Summary of “Eat That Frog!”: The author shares with us in this book 21 simple ways to stop procrastinating and get more work done in less time.
By Brian Tracy, 2003.
Note: This article was written by guest, Latifa RACHID from femme-en-paix.com
Chronicle and summary of “Eat That Frog”:
It has been said for many years that if you start each day by eating a live frog, you will go through the day with the satisfaction of knowing that it is probably the worst thing that will happen to you all day long.
The “frog” is your biggest and most important task; the one that you are most likely to procrastinate on if you don’t do it immediately. It is also the task that is likely to have the greatest positive impact on your life and your success at the moment.
It has also been said, “If you have to eat two frogs, start with the uglier of the two.”
And it is a way of saying that, if you have two important tasks to complete, start with the more important, the more demanding of the two. Discipline yourself to attack it immediately, then persist until it is completed, before moving on.
Imagine that it is a “test”, a personal challenge. Resist the temptation to start with the easiest task.
To achieve a high level of performance and output, you basically need to get into the lifelong habit of tackling your major tasks first each morning. You should get into the habit of “eating your frog” before doing anything else and not wasting too much time thinking about it.
As such, this habit is developed through practice and repetition until it becomes firmly anchored in your subconscious mind and becomes second nature. Once you get into the habit, it becomes automatic and thus makes things easier for you.
You have been created mentally and emotionally in such a way that completing a task gives you a feeling of being a winner.
Each time you complete a task, no matter how large or small, it fills you with energy and enthusiasm, and boosts your self-esteem. The more important the task completed, the more you will feel happy and confident in yourself and in your world.
The completion of an important task releases endorphins in your brain, which give you a natural “high”. The rush of endorphins that come with successfully completing a task makes you more creative and more confident.
Here is what is believed to be one of the biggest secrets to success: it’s truly possible to develop a “positive addiction” to endorphins, as well as to the feeling of lucidity, confidence, and competence that they trigger.
Practice is the key to mastering any skill. Fortunately, the mind is like a muscle. It grows in strength and capacity with use. Through practice, one can acquire any behavior or develop any habit that is deemed desirable or necessary.
- First, make the decision to develop the habit of completing your tasks.
- Second, discipline yourself to practice the principles you are about to learn until you master them.
- Third, do everything with determination, until the habit takes root and becomes second nature to you.
1. Set the table before eating the frog
Before you can determine what your “frog” is and eat the frog, you need to decide exactly what you want to accomplish in each area of your life. Clarity is the most important concept when it comes to personal productivity. The main reason that some people get more work done faster than others is that they are quite clear about their goals and objectives, which they do not deviate from.
Here is an excellent rule of success: Think on paper.
To establish and achieve your goals, follow these seven steps:
- Determine exactly what you want. Set your goals and objectives on your own or sit down with your boss to discuss it with him until you clearly know what is expected of you and in what order of priority.
- Stephen Covey said, “Before you start climbing the ladder of success, make sure it’s leaning against the right building.”
- Write it down. Think on paper. By writing your goal down, you crystallize it and give it a tangible form. You create something that you can touch and see. Unwritten goals lead to confusion, lack of precision, misdirection and many mistakes.
- Set a deadline for your goal. Without a deadline, the goal or the decision has no urgency. It has neither a real beginning nor a real end. Without having set a specific deadline, accompanied by the acceptance of specific responsibilities concerning it, you will naturally procrastinate and will not achieve much.
- List everything you can think of that you need to do to achieve your goal. Whenever you get an idea for a new activity, add it to your list. Work on the list until you have completed it. It will allow you to visualize your task or your goal as a whole.
- Make the list into an action plan. Organize your list by priority and sequence. Take a few minutes to decide what to do first and what you can do later.
- Execute your plan immediately. Do something. Do anything. The average plan that is quickly carried out is much better than the brilliant plan on which nothing is executed. To achieve any kind of success, execution is essential.
