There’s an old saying that if the first thing you do each morning is to eat a live frog, you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing that it’s probably the worst thing you’ll do all day. Eat That Frog! uses this saying as a metaphor for tackling the most challenging task of your day. Brian Tracy explains that these tasks are often the ones you are most likely to procrastinate on. However, they are also the tasks that are most likely to have a significant impact on your life. Eat That Frog! provides 21 tips to organize your life around eating that frog faster and more often.
About Brian Tracy
Brian Tracy is the Chairman and CEO of Brian Tracy International, a company specializing in individuals’ and organizations’ training and development. He has studied, researched, written, and spoken for 30 years in economics, history, business, philosophy, and psychology. Before founding his company, Brian was the Chief Operating Officer of a 265 million dollar company. He has had successful careers in sales and marketing, investments, real estate development and syndication, importation, distribution, and management consulting. He has conducted high-level consulting assignments with several billion-dollar-plus corporations in strategic planning and organizational development.
Tip 1 – Set the Table
Productivity relies heavily on clarity. Being clear about your goals is one of the most effective ways of increasing your productivity and efficiency. If you can establish clear objectives and not deviate from them, you will instantly improve your productivity.
As well as following these tips, Brian Tracy recommends following a specific formula that he calls setting the table. Essentially, this step-by-step process helps you to set and achieve relevant life goals.
- Decide exactly what you want. You can make this decision by yourself or with your manager.
- Write this decision down. Brian calls this thinking on paper.
- Set a deadline for this goal. Also, utilize sub-deadlines. If you do not set deadlines, then you are making goals with no urgency.
- Make a list of all sub-tasks integral to achieving your life goals. Keep adding to this list as time progresses.
- Organize your list of sub-tasks into a plan. This plan should consider the order in which you will complete the tasks. Plus, you should create a visual depiction of this plan.
- Take action on your plan immediately.
- Do something every single day that is moving you toward your ultimate goals. Build these goals into your daily schedule.
Brian Tracy argues that these steps can help keep you motivated and inspire you to be creative. Importantly, they will also help you become more productive and procrastinate less.
Tip 2 – Plan Every Day in Advance
“Every minute spent in planning saves as many as ten minutes in execution.”– Brian Tracy
Overcoming procrastination relies on your mind more than anything else. Your mind dictates how you think, plan, and make decisions. Importantly, your ability to set goals, make plans and take action has a significant impact on your success. Brian Tracy explains that the mere act of thinking and planning can positively influence your life. Specifically, thinking and planning unlock your mental powers, trigger your creativity, and increase your mental and physical energy.
Brian introduces a Six-P formula that outlines the importance of effective planning: Proper Prior Planning Prevents Poor Performance.
The best approach to planning is to make a list of every step required to complete a task or a project. Make sure this list covers every step from beginning to end. You should then organize these steps depending on their priority, with the most critical tasks at the top of the list. You will want to take each of these steps as part of an integrated plan by sitting back and viewing the whole list of prioritized tasks. Once you have done this, you should start working through this plan task-by-task.
Again, here is a step-by-step approach to planning:
- Write a list – This list should also include everything you have to do before working through this plan’s tasks.
- Work from a list – Your list should be your reference point. Therefore, every time you think of a new task that is required, you should add it to the list. Even if the task needs to be done immediately, you should add the task to the list before doing it.
- Plan ahead – Make sure your initial plans are developed well in advance. For example, try creating your plan the night before at the latest. This preparation will also allow your subconscious to process this plan overnight. Great ideas will crop up the next morning.
- Update your list – As you are working on your plan, you can move unfinished items to your list for the coming day. Plus, you can tick off any tasks you have already completed.
Each of these steps can be applied to the four different types of list that Brian Tracy introduces:
- Master List – Everything you want to do in the future. This list contains every idea that you have had and every responsibility that comes up.
- Monthly List – This list should be used for monthly planning and can be populated by using the master list.
- Weekly list – This list should be used for weekly planning and can be updated throughout the week.
- Daily list – This list should be used for daily work. Tick off tasks as you complete them.
