EAT THAT FROG
Eat that frog! by Brian Tracy
We all have 24 hours in a day. While some people seem ultra-productive, most of us struggle to follow the hectic work pace.
It is as if we will never have enough time to finish everything. As a matter of fact, we will never accomplish them because there will always be more to do.
Brian Tracy invites us to rethink the way we approach our work. To him, we need to spend more time on the few activities that make a difference in our lives.
Eat your frog comes from insights, seminars, personal coachings and mostly from more than forty years of time management study.
The author develops 21 principles and ideas that if applied will tremendously alter the course of your life in a very positive way.
Ideas and theories alone aren’t enough, we need to take actions.
“Every idea in this book is focused on increasing your overall levels of productivity, performance, and output and on making you more valuable in whatever you do.”
The term “Frog” defined
By definition, your “frog” is “your biggest, most important task, the one you are most likely to procrastinate on if you don’t do something about it. It is also the one task that can have the greatest positive impact on your life and results at the moment.”
There are two rules that guide the frog eating:
First, given the choices, you’ll have to eat the ugliest frog first.
Second, you need to take action and eat the live frog, not just look at it.
It’s a way of saying that if you have two important tasks to accomplish, start with the most considerable, the most demanding of the two. Make it a discipline to attack it immediately, and then persevere until it is completed, before moving on to something else.
“Think of this as a test. Treat it like a personal challenge. Resist the temptation to start with the easier task.”
Take Action Immediately
If there is one single habit that will drastically change your life, it will be to eat your frog; to tackle your major task first thing each morning.
You must get into the habit of eating your frog before doing anything else.
Brian Tracy refers to it as the habit of success. You’ll need to set priorities, overcome procrastination and tackle your most important task. The good news is that habit can be formed with enough practice. As the saying goes, repetition is the mother of skill so you’ll need to do it again and again until it gets into your subconscious mind; until it becomes a second nature.
From now on, see yourself as a winner, a person who is decisive, disciplined and determined. Your actions are always consistent with your self-image.
“All improvements in your outer life begin with improvements on the inside, in your mental pictures.” In other words, we’ll need to work on the roots for us to change the fruits.
To know more about how to develop a habit, read my article: “Atomic habits” by James Clear
Chapter 1: Set the Table
Before you can determine your frog, you must decide exactly what you want to accomplish in each area of your life.
Clarity has been a recurrent topic in the field of self-development simply because it works.
The clearer you are about your goals and objectives, the more focused and motivated you will be to achieve them. Conversely, procrastination and demotivation often stem from a lack of clarity, vagueness and fuzzy mindedness.
To have great clarity in your goals and tasks, Brian Tracy suggests a great rule for success: “Think on paper”. To him, only about 3 percent of adults have clear, written goals.
Eat that frog: 7 steps to achieve your goals
The author proposes seven proven steps to double or even triple your productivity.
Step one: Decide exactly what you want. Set your own personal goals or sit down with your boss to discuss what is expected of you.
Step two: Write it down. Think about it on paper. As you write down your goal, you crystallize it and give it tangible form. You create something you can touch and see. Unwritten goals lead to confusion, vagueness, misdirection and countless mistakes.
Step three: Set a deadline on your goal; set sub deadlines if necessary. Without a deadline, a goal or a decision is devoid of urgency. It has neither a true beginning nor a true end. Without a clear deadline, accompanied by the acceptance of specific responsibilities for it, you will naturally procrastinate and get very little done.
Step four: Make a list of everything you can think of that you are going to have to do to achieve your goal.
Step five: Organize the list into a plan. Organize your list in order of priority and sequence. Take a few minutes to decide what you can eliminate, what you need to do first , what you can delegate and what can wait until later. The getting things done by David Allen would even suggest asking: “What’s the next action?” “What is the very next physical action I need to do to accomplish this task?”
Step six: Take action on your plan immediately: Do something about it. Do anything. The average plan that is executed vividly is far better than the brilliant plan that remains totally unexecuted. To achieve any kind of success, it is essential that you execute.
Step seven: Resolve to do something every single day that moves you toward your major goal. To get closer to your objective, you can create a routine or a ritual. It’s vital to implement this activity into your daily schedule.
The power of written goals
“Clear written goals have a wonderful effect on your thinking. They motivate you and galvanize you into action. They stimulate your creativity, release your energy, and help you overcome procrastination as much as any other factor.”