- Resolve to do something every day that will bring you closer to your main goal. Integrate this activity into your daily schedule in concrete terms. Read a specific number of pages on a key topic. Visit a specific number of prospects or customers. Devote a specific period of time to physical exercise. Learn a certain number of new words in a foreign language. Never miss a single day.
Goals fan the flames of achievement. The bigger and clearer your goals, the more enthusiastic you will be to achieve them.
Exercise: Now take a blank sheet of paper and list the goals you want to achieve in the coming year. Write them in the present tense, in a positive way and in the first person of the singular, so that your subconscious accepts them immediately.
For example, you could write, “I earn so many dollars a year,” or “I weigh so many pounds,” or “I drive this or that car.”
Next, review your list of ten goals, and choose the one that, if achieved, would have the greatest positive impact on your life. Whatever that goal is, write it down on a separate sheet. Set a deadline, make an action plan, start implementing your plan, and then do something every day that will get you closer to your goal. This one exercise could change your life!
2. Plan each day
Throughout your workday, cross off items from your list as you complete them. This activity will allow you to view your progress. This will give you the feeling of succeeding and moving forward.
If you have any one project, start by listing all the steps you will have to take to complete it, from the first to the last. Organize project-specific tasks according to their priority and sequential order. Lay them down on paper or display them on the computer screen so you can see them. Then get to work, one task at a time. You will be amazed at the amount of work you can get done in this way.
One of the most important rules of personal effectiveness is the 10/90 rule. The 10% of the time you spend planning and organizing your work, before starting it, will save you up to 90% of the time you will spend doing it once you have started it. You only have to try this rule once to prove it to yourself.
Exercise: Start planning in advance today, every day, every week and every month.
In a notepad or on a sheet of paper, list everything you will need to do in the next 24 hours. Sort your tasks by priority.
3. Apply the 80/20 rule to everything
The 80/20 rule (“Pareto Principle”) is one of the most useful concepts of time and life management. All economic activity is subject to this principle. For example, 20% of your tasks will account for 80% of the value of what you do. This means that, if you have a list of ten things to do, two of these things will earn you as much, if not more than all of the other eight.
The most important tasks you can complete each day are often the most difficult and complex. However, the results and the rewards for executing them efficiently can be extraordinary. Therefore, you must categorically refuse to work on the tasks that are part of the bottom 80% of the list while you still have tasks to be completed among the top 20% of the list.
Before you get to work, always ask yourself, “Is this task among the top 20% of my list of activities or the bottom 80%?”
Exercise: Make a list today of all the goals, projects and responsibilities that fit into your life. Which of them are among the 20% that account for 80% of your results?
Make a decision today to devote more and more time to the things that can make all the difference in your life and less and less time to lower value activities.
4. Consider the consequences
People who are successful are those who have given a clear direction for their future. They are already thinking about what their reality will be in five, ten, and even twenty years. They analyze their current behavior and choices to ensure that they are in line with the future to which they aspire.
Your attitude towards time, your “time horizon”, has a huge impact on your behavior and your choices. People who plan their lives and careers for the long term always seem to make much better decisions about their time and activities than those who think very little about their future.
Exercise: Regularly review your list of tasks, activities and projects. Ask yourself continuously, “What project or activity would have the greatest positive impact on my life if I did it in an excellent and timely fashion?”
Whatever might be most useful to you, make it your goal to do it, make an action plan to get it done, and start implementing your plan. Remember Goethe’s wonderful words: “Just begin and the mind grows heated; continue, and the task will be completed!”
5. Use the ABCDE method continually
You start to list everything you need to do the next day. Think on paper.
Then, before tackling your first task, write an A, B, C, D or E next to each item.
The “A” will denote something that must be done, otherwise the consequences will be serious.
If you have more than one task of type “A”, put them in priority order by writing A1, A2, A3 and so on next to each task concerned.
The rule is that you never do a “B” type task when you still have an “A” type task to do.