Tip 3 – Apply the 80/20 Rule
“Resist the temptation to clear up small things first.”– Brian Tracy
The 80/20 rule can be applied to several phenomena. The same is true of planning. Brian Tracy suggests that 20 percent of your activities will account for 80 percent of your results. Similarly, he outlines the following concepts that also adopt the 80/20 rule:
- 20 percent of your customers will account for 80 percent of your sales
- 20 percent of your products or services will account for 80 percent of your profits
This chapter is where Brian Tracy first introduces the ‘frog’. The frog is the most critical task that will bring you the most success. Specifically, these tasks contribute five or ten times the value of any of the others. Each day you will have a frog. However, these tasks are often the hardest to complete and most complex to understand. Therefore, allocation of resources to these tasks is hugely important. You should refuse to work on the bottom 80 percent while you still have tasks in the top 20 percent left to be done. Practicing this consistently over time will allow you to develop the habit of focusing on the most critical tasks first.
Tip 4 – Consider The Consequences of Your Tasks
“Long-term thinking improves short-term decision making.”– Brian Tracy
Considering your tasks’ consequences is an effective way of learning to predict your next frog. Plus, it allows you to maintain a clearer plan for your long-term future. Those who can control their future goals by considering the consequences of their current goals are more likely to be successful.
Brian Tracy also suggests that you consider how you approach your and your team’s time. He calls this attitude toward time as your Time Horizon. This Time Horizon has a significant impact on your behavior and your choices. For example, those who think about decisions in a long-term context generally make better decisions and live more fulfilling lives.
As long-term planning is crucial for short-term performance, successful people are those who can delay gratification. Short-term sacrifices underpin their long-term success.
Brian Tracy recommends you ask yourself the following three questions to maximize your productivity and eat your most crucial frog first:
- What are my highest value activities?
- What can I, and only I, do that if done well, will make a real difference?
- What is the most valuable use of my time right now?
Tip 5 – Practice the ABCDE Method
The ABCDE method is a prioritizing technique that can be used every day to help you choose which tasks to procrastinate. Everybody procrastinates. The main difference between success and failure is which tasks people choose to procrastinate.
Brian Tracy outlines that you have to set posteriorities as well as priorities. Priorities are the tasks you should frequently be doing and need to be done as soon as possible. In contrast, posteriorities are the tasks that you don’t need to do immediately. Your success is not entirely dependent on posteriorities.
The ABCDE method is an approach to prioritizing after writing out everything you have to do on that day.
- A – Tasks you must do and are the maximum priority. These frogs are your life, and you can further sub-prioritize them by labeling them as A1, A2, and so on.
- B – Tasks you should do. Brian describes these as tadpoles.
- C – Tasks that would be nice to do.
- D – Tasks you can delegate. You will want to delegate these tasks so you can focus more on the A tasks.
- E – Tasks you can cut from your list. They are tasks that held importance at some point but are no longer relevant.
Always start your day by working on your A1 tasks. Stay on these tasks until they are finished.
Tip 6 – Focus on Key Result Areas
Brian Tracy describes key result areas as areas of work that you are entirely responsible. Hence, if you do not do this work, then it won’t get done. Also, the output of these tasks is crucial for the input of other people’s tasks. Therefore, these work areas are crucial for you and your team to work efficiently.
You can identify your key result areas by making a list of your most crucial output responsibilities. Consider the outputs that others need in order to start specific tasks. You can seek guidance from others to better understand what outputs are vital for them to complete their work. After identifying these key result areas, you then have to grade yourself on a scale of one to ten in each of these areas. One denotes this area as extremely weak for you, while ten denotes this area as extremely strong. Your weakest key result area sets the height at which you can use all your other skills and abilities.
Tip 7 – Obey the Law of Forced Efficiency
“There is never enough time to do everything, but there is always enough time to do the most important thing.”– Brian Tracy
You can’t eat every tadpole and frog in the pond. However, it is plausible to ensure that you eat the biggest and ugliest frog within the pond. Notably, Brian Tracy believes that doing this should be enough for you to be successful.
Tip 8 – Prepare Thoroughly Before Eating
Preparation is an effective way of preventing procrastination from taking over. Therefore, Brian Tracy suggests that you can get things done faster by having everything you need at hand before you begin a task. Brian uses a metaphor of being a cocked gun when you are fully prepared for a task.
