Eat that Frog and Say Goodbye to Procrastination
We all find ourselves putting things off at some point. Unfortunately, whether you’re a chronic or occasional procrastinator, the things you avoid have a way of coming back to haunt you in the end. And as deadlines approach and time runs out in your working week, the list of uncompleted tasks only gets longer, filling you with a sense of dread.
But a popular strategy has emerged over the past 20 years to tackle this phenomenon head-on by getting the big, daunting tasks out of the way as early as possible. In this article, we’ll take a look at the origin of “eat the frog,” unpack why it’s so helpful, and look at how you can incorporate it in a balanced way.
What is Eat the Frog? Origins and Definition
“If your job is 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 simple quote from one of the most famous authors of all time inspired the popular productivity method. While there are multiple books on the subject, Brian Tracy’s bestselling book Eat That Frog!: 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time helped bring the concept into the mainstream.
As you may have already worked out, the metaphor of the frog simply means that the most important (and sometimes unpleasant) task should be the one you get to first of all. This will help free up your time and ensure that the important things on your to-do list actually get done.
Why Eat the Frog is So Helpful
There are multiple reasons why this productivity method has grown and been embraced by many successful people, fueling fertile working days all over the world.
1. It nips procrastination in the bud
For many people, procrastination is the number one habit holding them back. If you tend to put off tasks that might seem a little daunting or difficult, this method can help you to take the plunge and get into your work.
There are many different reasons why you might procrastinate. You may be putting off the phone call you really need to make because you’re worried about the reaction or how it will go. Or, maybe you have imagined the task to be far more extensive and more complex than it actually is and feel too overwhelmed by the idea of taking it on. Whatever the reason behind your procrastination, Eat the frog helps you bypass these blockers. It sets up an intention to “dive in” and take on the hard things whether we feel like it or not. Making it a daily habit strengthens our ability to show up and get it done.
2. It sets you up for a great day
When we complete a task, whether big or small, our brain is rewarded with a burst of dopamine, the neurotransmitter responsible for generating feelings of accomplishment, satisfaction, and happiness. Tackling the thing you dread most first means you start your day with a rush of happy chemicals and a feeling of genuine relief.
3. Getting the “frog tasks” done frees up the rest of your day
Practically and mentally, having the rest of your day freed up by getting the most challenging tasks done is incredibly freeing. You’ll likely feel more creative and clear in your thoughts without the burden of a massive task in the back of your mind. This is especially useful for people in creative professions, as a mind that is stressed or preoccupied with daunting tasks is less free to innovate and explore.
4. It helps you work more intentionally all-day
Eating the frog first cultivates a habit of working intentionally–a shift that can benefit your overall time management. Once you start reaping its benefits, you may start thinking more about how you spend your time overall. For example, instead of making multiple trips to your inbox to answer emails throughout the day, you might start handling your emails in a batched manner twice a day. Simply put, eating the frog is a great “gateway” to better overall productivity.
5. It encourages you to take on critical tasks when you’re at your best mentally
Eat the Frog encourages you to complete the most crucial tasks in the morning when your mind is rested and refreshed. It means you’re less likely to miss things and that the quality of your work will be top-drawer. It’s also worth noting that while doing these tasks first thing in the morning is ideal, the larger point is to prioritize them and give them the time they need– rather than waiting until a few hours before a deadline and panicking.
So, if you’re not a morning person and feel like your brain kicks into gear later in the day, you can adjust your frog-eating time accordingly. Chronotypes is a classification system that uses your unique biorhythm to determine your most productive time of day, and it’s a great tool to find the ideal time of day to eat your frog.
You Don’t Have to ALWAYS Eat the Whole Frog at Once
Identifying your own personal frogs is arguably the most challenging part of the whole method.
Often, the frog tasks are obvious. They are the most important things to get done that day, and often they are things you don’t really want to do.
However, if you identify your frog as completing a 30-page report or hitting your three-month sales target, it’s not going to be possible in one day.
The solution? You need to break it down into manageable tasks. To hit that three-month target, you may need to work out roughly how many hours you will need to spend working on this every day. Your target to hit an hour of deep, productive work on your project may be much more achievable than getting the bulk of it done in one day. Be realistic about what you can achieve.
Breaking down the tasks into manageable targets helps you avoid feeling overwhelmed. Big projects can leave you feeling paralyzed and further contribute to procrastination if they aren’t turned into manageable actions.
If there are two frogs, we can go back to the advice of Mark Twain. It's best to eat the biggest one first. The definition of what is biggest might change. It could be the most time-consuming item on your to-do list, but “biggest” could also just mean the item causing you the most stress.
Not eating the whole frog in one go is also a way to ensure you do the job to the best of your abilities. Many studies have shown that it is hard to be productive for more than a few hours every day. There are techniques and methods to improve this productivity, which is something to strive for, but nobody can do it 24/7.
It makes sense to use productive hours with a clear head to do the work. Eating a frog could be an eight-hour task. Is it really worth doing that all in one go? Will you be performing to the best of your abilities?
Planning Your Frogs in Advance
Your mindset and adoption of the eat the frog strategies can help you better identify the tasks that move things forward and to plan accordingly. Before finishing your working day, it may have already become clear what the next day’s frog task is. So, plan ahead and put your frog tasks at the top of your to-do list.
Eat the frog is one of the most successful strategies for those who tend to procrastinate or don’t get the most crucial tasks done in time.
It’s a tool that can change your mentality towards the work that makes up your day and build better time management habits. It can almost surely result in a happier working week. Who would have thought that eating a frog could have so much impact?