Tasks “C” are the ones that would be nice to do but that won’t change anything, whether you complete them or not.
Type “D” tasks are those that can be delegated to someone. The rule is that you delegate everything that someone else could do, so that you have more time to devote to type “A” tasks that only you can do.
Tasks of type “E” are those that can simply be eliminated without making any real difference.
Exercise: Review your work list now, to write an “A”, “B”, “C”, “D”, or “E” next to each task.
6. Focus on the key result areas
The result areas are similar to the vital functions of the body, such as those indicated by blood pressure, heart rate, respiratory rate, and brain activity. The absence of just one of these vital functions leads to the death of the organism. In the same way, if you neglect a key result area of your work, this could also lead to the loss of your job.
For example, management has key result areas of planning, organization, staffing, delegation, supervision, and reporting. The manager who doesn’t know how to delegate prevents himself from using his other skills to the maximum of their effectiveness. Lack of delegation skills alone can lead a person to professional failure.
The good news is that all professional skills can be learned. Here is one of the best questions to ask and answer: “What skill could I develop and practice with know-how that would have the most positive impact on my career?”
Exercise: Identify the key result areas of your work. What are they? Write down the key results you need to achieve to excel in your work. For each of them, give yourself a score from one to ten. Next, determine the key skill that, if done with know-how, would be most useful to you professionally.
7. Obey the law of forced efficiency
According to the law of enforced efficiency, “you never have enough time to do everything, but you always have enough time to do what matters most.”
Many people say they work better when pressed for deadlines. However, years of research have shown that this is unfortunately rarely the case.
Under the pressure of deadlines, which often are self-imposed through procrastination and delay, people undergo greater stress, make more mistakes and have to often redo more work more than under any other conditions. The mistakes people make when hurrying to meet short deadlines often lead to defects and additional costs, which in turn lead to substantial long-term financial losses.
There are three questions you can regularly ask yourself to keep you focused on the most important tasks, so that you can complete them on time:
- Which of my activities have the greatest value?
- What can I and only I do, which, if done well, will make all the difference?
- What is the most valuable use of my time right now?
Exercise: When it comes to success, your most powerful thinking tool is your ability to prioritize. Take a few minutes each day to sit in a quiet place to reflect on your work and activities.
8. Prepare thoroughly before eating the frog
One of the best ways for you to overcome procrastination and get more done in less time is to get everything you need before you even get started.
Arrange your work area so that it is comfortable, attractive, and suitable for long hours of work.
Sitting at your desk, with everything you need in front of you and ready to go, adopt the body language that befits high performance. Sit up straight, lean forward, and away from the back of the chair. Carry yourself as if you were an efficient and high performing personality. Then grab the first item and say, “Let’s get to work!” Then plunge in! Once started, persist until you have finished your work.
Exercise: The cleaner and tidier your work environment, the more positive, productive and confident you will feel. Resolve today to completely tidy up your desk once the work is done, so it’s ready for use.
9. Do your personal research
Doing personal research is one of the most important principles of increasing one’s performance. Therefore, you should learn what you have to learn to be able to do your job. The better you are at eating a certain type of frog, the better your chances of getting into it right away and going all the way with it.
One of the most useful management techniques of all time is to improve yourself with respect to your own key result areas. Personal and professional development is one of the best ways to save time.
A single piece of information or additional skill can make a huge difference in your ability to do the job well.
Read in your field at least an hour a day. Take all the courses and seminars offered on key skills that may be useful to you. Attend conventions and business meetings of people in your profession or trade. Take part in sessions and workshops.
Exercise: Decide today to become yourself “a professional project”. Become a lifelong student in your art or science. For the professional, school is never finished.
10. Leverage your special talents
There are certain things you can do, or learn to do, that can make you tremendously helpful to yourself and others. Your responsibility is to identify the particular areas in which you are unique, and then strive to become very, very good in those areas.