Here are some tips for preparing yourself for eating your biggest frogs:
- Clear your desk and workspace, so it is a blank slate. This might involve having to put everything on the floor.
- After clearing your workspace, you can then start setting up your dedicated workspace for this task. Make sure that it is comfortable and attractive. It should be a space you are happy working in for long periods.
- Assume the body language of high performance. This involves sitting up straight, sitting forward, and sitting away from the back of your chair.
Tip 9 – Do Your Homework
Life is about studying for your own project. You must become a lifelong student of your craft to be successful. A primary reason for procrastination is 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. The more you practice your craft, the better you will become at eating a particular frog type. Plus, the better you are, the more likely you are to start and finish these projects.
Everything is learnable, so you should aim to get better at all key skills that underpin your key tasks. Here are some tips that Brian provides readers on how they can begin to develop these key skills:
- Read books and articles related to your specialism for at least one hour every day.
- Take every course and seminar available on your key skills.
- Attend conventions and business meetings run by your company.
- Go to every session and workshop. Sit at the front, take notes, and engage with these sessions.
- Listen to educational audio in your car.
Tip 10 – Use Your Special Talents
You are a unique individual who has special talents and abilities that nobody else who has ever lived possesses. Therefore, this means there are certain things you can do or learn to do that will make you extremely valuable. You must learn to identify your areas of uniqueness and then commit to specializing within these areas.
Again, Brian Tracy uses the metaphor of frogs. Your success is dependent on your ability to eat specific frogs faster and better than other people.
Here are some questions that will help you identify your areas of uniqueness:
- What am I really good at?
- What has been most responsible for my success in the past?
- If I could do any job at all, what job would it be?
Always try and focus most of your efforts on the key tasks that play to your strengths. You cannot put your full effort and time into every task, so you should do so with those tasks you excel in.
Tip 11 – Identify Your Key Constraints
Your job is to clearly identify the constraints you have to overcome to achieve your major goal. Ask yourself the following questions to help you identify your key constraints:
- What is holding you back?
- What sets the speed at which you achieve your goals?
- What determines how fast you move from where you are to where you want to go?
- What stops you or holds you back from eating the frogs that can make a difference?
- Why aren’t you at your goal already?
After identifying your most important goal, you should consider the limiting factor. This is the factor that sets the speed at which you achieve your most important goal. After identifying this limiting factor, you should put all your efforts into removing this limiting factor.
Tip 12 – Take Things One Step at a Time
You should always be aiming to take things one step at a time. When first pursuing your ultimate goal, you will only be able to see so far. Staying disciplined and taking things one step at a time will allow you to see far enough to go further. As time progresses, the next step will become clear to you.
This approach can apply to all parts of your life. For example, Brian Tracy explains that you can achieve financial independence by saving every month, year after year. Similarly, you can become healthy by eating a little less and exercising a little more every day, year after year.
Tip 13 – Put the Pressure on Yourself
Only two percent of people can work efficiently entirely without supervision. Brian explains that these people are leaders. However, people are not born this way. Therefore, you can decide to be like this. Brian suggests getting into the habit of putting pressure on yourself to complete work independently rather than waiting for someone else to come along and do it for you. You must choose your frogs and then force yourself to eat them.
Brian also recommends that you set higher standards for yourself than the standards others set for you.
Tip 14 – Maximize Your Personal Powers
Personal performance and productivity are created through physical, mental, and emotional energies. Brian Tracy describes your body as being like a machine. Your body uses food, water, and rest to generate energy. This energy is crucial for you to accomplish your most important tasks. This is why we can be two or three times more productive when we are well-rested, hydrated, and fed.
Based on the importance of your energy, Brian suggests that you nurture your energy levels. This means avoiding burnout at all costs by working at your own pace, getting enough sleep, and protecting your physical health. However, there are also specific tactics you can utilize to get the most out of your energy levels:
- Identify the times of the day when you are most energetic and productive. Plan your most challenging tasks into this part of the day.
