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Eat that Frog! 21 Great Ways to Get More Done by Brian Tracy

Generally, you consider yourself to be a productive person. Each morning you have an agenda and you try to follow it throughout the day, checking items off from your to-do list.  The day begins successfully and you’re off to a good start getting things done.

We’ve all had a day, though, when somewhere along the line, things fall apart. It’s 2:30 p.m. and you’re rushing to get the report that’s due at the end of the day completed. You seemed to be coasting throughout the morning, but after lunchtime your day started to slump – and it wasn’t the Mexican food you had when you went out with your coworkers.  Or was it?


If only you’d eaten a frog.


OK, not an actual frog – but something that resembles one. Brian Tracy uses this amphibious metaphor in his book Eat That Frog!, which has more than a few pointers on getting things done (21 to be exact). “Frogs” are the most important things on our to-do lists (and often the most difficult and time consuming) that we absolutely must do but often put off for “easier” tasks that are less important but can be done faster. This is a mistake that even the most deadline-driven and results-oriented people make. Indeed, eating a frog – tackling the most important tasks first – does not come naturally to most people.


Pull quote: “If it’s your job 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 (the inspiration for Eat That Frog! concept)


Eating a frog can be messy – guts and all. But not eating a frog can actually be messier.  Poor prioritization is one of the biggest time traps in the modern workplace. This is simply because we have so many responsibilities, it can be difficulty to identify what the most important ones are.


The first step to eating a frog is deciding what is a frog and what is not. Tracy offers tips for naming and labeling priorities to get work done more efficiently. Taking his advice will help the frogs go down better.


The first few chapters of the book cover how to make goal lists, write out step-by-step actions for those goals, and prioritize both the goals and the actions. Tracy introduces the 80/20 rule in Chapter 3, which dictates that “20 percent of your activities account for 80 percent of your results.” This equation quantifies the priorities that we set: On a list of 10 to-do items, two of those tasks will make for the vast majority of your success.  Those are your frogs.


According to Tracy, success is predictable and is directly related to the ability to prioritize. As we now know, productivity does not equal success – it’s the prioritization of being productive at the most important tasks that matters. This is especially true when the things you absolutely need to be doing – the frogs of your workday – are linked to a person or event; a report you need to present at a meeting, or a data set that will be used to make a decision.


In the book’s 4th chapter, Tracy asks us to “Consider the Consequences” of not eating the frogs on our plate. Think about what would happen if, instead of focusing on researching information you need for a virtual meeting later that day, you answer phone calls or write e-mails that can be put off, or start work on a project that’s not due for two weeks. You’re likely to be pressed for time, and may not finish, resulting in a poor meeting. While setting artificial deadlines for yourself puts on the pressure in a positive way (covered in Chapter 14), not giving yourself enough real time is a deadly game (as in, your meeting, and frogs, will be dead in the water).


Chapter 11, called “Upgrade Your Skills, addresses another contributor to procrastination: the feeling that you are inadequate, and don’t have the information or skills to complete a task. The solution is part thought, part action. You must hold the mindset that you are a lifelong learner in your field, continuously acquiring new tools to bring to the table. Next, more planning: Identify what skills you really need, and set goals to acquire them. If you want to improve your ability to present during a virtual conference, join Toastmasters or learn eye-catching software skills that will enhance your presence on screen.


An exercise to get started prioritizing, called the ABCDE method, is covered in Chapter 6.  Items listed under “A” are things you absolutely must get done. If there is more than one of these, you can number than A1, A2, A3, and so on. Things under “B” are those that you should do but don’t have major consequences if they go undone. The “C” tasks have no consequences, and while it would be nice to do them, aren’t really that important. The “D” list consists of things that can be delegated to others, and “E”s can be scratched off your priority list altogether, as they add no real value to any of your goals.


Applying the ABCDE method to each day of your workweek will make the expectations of you, set by you, clearer than a frog’s eye. The ABCDE method could also be used to prioritize agenda items for a meeting. Remember that priorities change, so it’s worth it to revisit and revise an ABCDE list as needed. The expectation of nearly every boss is that employees will multitask as much as possible. The final chapter of Eat That Frog! proudly contradicts this practically omnipresent job description requirement. In order to get eat the proverbial frog, we must focus 100 percent on that task until the frog is consumed. The highest level of efficiency is achieved when time that should be dedicated to one task is not cut up and redistributed to others. To dramatize the metaphor, if you leave a half-eaten frog, it may be hard to come back to. Focus on that frog.


You can read a full summary of Brian Tracy’s Eat That Frog! 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time here.



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