So, who wants to eat a big ugly frog? Not me, and probably not you. That’s why you should be eating it first thing every morning. Wait, really you should be doing your biggest ugliest task every morning first off because if you don’t it’s probably not going to get done.
Well if you need help with this, then Eat That Frog by Brian Tracy, has 21 things you can do to make sure that you eat your big ugly frog first every day.
An average person who develops the habit of setting clear priorities and getting important tasks completed quickly will run circles around a genius who talks a lot and makes wonderful plans but who gets very little done.
Because, you will aways have more to do in a week than you can possibly do. Even reading around 80 books a year, my reading list only ever grows. I know if I read 200 books a year my list would still grow.
No matter how many personal productivity techniques you master, there will always be more to do than you can ever accomplish in the time you have available to you, no matter how much time it is.
Knowing this rule happens all over, you have to decide that some things just won’t get done. You have to decide what is the most important work to do and then make sure you execute on that day in day out1.
You must focus on those key things, and let other things slide because you can’t do everything. In fact, many of the tasks that steal your time most, aren’t worth doing at all. Don’t even bother doing them poorly, just forget about them.
Focus only on the key tasks that bring the most value in your business.
Throughout my career, I have discovered and rediscovered a simple truth. The ability to concentrate single-mindedly on your most important task, to do it well and to finish it completely, is the key to great success, achievement, respect, status, and happiness in life. This is the key insight and the heart and soul of this book.
What is a Big Ugly Frog and How Do you Decide which One I Ugliest?
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 impact on your life and results at the moment.
While I agree in principle with Tracy, that you must do your most important task, I don’t think that it’s the one that you will procrastinate one. My most important tasks are writing blog posts, writing books, reading, and getting more content out.
I almost never feel like avoiding that work. I think that procrastination serves as a great weather vein for the things you think are of value. If you say a task is worthwhile but don’t do it for months, you’re saying that it’s not worth your time.
Tracy seems to feel that if you have a big task, you’ll procrastinate on it. He also feels that if you have two tasks, one will be uglier and that one is the one you should do first.
The first rule of frog eating is this: If you have to eat two frogs, eat the ugliest one first.
Where I’m 101% on board is that you should plan your tasks out and then focus exclusively on them until you’ve executed. If you can do that day in day out, then the odd day where you just don’t feel like it is fine.
Successful, effective people are those who launch directly into their major tasks and then discipline themselves to work steadily and single-mindedly until those tasks are complete.
The 21 Ways in Eat That Frog
The goal of Eat That Frog is to help you stop procrastinating and eat your big ugly frog every day. While Tracy has 21 of them, they break down into five categories.
Deal with Technology as a Tool to Get More Done
First up is item 15, 16, and 17 which all deal with how one addresses technology. Not all technology is good, in fact some of it is terrible2.
Technology can be your best friend or your worst enemy. Technology becomes the enemy when we give in to an obsessive need to communicate continually. This compulsion to stay plugged in leaves us all psychologically breathless. We have no time.
Technology is our enemy because so much of it is designed exclusively to steal our focus, to steal us away from the good work we should be doing. If you’re not focusing, you won’t eat your frog. You won’t do the great creative work you know you should be doing. The work that has a chance to change the world.
The “attraction of distraction,” the lure of electronic and other interruptions, leads to diffused attention, a wandering mind, a lack of focus, and, ultimately under-achievement and failure.
But it’s no all doom and gloom on technology, it just has it’s place in our workflow and that place is as a tool. To make our work easier.
The purpose of technology is to make your life smoother and easier, not to create complexity, confusion, and stress.
This harkens back to Cal Newport’s “Any Benefit” idea. The idea that we shouldn’t adopt something new just because it has some benefit. We should only adopt it if the benefits out weigh the costs.
Don’t blindly accept something new because it’s shiny.
Be Proactive to Accomplish More Work
@todo add link in footnote below
One of the best ways I know to get more done is to plan ahead. Plan your tasks the night before and plan the next week on friday. Be proactive3. If you’re suffering from a bunch of waffling around and wasted time, it’s likely because you’re not sure what you should work on.
A major reason for procrastination and lack of motivation is vagueness, confusion, and fuzzy-mindedness about what you are trying to do and in what order and for what reason.
You should know exactly what the single task is that you can work on in a day that will bring the most benefit to your life and business4.
On top of planning ahead you need to know where you should be working. It’s no good for the president of the company to be cleaning all the bathrooms. It’s even worse if they are spending hours doing an amazing job at it.
One of the very worst uses of time is to do something very well that need not be done at all.
Not that cleaning the bathrooms is a poor job, but the president has other items that produce much more value for the business. She should be focusing on those items and let the bathrooms take care of themselves.
Only Do The Tasks That Bring The Most Value
All time is not the same. You need to manage your tasks based on the energy you have. I know that if I start my day dealing with email, the rest of my day is shot. I focus my effort in the mornings on the tasks that are the most involved and the most solitary.
Recently, I decided to suck at every other part of my job for a week while I worked on a video course for Asian Efficiency5. I spent 3 days only working on it because when I asked myself what was the only task I needed to do to make the rest of my job easier or irrelevant, it always came back to this task.
