each day passed motivated me to keep pushing myself.

So go on, try some of these methods, adapt them to your unique talents, gifts and skills and tease them into productivity habits that you can draw on at any time. But remember, eat the frogs in order of high impact and high value first.