Brian Tracy introduced the Eat That Frog method of time management in his book of the same name. It is based on the following catchy quote by Mark Twain:
“If you eat a frog first thing in the morning that will probably be the worst thing you do all day.”
The Eat That Frog method in a nutshell:
- Make a list of all the tasks you want to get done today and prioritize them. Select the three most important tasks to focus on no matter how distasteful you find them.
- If you have more than one task that you really aren’t looking forward to, pick the one that is the absolute worst.
- Start working on the worst task – the one you are not looking forward to at all.
The main ideas are to:
- get motivated by jumping in and getting the worst task over and done with, so it is not hanging over your head for the rest of the day.
- work faster by trying to complete a disagreeable task, so you can move on to a more attractive task.
- prioritize your tasks and deal with the unpleasant things right away instead of letting them slide.
- learn that sometimes your list of things to do never ends, but you can decide which tasks are most important (not necessarily more enjoyable) for you to accomplish.
If the very first thing you do in your day (while you are fresh, rested, and ready to work) is to complete your most unpleasant task, the rest of the day will only get better. If you know that after you finish the first task the rest of your day will be easier or more fun, it will motivate you to plow through the task, get it done, and move on.
Putting it to the Test – The Eat That Frog Method in One Day
Prioritizing tasks – I had a few tasks to complete today, so I prioritized them and decided what had to be done. There was definitely a frog on the list and it was very, very ugly.
Seasoning and sauteing the frog – The problem with the ugly frog is that I didn’t want to eat it. I knew I had to, but I didn’t want to. I started working on this blog post instead of eating the frog. As that was the exact opposite of eating the frog, I made myself stop and switched to the ugly frog task instead. Let’s call this portion of the morning “seasoning and sauteing the frog” to make it more palatable (it sounds better that screwing around to avoid it).
Eating the frog – Eating the frog was painful and took a while. I found myself grabbing bites of other things instead of just eating the frog. It was hard to talk myself into starting, and after I did start I had trouble staying on track. It wasn’t fun. I choked the frog down eventually and am glad it is over.
I had trouble with this method. I guess I like to ease into work with a little bit of fun stuff to get me going before tackling the big jobs of the day. But I did learn a few things.
- I like to handle ugly frogs at my own pace. I totally understand how the Eat the Frog Method could work for a lot of people and even for me if I am motivated and in the right mood, but today I felt like I was being forced to deal with something before I was ready.
- The priority I placed on the ugly frog task wasn’t real. I placed a high priority on a task I didn’t want to do to use as an example in this post. As I worked, the task priority kept becoming lower and lower in my mind as I tried to find reasons to do it another day or skip it altogether. This probably wouldn’t happen if the task had a real deadline and I had to absolutely finish it within a given time.
- There were no real consequences to not eating the frog. Without consequences, I nibbled, switched to something more appetizing, and then went back to the frog. This, of course, took a lot more time to finally finish the frog.
For me, I think the Eat That Frog method would work well for concrete tasks with a definite deadline. If I know something must absolutely get done, I can make myself sit down and eat the ugly frog because I want to meet my deadline and move on to something else. In most cases, I would rather cook the frog first or dip it in chocolate to make it go down smoother!