Take stock of your unique talents and abilities on a regular basis. What do you do particularly well? What do you excel in? And what do you do with ease and expertise that proves to be difficult for others? Thinking about your career, what has contributed the most to your private and professional life to date?
By nature, you will enjoy doing the things you do the best.
One of your biggest duties in life is figuring out what you really enjoy doing, then giving the best of yourself to that particular job.
Exercise: Continually ask yourself the following key questions: “What do I excel in? What do I like most about my job? What has contributed most to my success in the past? If I could do any job, what would I choose?”.
11. Identify your key constraints
No matter what you have to do, there will always be a limiting factor that will determine how quickly and how effectively you do it. Your responsibility is to study the task and identify the limiting factor or constraint attached to it. You must then focus all of your energy on eliminating this hindrance.
This factor could be someone whose help or decision you need, a resource you need, a weakness in one area of the company, or something else. Regardless, the limiting factor is always there, and it’s always your job to find it.
The 80/20 rule applies to the constraints of your private and professional life. This means that 80% of the constraints, the factors that prevent you from achieving your goals, are internal. They are found within yourself, your own qualities, abilities, habits, disciplines and personal skills. Only 20% of the limiting factors are external, to yourself or to your company.
Exercise: Identify the most important goal you are currently pursuing in life. Ask yourself, “Why haven’t I done it already? What is it in me that is holding me back?” Whatever your answers, take action now. Do something, anything, but get started.
12. Take it one oil barrel at a time
One of the best ways to overcome procrastination is to stop thinking about the huge task ahead of you in order to focus on a specific action that you can take. One of the best ways to eat a large frog is to take one bite at a time.
The author describes how he crossed the Algerian Sahara where there were barrels of black oil five kilometers apart. In the daytime, you could discern two oil barrels, the one you just passed and the one five kilometers ahead.
All they had to do was head to the next oil barrel. Result: they managed to cross the largest desert in the world, by simply taking it “one oil barrel at a time”.
You can overcome procrastination and accomplish extraordinary things by just taking the first step, chasing your goal, and then taking it one step, one oil barrel at a time.
Exercise: Select a goal, task or project in your life where you have been procrastinating and take immediate steps towards achieving it.
13. Put pressure on yourself
One of the best ways to overcome procrastination is to work as if you only had one day left to complete your most important tasks before you go away for a month or go on vacation.
By putting pressure on yourself, you will get more done, better and faster than ever before. You will become a high performance and high achieving person. You will take great pride in it and, little by little, you will develop the habit of quickly completing your tasks, which will then serve you every day of your life.
Exercise: Set deadlines for each task and activity. Raise the bar for yourself and don’t let yourself off the hook. From the moment you set a deadline, stick to it and even try to get ahead of it.
14. Maximize your personal powers
Here is a rule for you. Take a full day of rest each week. On that day, be it Saturday or Sunday, do not read, write, try to catch up on some things in the office, or anything else that requires brain power. Instead, go to the movies, exercise, spend time with your family, go for a walk, or participate in some activity that allows your brain to fully recharge its batteries. It’s true that “a change is as good as a rest”.
Take regular vacations, long weekends, and one or two-week breaks each year to rest and rejuvenate. You’re always more productive after a weekend of rest or vacation.
In addition, in order to keep your energy levels at a maximum, take care of your diet. Avoid sugar, salt, white flour products and soft drinks. By eating healthy, low-fat foods, exercising regularly, and getting more rest, you will get more, and better work done, easier and with greater satisfaction than ever before.
Exercise: Analyze your current energy levels and your daily health habits. Resolve today to improve your health and energy levels.
15. Motivate yourself into action
What you say to yourself on a minute-to-minute basis determines 95% of your emotions, positive or negative. It is not what happens to you but how you interpret what happens to you that determines how you feel. It is your own version of events that largely determines whether they will motivate or demotivate you, whether they will give you energy or take energy away from you.