Often, a single task can be worth more than all other nine items put together. This task is invariably the frog that you should eat first.
It was by far the task that had the highest possibility of bringing value to my business.
I created large chunks of time to focus only on one task so that I could do it well. I did it so well, that they didn’t even have edits for my videos.
Most of the really important work you do requires large chunks of unbroken time to complete. Your ability to carve out and use these blocks of high-value, highly productive time is central to your ability to make a significant contribution to your work and to your life.
If you want to get awesome stuff done, you need to live be willing to say no to many things. So you have long hours of focus so that you can get awesome work done.
Think About Tasks and Their Consequences Fully
Along with planning your day, you need to think fully about your tasks not just in light of what happens when their done, but what are you giving up when you focus on them.
The mark of a superior thinker is his or her ability to accurately predict the consequences of doing or not doing something.
Like I said earlier, I decided not to do email and client work for a week. I figured I might annoy a client because I didn’t respond and I decided that it was worth it.
Turns out, no one noticed. No one said a thing. But I still took into account the possible negatives from my focus.
You also need to think out the tasks over the long term. In fact, if your daily work doesn’t have long term consequences, you’re likely doing little of value. Does your task list consist of work that will address and mitigate your key constraints? Will it help ensure that those constraints will stop being constraints?
If you don’t have enough people that follow your content, which items on your list are only about expanding your audience? If there are none, then you’re not addressing your key constraints.
Now that you have a task that addresses a key constraint, how do you break it down so that it’s manageable? “More readers” is not something you can do. “Make a list of sites to guest post on” is something you can do. You must slice your tasks down in to little components that are actions.
If you’re suffering from procrastination, it’s likely that you don’t have a clear focus for your work. You’re not sure what the next step is.
Then it’s all about getting things done.
Perhaps the most outwardly identifiable quality of high-performing men and women is action orientation. They are in a hurry to get their key tasks completed.
It doesn’t matter how awesome your lists are if you never sit down to do the work at hand. Successful people get up and get to work. They write their 1000 words every day. They get down to code, and don’t bother with social media until that frog has been eaten.
Now, I don’t love everything Tracy has to say about tasks in Eat That Frog because after talking a bunch about focus and single handling tasks, he starts talking about priorities.
Tracy wants you to create A, B, C priorities. Then inside that you might have A-1, A-2…This is not what you should be doing. Always ask yourself “What is the ONE thing I can do with my available resources to make the rest of my job easier or irrelevant?”
That task is your priority. When it’s done, ask the question again and do the next task that is the best answer to that question.
Everyone has admin tasks, so block out an hour or two a week do to those tasks, and don’t think about them until they’re scheduled.
How Do You Motivate Yourself to Get Your Tasks Done?
The final category we’ll address is motivating yourself to get your stuff done, or procrastination.
A major reason for procrastination is a feeling of inadequacy, a lack of confidence, or an inability in a key area of a task feeling weak or deficient in a single area is enough to discourage you from starting the job at all.
One big reason that you might procrastinate is imposter syndrome, that feeling that at any moment someone will discover that you’re a fraud. The solution to this is to continue to upgrade your skills6.
A second key to getting work done is the realization that there is no one to bail you out on your personal productivity journey. You have tasks to do, and you have to do them. Adults aren’t waiting for someone to come along and kick their ass, they do the work.
The world is full of people who are waiting for someone to come along and motivate them to be the kind of people they wish they could be. The problem is that no one is coming to the rescue.
Finally, watch how you talk to yourself. Your language is one of the big factors in how much work you get done.
Most of your emotions, positive or negative, are determined by how you talk to yourself on a minute-by-minute basis. It is not what happens to you but the way you interpret the things that are happening to you that determine how you feel.
You can choose how you react to what life throws your way. Stop blaming something outside yourself, start making better decisions.
This is a fairly quick read and if you haven’t done much reading around productivity and focus, you need to read this book. It’s going to give you the best primer around on getting focused, and staying focused in the midst of distraction.
It’s going to give you a good look at how to choose the most important task.
If you’ve read books like The ONE Thing, Deep Work, 12 Week Year then you may feel like this book barely scratches the surface of the topics.
In that case, head to the library and read the Conclusion of the book. It summarizes every point for you. Then you can decide if you need to invest the time to read the whole book.
PS: I’ve got a course that’s currently on sale so you can join me and build these habits. It’s called The 8 Week Business BootCamp. Eat more frogs with me.
- This is also what The ONE Thing is about, and I think it’s better. Here is where I looked at The ONE Thing. ↩
- Deep Work is all about making better choices about your time and the technology you use. I wrote about it here, buy Deep Work Here. ↩
- Despite NOT liking The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People this is Habit 1 and Covey gets it right. He just buries so much of the book under buzzwords and stories that aren’t even plausible. See my look at 7 Habits, but don’t buy it. ↩
- The ONE Thing is a whole book about this idea. I looked at The ONE Thing here. ↩
- You’ll find this course on Analogue Productivity in their membership community. ↩
- Yes that means you need to read people. Read and read and read and not Twitter or Facebook. In fact, not even blogs for most of your reading. Read books that go deep into a topic. ↩