What is the "Eat the Frog" Productivity Strategy
The famous Mark Twain once said "If the first thing you do in the morning is to eat the frog, then you can continue your day with the satisfaction of knowing that this is probably the worst thing that will happen to you all day”. He expanded on his theory stating "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".
This quote has now gone on to inspire millions of people around the world; there has even been books published around this quote such as Brian Tracy's "Eat That Frog! 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time".
The meaning behind the Eat the Frog premise is if you have an intimidating task ahead of you for the day, try to get it out of the way as soon as you can. It may seem like you're planning ahead by arranging to complete your task at a later date but all you're really doing is delaying your own progress. You only have so much willpower every day, the longer you wait, the less willpower you have to tackle the task.
How to find out what your frog is
The 5-3-1 Method
A good way of finding out what the frog is / the hardest task of your day is through the 5/3/1 to-do list method. The 5/3/1 strategy involves picking 9 tasks and dividing them into the following groups:
- 5 Easy tasks
- 3 Medium Tasks
- 1 Hard task
You can then work through the tasks by eating the frog first (the 1 hard task), then tackling the 3 medium tasks and finally completing the 5 easy tasks to finish your day off.
Not only does this method allow you to identify your hardest task but it also provides a framework that prevents you from burning out. Once we're motivated we often work tirelessly to achieve our goals, even if it comes at a price such as sacrificing sleep or eating unhealthily. Instead of advocating to work until your eyes fall out, this framework recommends you only attempt 9 tasks a day. This way you can remain productive whilst minimising the chances that you suffer from a burnout or feel overwhelmed.
The ABCDE Method
As previously mentioned, Brian Tracy wrote a book called "Eat That Frog! 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time". In this book he laid out his own blueprint on how to organise your tasks and thus find the frog of the day.
His method groups the tasks into the following categories:
- A - Tasks that are of the upmost importance and urgent. If these are not completed, there's real consequences. A great example of a category A task would be handing in your dissertation, it is both urgent and important.
- B - Tasks that are very important but have less serious consequences; however, they're not as urgent as Group A. An example of a Category B task would be submitting an draft assignment. It may be important to receive feedback on your work but the consequences aren't that serious if you don't.
- C - Tasks that are neither important or urgent. These are tasks that you may enjoy but won't get you any further towards achieving your goals. An example of a Category C task would be spending time socialising.
- D - Tasks that should be delegated where possible. These tasks offer no real benefits in the way of short or long term gains; instead, try to outsource them so that you can focus on tasks that offer a better return on investment. An example of a category D task could be running errands. It's doing nothing to move you closer to achieving your goals yet needs to be done, therefore it should be delegated where possible.
- E - Tasks that should be eliminated all together. These tasks are just roadblocks, preventing you from being at your productive best. Examples of Category E tasks are activities such as watching Netflix or browsing through social media. These should be eliminated where possible so that you can be at your productive best.
By using this framework, you should easily be able to find the frog of your day whilst cutting down on tasks that serve very little return on investment. Sometimes the best way to do more is to do less!
The Benefits of Eat the Frog
The rest of the day seems easier
By tackling the hardest task first, once you get on to the next task, everything starts to seem easier in comparison. Furthermore, you can go through the day knowing the worst is behind you; you can then go through your day in full relaxation mode.
The feeling of achievement
Once you've completed the hardest task of the day, the feeling of achievement can stay with you throughout the day. Instead of spending the whole day stressing and annoyed that you have to tackle a hard task later, you can spend it feeling prideful.
You can focus better on other tasks
After you've tackled your hardest task of the day, you'll notice you're much more focused on your other tasks. This is due to you not having to keep the hard task in the back of your brain; if you're consistently postponing your hardest task, it's constantly going to be in your thoughts and will make it much harder to concentrate on your other tasks.
The Drawbacks of the Eat the Frog Productivity
Whilst the Eat the Frog productivity method may benefit the majority of people, it certainly does not cater to the night owls. Each and everyone of us is more suited to working at a certain time due to our circardian rhythm; some may be more productive and energised in the early hours of the morning whilst some may not feel refreshed until the late hours of the night.
This strategy recommends you start the day off with your hardest task; this is a problem for night owls as they may not find themselves at their most productive until the deep hours of the night. Instead by trying to accomplish their hardest task early in the day, they may find themselves sacrificing the quality of their work due to them not feeling alert and energised yet.
It can be incredibly demotivating to find out another hard task has popped up once you've just eaten the frog for the day. Because this method does not leave much room for flexibility throughout the day, you may find yourself starting to feel overwhelmed and overworked if urgent and important tasks keep popping up throughout the day.
It can make your early mornings incredibly demoralising
Waking up knowing you have a gruelling task ahead of you can be incredibly disheartening; it almost immediately puts you in a bad mood, especially on days that you're not feeling motivated or you hadn't slept well.
We all react differently to productivity strategies, some may find productivity methods that emphasise time-management are right for them whilst some may be more productive with a task orientated method such as this Eat the Frog Method. The only way to find out which one is right for you, is to try it out. If the Eat the Frog productivity method sounds like it might be suited to you, be sure to try it out and record your results. Hopefully your productivity will rise to unprecedented levels.