In order to stay motivated, you must resolve to become the ultimate optimist. You must decide to react positively to the words, actions and reactions of people and those around you, as well as to the situations that come up around you.
To maintain your own motivation and to overcome doubts or fear, keep repeating to yourself “I’ll make it happen!” Yes, I’ll make it happen!”
If you continually visualize your goals and ideals, and always speak positively, you will be more focused and more energized. You will feel more confident and more creative. You will enjoy greater control and greater personal power.
Exercise: Control your thoughts. Remember that you become what you think about most of the time. So, be sure to think about the things you want rather than the things you don’t want, and only talk about the former.
16. Practice creative procrastination
Creative procrastination is about figuring out in a thoughtful and deliberate way the exact things that you won’t do immediately, or even perhaps never.
Most people procrastinate on large, difficult tasks that are valuable and important, and that can have a huge impact on their lives and careers in the long run. However, this tendency must be avoided at all costs.
You should deliberately procrastinate on low value tasks.
One of the most powerful words in the field of time management is “No!” You must say “no” to anything that is not a worthwhile use of your time and your life. Say it early and say it often. The point is you don’t have time to waste.
Exercise: Review your non-professional activities to determine which ones are unimportant. Reduce the time you spend watching TV to spend it on family, reading, exercising, or doing something that will improve your quality of life.
17. Complete the most difficult task first
Here’s how to get into the habit of eating the frog:
- At the end of your workday, or during the weekend, make a list of everything you will have to do the next day.
- Review this list using the ABCDE method, in conjunction with the 80/20 rule.
- Select task A1, which is the most important, the one of which the completion or omission is most likely to make a difference.
- Gather everything you need to get the job done from start to finish. Spread it out in front of you, ready for you to use the next morning when you get to work.
- Clear your work area completely, so that you have this one and only task, the most important, in front of you.
- Discipline yourself to get up and get ready to work, then walk into your office and tackle your most difficult task straight away, and do that without interruption, before moving on.
- Do this for 21 days, until you get into the habit. With this discipline, you will literally double your performance in less than a month.
Exercise: Think of yourself as a work of art. Devote yourself to the development of habits that will allow you to become productive by practicing them repeatedly, until they become automatic and easy.
18. Divide the task into bite-size pieces
One of the main reasons why you procrastinate on big, important tasks is because they seem too large and too formidable at first.
Among the techniques that you can use to divide a large task into elements of reasonable size, there is the of “Salami slice” method. With this method, you lay out the task in detail, to then resolve to do a single slice of work at first, a bit like eating a roll of salami (one slice at a time).
Psychologically, you will find it easier to complete just one small part of a big project than to tackle the whole project. It will often happen that the moment you start and finish some of your work, you will feel like eating just one more slice. In no time, and without even realizing it, the job will be done, one task at a time.
There is another technique you can use to motivate yourself to keep moving forward: the “Swiss cheese” method. You will use it to get down to work by deciding to punch a hole into the task, much like a hole in a piece of Swiss cheese.
You turn a task into Swiss cheese when you resolve to work on it for a specific period of time. It can be just 5-10 minutes, after which you stop and move on to something else. You will only take one bite of your frog, and then rest or do something else.
Therefore, you should try the “salami slice” or “Swiss cheese” methods to complete any task that at first seems daunting. You will be amazed at how useful these techniques are in overcoming procrastination.
Exercise: Apply these techniques now. Choose a large, complex and multi-task job that you’ve been putting off. Apply the “salami slice” technique or the “Swiss cheese” technique to start it.
19. Create large chunks of time
Most of the really important work you have to do requires that you spend long, uninterrupted periods of time doing it.
Many high-performance people have the habit of planning specific activities throughout the day that they complete at a fixed time. These people build their professional lives around completing their main tasks, one at a time. Result: their performance keeps improving, and they produce 2, 3 and even 5 times more work than the average person.
The time planner divided into hours and minutes, which you fill out in advance, can be one of the most powerful personal performance tools available.
