Your first reaction is probably as mine was, "What's this nonsense about needing to avoid eating frogs?" But, we'll probably all agree in the end that it's important to think about how we avoid eating live frogs. Again you say, "What?!" This unsavory imagery of frog consumption is used by professional development writer Brian Tracy in his book Eat That Frog, as his notion of an amusing way to approach the stubborn problem of procrastination. I admit, it's one of my favorite books.
It's true that everyone has their frog(s). These metaphorical frogs refer to some tasks that must be done, but that we procrastinate on, for any number of self-persuasive reasons. We find some items on our to-do lists so undesirable that Tracy compares our avoidance of doing one of these tasks to avoiding eating a live frog. That seems pretty accurate to me.
How to eat live frogs
Tracy lays out some great tips for getting yourself to take hard actions that lead to important accomplishments. They're just simple efficiency techniques for getting yourself up and in motion and managing time in ways that can help you reach your major goals faster. In fact, he offers a total of twenty one suggestions, which he calls rules.
If you find you have two frogs, eat the ugliest one first. Pick the hardest, biggest, most important task and do it first. Start on it immediately, and stick with it until you complete it. This, and the other five general ideas below, are my take on some of the ways the book addresses our subconscious efforts to avoid doing undesirable pending tasks. Or, metaphorically, it addresses the ways we avoid eating live frogs.
1. Don't stare at the frog.
If you find there is a live frog you must eat, it simply doesn’t help to stare at it for very long.
•Go head-on into the biggest, most important task facing you first thing every day.
•Practice doing this until you develop a habit of managing your priorities this way.
2. Weigh your priorities.
Ask yourself these three questions, and act based on your answers, to help you maximize your productivity.
•What activities on my to-do list are of highest value to me?
•What of my to-do items that cannot be delegated, and can make a significant difference if I do them?
•Currently, which tasks are really the most valuable use of my time?
3. Sort to-do items into two classes.
•Priority items: those it's best to do sooner and more of.
•Postponement items: those that you can really do later and less of, or actually could actually delegate or just not do them at all.
•Remember: The only way to get control of your time management, your goals, and your life is to get control of the extent to which you stop doing activities that are of lower value.
4. Choose which skill you most want to develop.
Decide which single skill, if you developed it and used it excellently, would have the biggest positive impact on your career.
•Move aside some lower-priority stuff and just get it on your schedule.
•And, start activities to develop that skill, without permitting more delays (such as waiting until you clear off smaller tasks from your schedule, etc.).
5. Motivate yourself into action.
Stay motivated by resolving yourself to be a total optimist. Condition yourself to be consistently optimistic by doing the following.
•Find the good in every bad situation.
•Focus on finding a solution.
•Stay focused on, and keep talking about your goals.
I'll tack on a bonus rule from the book here, in addition to the list, because this one is really a way of integrating the concept of what and who you want to be into your general self-perception than a strategy for confronting specific tasks. And, that is this: Practice visualizing yourself as you want to be. I've found it's a great strategy for keeping my focus on my major goals. And, it does help me maintain perspective on why I should eat live frogs that are guaranteed to show up on my desk.
The bottom line behavior for success, in Tracy's assessment, is simply to eat the frog quickly, and early, and resolutely—the whole thing. Eat the ugliest one first. And then, eat another one. He concludes that if you actually gobble down a live frog every morning, you will certainly see that you've already been through the worst that's going to happen to you that day.
It's your basic just-get-it-out-of-the- way message. The take home is—eat the ugliest frogs as early in the day as possible. I can attest that it really is satisfying to have the experience of choking those down behind me early in the day.
Does it work?
I've been trying to develop a habit of using Tracy's visualization—just grabbing and munching on the ugliest of the frogs I've had staring up at me from my desk and croaking at me from my to-do lists. With kids, and a household, and a business to manage, I have a lot of froggy stuff jumping around on my desk on any given day. And, I'm finding that gulping down those high-priority amphibians is a delicious experience! In fact, the bigger the frog, the better!
So, I can strongly recommend Eat That Frog as a quick-read, if you're finding yourself bogged down by procrastination on important tasks. If you read it, let us know if you find anything helpful in it. I can say I found useful advise in it for busy people.
And, it does amuse me to think of dreaded to-do items as untasty swamp creatures that must be chewed up to unblock the escape from the mental bog. Just hold your nose, and devour your frog!