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Always Eat the Frog First

October 13, 2022

By Susan Chance, courtesy SBAM Approved Partner ASE

What does eating frogs have to do with productivity at work? No, I am not talking about frog legs, which can be found on restaurant menus.

Who among us has not started the day dreading a task that we have to get done? I remember a friend who used to get her best housework done when she was avoiding writing tasks. And no, that friend is not me, really.

How many of us have finally gotten around to filing or cleaning out our inbox while avoiding things like making a dreaded phone call or talking to a colleague about a project issue? We can find so many ways to procrastinate when it comes to doing a task that we don’t like. We can also carry a lot of stress about the task not being completed.

The “Eat That Frog” technique is about completing the most undesirable tasks first to get them out of the way. So why is it called “Eat That Frog?” It is a take on a Mark Twain 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.” Brian Tracy is the author who coined the phrase in one of his books.

This technique is to make a list of your tasks for the day, and then figure out which task or tasks are frogs. Start with these tasks and them move on to the things that you like to do. The thought process is that once you get the worst task of the day completed, you can go through the remainder of the day more relaxed about the rest of your pending tasks while feeling that you have already accomplished something. Having a task that you dread hanging in front of you all day can add more stress.

If you make your list and you do find that you have more than one frog to eat, Mr. Tracy suggests using another technique, the ABCDE method. This method also starts with making a list of priorities for the day. However, instead of eating frogs, this method has you label your tasks:

  • “A” — your most important task, the one most likely to have serious consequences if you don’t finish it.
  • “B” —the next most important task, the one not as serious in terms of consequences, but still important.
  • “C” —the task that you could do, but it wouldn’t have any real consequences if you didn’t do it.
  • “D” — the task that you can delegate to someone, to free more time for doing the “A” task.
  • “E” — the task that you don’t really have to do, so you can eliminate it.

Both of these methods are designed to have you finish the undesirable tasks first, before you move on to other tasks.

There is a school of thought that suggests that eating the frog first might make starting your day more difficult or negative; however, the point of the task is to move beyond procrastinating and become more efficient. If you try it and find that this is not the method for you, there are many other methods out there. However, you may just find that you like eating frogs, even the big ones, and then getting on with your day.

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