the eat that frog method

Have you ever noticed that you generally have two types of reactions when you’re overwhelmed by work and your list of tasks is never-ending:

  • You tackle the smaller tasks in order to feel like you’re doing something and are moving forward.
  • You procrastinate, you surf the Internet, you answer emails and you leave important tasks to the last minute.

As you can imagine, none of these reactions are the correct one. They are completely counterproductive and harming the achievement of your objectives and therefore also the success of your project.

To improve your productivity, you must take the lead. How? By eating that frog.

The origin of this method

Don’t panic, eating a frog is obviously a metaphor. It was devised by Brian Tracy, American-Canadian author and speaker, who wrote the book ‘Eat That Frog! 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time’.

You are most certainly asking yourself what swallowing a frog has to do with increasing productivity. In fact, ‘the frog’ symbolises the task that you least want to do. Brian Tracy suggests starting the day with the most important task you are dreading. By doing this, you will feel relieved and the other tasks will seem simpler.

In his book, Brian Tracy was inspired by Mark Twain’s quote: “If the first thing you do in the morning is to eat the frog, then you can continue your day with the satisfaction of knowing that this is probably the worst thing that will happen to you all day”.

To set the record straight, the phrase ‘eat the frog’ has French origins. According to Quote Investigator, it is based on a sentence by Sébastien-Roch who is known as Nicholas de Chamfort, a French poet who himself used the words of a certain Mr de Lassay: “Mr de Lassay, a very gentle man, but who had a great knowledge of society, he said that you would have to eat a frog every morning in order to enjoy the rest of your day”

The principle

Generally, it’s in the morning that you are in the best shape. Rather than depleting your energy on completing secondary tasks, it is better to use this energy to accomplish the most difficult and important task of the day, your real priority. For example, calling a difficult client, writing a financial report or developing your business strategy.

Completing this task allows you to come closer to achieving your objectives, allowing your project to progress. As soon as you get it done, not only will you have a sense of accomplishment, but all the other tasks of the day will seem easier to you in comparison. This is the whole principle of the ‘Eat that Frog’ method.

The advantages and the limits

By using the ‘Eat that Frog’ method, you will improve your productivity by organising your day according to your priorities and avoiding procrastinating i.e. pushing important tasks to the following day or the end of the day, when you are least efficient.

Another advantage, once you have ‘eaten the frog’, you free the mind and are more at peace. You can also concentrate better on your other tasks for the day. Effectively, if you postpone this important task until the last minute you will not stop thinking about it and feeling guilty about it throughout the day. You will therefore not be 100% invested in the task you are doing.

However it may be difficult and demoralising to start each day with the most taxing task.

The Eat That Frog method is not very flexible and does not leave room for improvisation. Your priorities may change at any given moment and a new frog might appear. It is therefore advisable to use this method as a starting point and to adapt it according to your needs and the situation at hand.

How to do this

According to the Eat that Frog method, in order to remain productive, you should plan your days at work. Here are 7 steps to take:

  • Define your main long-term goal.
  • Write it down.
  • Set yourself a deadline.
  • List the tasks that need to be done to achieve your goal.
  • Organise the list in order of priority. Toads are the first tasks to be completed.
  • Act immediately by attacking the first toad, then a new toad every morning. You can do it!
  • Every day try to make sure you are working towards your goal.

If you have any difficulties organising your priorities (task 5) or finding your frog during the day. Brian Tracy suggests using the ABCDE method for prioritising your tasks. Attribute a letter to each one of your tasks.

  • A for tasks that should be prioritised in order to avoid dire consequences to your project.
  • B for important tasks which have dire consequences but less so than A.
  • C for tasks which are not urgent or have no consequences.
  • D for tasks that you can delegate.
  • E for tasks that can be deleted.

You now know the secret of becoming more productive: work to achieve your goals, one frog at a time.

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