When you are working on a given task, turn off your phone, eliminate any distraction and work without interruption. One of the best work habits you can maintain is to get up early to work at home for several hours in the morning. You would accomplish, during this time without interruptions, 3 times more work than you could never do in a bustling office where you would be surrounded by people and bombarded with telephone calls.
Exercise: Constantly think of different ways to gain, plan and consolidate large chunks of time. Spend this time on important tasks that will have the longest impact on your private and professional life.
20. Develop a sense of urgency
When you work on high-value tasks with a high and continuous level of activity, you are likely to enter into an amazing state of mind called “flow”.
One of the ways in which you can adopt this state of flow is to develop “a sense of urgency“. It’s about feeling driven or eager to immediately get on with a job and get it done quickly. This form of impatience motivates you to get going and to keep going. A sense of urgency feels very much like racing against yourself.
A sense of urgency automatically takes us down the fast lane of our career. The faster you work and get the job done, the higher will be your levels of self-esteem, dignity and personal pride.
One of the simplest and most powerful ways to get started is to repeat several times, “Do it now!”. Do it now! Do it now! “.
Exercise: Make the decision today to develop a sense of urgency in everything you do. Choose an area in which you tend to procrastinate and decide to develop the habit of acting quickly in this area.
21. Single handle every task
By fully focusing on your most important task, you can reduce the time it takes to complete it by 50% or more.
But when you prepare thoroughly before you start, and then refuse to stop or get distracted until the job is done, you gain energy, enthusiasm, and motivation. Your efficiency and performance keep improving. You will work faster and more efficiently.
The more you discipline yourself to work non-stop on a single task, the more you move down the “efficiency curve”. You get more and more quality work done in less and less time.
Exercise: Take action! Resolve today to choose the most important task or project you can complete, then tackle it immediately and eat the frog. When you have started your most important task, discipline yourself to persevere without diversion or distraction until you are 100% done.
Book critique of “Eat That Frog!”
This little book “Eat That Frog!” is very rich and focuses on the essential for good time management. The author guides us step by step through each of the 21 ways set out. He provides highly relevant examples and quotes.
Personally, I have been applying his advice for years. Like preparing the day before the to-do list or the “Swiss cheese” technique. I am more efficient and more organized. I had applied them in my previous project, and I was able to accomplish a lot with very precise follow-ups done every week.
Today, I am starting a new coaching activity and I am launching my own business. This project is huge for me because it is a career transition. I have virtually everything to learn: blogging, sales, web marketing, video, etc.
I divide what I can easily do into small tasks. Furthermore, I’m not focusing on the end goal, which is rather large.
If I have trouble doing a task, I divide it up even more. Then I do a very small chunk every day.
Working from home and being a mother of three, I find it hard not to interrupt my tasks. Between going to drop the children off at school, the speech therapist, the meals, the various requests from my children, etc., I do as I can. I listen to myself and I adapt the method to my situation. It’s up to you to find your rhythm too.
That said, I haven’t had the opportunity to apply his way to develop a sense of urgency. I don’t think there is a need for me and I already have enough pressure as it is .
I had put a reminder on my phone not to work on Sunday, but I didn’t really observe it and I took the opportunity to advance on my project. In preparing this article, I understood the importance of taking a break on a regular basis to work better the following week.
The author encourages us to do the exercise immediately at the end of each chapter. Do it if you really want to change things. This is the action that will lead you to your goal and, in this book, “to eat the frog!”. You have great ways to make it happen.
- Eat That Frog is easy to read and the concepts of “eat that frog!” are simple to put in place.
- In the book Eat That Frog, exercises at the end of each chapter.
- Very useful and common-sense advice.
- Incorporates elements that I learned in coaching such as goal clarification, setting a deadline, positive thinking, posture, etc.
- The principles are universal and can be applied in any project, whether it’s in private or professional life.
- Similar to David Allen’s book, “Getting Things Done“, but much simpler.
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