- Take one full day off every week and regular vacations each year. These vacations should include both long weekends and holidays that last over a week.
- Go to bed early five nights a week.
- Feed yourself a healthy and nutritious diet. Consider what you would feed a world-class athlete before a competition and mimic this in your own diet.
- Exercise regularly.
Tip 15 – Motivate Yourself into Action
95% of your positive and negative emotions are determined by how you talk to yourself. Your emotions are not a consequence of your environment, but how you interpret the environment around you. If you react in the wrong way, then you can become demotivated. Therefore, you must become a complete optimist. Adopting this viewpoint will allow even the most challenging circumstances to become points of motivation.
Brian Tracy outlines several actions you can take to start becoming an optimist:
- Look for the good in every situation.
- Seek the valuable lesson in every setback or difficulty.
- Search for the solution to every problem.
- Accept complete responsibility for yourself and for everything that happens to you.
- Refuse to criticize or blame others for anything.
- Resolve to make progress rather than excuses.
- Keep your thoughts and your energy focused forward and let the rest go.
Tip 16 – Practice Creative Procrastination
Procrastination is generally considered to be a negative thing. However, Brian Tracy presents creative procrastination as a positive action to take. Creative procrastination is putting off eating smaller or less ugly frogs so that you can focus on the biggest frogs. As we all procrastinate, we might as well procrastinate on the least important tasks.
Therefore, Brian recommends saying “no” to all tasks that are not highly important. You can identify whether a task is essential by adopting zero-based thinking. For every task you are contemplating, ask yourself, “If I was not doing this already, knowing what I now know, would I get into it again today?” If the answer to this question is no, you should place this task in the creative procrastination pile.
Tip 17 – Do the Most Difficult Task First
Eating your frog is all about starting your work by doing your most challenging task. Brian Tracy outlines a five-step process, repeated every day for 21 days, to make eating your frog a habit:
- At the end of your workday, you should make a list of everything you have to do the next day.
- Review this list using the ABCDE method and the 80/20 rule.
- Select your A-1, which is your most important task.
- Prepare yourself by assembling everything needed to start and finish the job. Prepare this straight after work on the day before, rather than on the morning you are planning on starting work.
- Discipline yourself to start on your biggest frog and make sure you are working without interruptions.
Tip 18 – Slice and Dice the Task
Tasks can sometimes feel overwhelming. However, it is possible to break the task down into more manageable pieces. Brian provides two techniques for making tasks less overwhelming:
The Salami Slice
- Lay out the task in detail
- Decide on one slice to complete now
It is far easier to focus on one slice of your task. Then, once you have completed one slice, you will most likely feel like doing one more slice. Before you know it, the job will be completed.
The Swiss Cheese
Punch a hole into your task, like a hole in a block of swiss cheese. Swiss cheesing a task occurs when you spend a specific amount of time on a task. This could be as little as five to ten minutes. You will obtain momentum, motivation, and a sense of accomplishment just from completing this short stint of work. Then, you are more likely to go back to this task and finish it off.
Tip 19 – Create Large Chunks of Time
You should aim to work at scheduled times on large tasks. Important pieces of work require large chunks of unbroken time. Hopefully, these large chunks of unbroken time will be highly productive. To increase the likelihood of having these chunks of time, you should schedule blocks of time, use a time plan, and make every minute count.
Tip 20 – Develop a Sense of Urgency
Working on high-value tasks at a high and continuous level of activity is associated with a state called ‘flow’. Successful people are those who can get themselves into this state more often than the average person. A state of flow can be encouraged by developing a sense of urgency. This urgency is associated with getting on with a job quickly, getting it done fast, and focusing on doing the steps rather than talking about the steps.
Tip 21 – Single Handle Every Task
Brian Tracy describes single handling as working on a task without distraction until it is completed. You can give yourself small pep talks by telling yourself things like ‘back to work’ when you feel you’re drifting towards procrastination.
Brian claims that focusing single-mindedly on a task can reduce its completion time by 50%. However, you have to also be aware that the more you work non-stop on a single task, the more you move down the ‘efficiency curve’. Therefore, you must persist. Every outstanding achievement has been preceded by a long period of hard, concentrated work.
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