You’ll also need to activate your goals on a daily basis.
Eat that frog: Exercise
1- Now take a clean sheet of paper and make a list of ten goals you want to achieve in the coming year. Write them in the present tense, positively and in the first person singular, so that your subconscious mind will accept them immediately.
For example, you could write, “I earn X number of dollars per year by this date” or “I weigh X number of pounds by this date” or “I drive such and such a car by this date.”
2- 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 of paper. Set yourself a deadline, make an action plan, start implementing your plan, and then do something every day that will bring you closer to your goal. This one exercise could change your life!
Chapter 2: Plan Every Day in Advance
A journey with a thousand miles begins with a single step. In the same way, you eat an elephant one bit at a time.
It’s crucial to break your bigger tasks into smaller achievable ones. Only then could you work on the first task.
“Your ability to make good plans before you act is a measure of your overall competence. The better the plan you have, the easier it is for you to overcome procrastination, to get started, to eat your frog, and then to keep going”
It’s possible to relax while getting more done. The key is to spend ten to twelve minutes a day planning how you’re going to spend that day.
The law of Pareto states that 20% of the cause creates 80% of the effect. By planning in advance, you will save up to two hours a day. As the Six-P formula says: “Proper Prior Planning Prevents Poor Performance.”
To be more productive, always work from a list. All you need is a piece of paper and a pen.
One tip you can adopt is to make your list the night before the workday ahead. “Your subconscious mind will work on your list all night long while you sleep. Often you will wake up with great ideas and insights that you can use to get your job done faster and better than you had initially thought.”
Working with a to-do-list also motivates you as you’re ticking off the completed items. It already creates a feeling of success and helps build momentum. “Seeing yourself working progressively through your list motivates and energizes you. It raises your self-esteem and self-respect. Steady, visible progress propels you forward and helps you overcome procrastination.”
Chapter 3: Apply the 80/20 Rule to Everything
We just mentioned the Pareto law, also known as the 80/20 rule. And this rule states that 20 percent of your activities will account for 80 percent of your results.
Understanding and applying the 80/20 will tremendously help you manage your time and your life.
“The most valuable tasks you can do each day are often the hardest and most complex. But the payoff and rewards for completing these tasks efficiently can be tremendous.”
Your frog then is those most valuable tasks, the top 20 percent of activities that will create extraordinary results. One rule is to “Resist the temptation to clear up small things first”
Eat that frog: Exercises
- “Make a list of all the key goals, activities, projects, and responsibilities in your life today. Which of them are, or could be, in the top 10 or 20 percent of tasks that represent, or could represent, 80 or 90 percent of your results? “
- “Resolve today that you are going to spend more and more of your time working in those few areas that can really make a difference in your life and career and spend less and less time on lower-value activities”
Chapter 4: Consider the Consequences
As Peter Drucker said, the best way to predict the future is to create it. To predict the future, we get back to the present and analyze our actions; would our current actions lead us or get us side-tracked?
It’s of paramount importance to predict the consequences of doing or not doing something. When you prioritize a task, ask yourself: “What are the potential consequences of doing or not doing this task?”
Top successful people and high achievers have long-term thinking. They set their intention and define what they want to accomplish five, ten even twenty years out into the future.
At the same time, “they analyze their choices and behaviors in the present to make sure that what they are doing today is consistent with the long-term future that they desire.”
Underperformers on the other hand fall into the “live today as if there’s no tomorrow” thinking. While high achievers understand delayed gratification, underperformers prefer short-term pleasure and instant gratification; giving little thought about the long term future.
Eat that frog: Three Questions for Maximum Productivity
The first question is, “What are my highest-value activities?” it helps you determine the biggest and most impactful task you have to tackle.
The second question you can ask continually is, “What can I and only I do that, if done well, will make a real difference?”
The third question you can ask is, “What is the most valuable use of my time right now?” In other words, “What is my biggest frog of all at this moment?”
Chapter 5: Practice Creative Procrastination
“Creative procrastination is the act of thoughtfully and deliberately deciding upon the exact things you are not going to do right now, if ever”
The problem is that most people don’t choose what they procrastinate, they just engage in unconscious procrastination. If you do that, you’ll sure to procrastinate on your most important tasks too.
The idea is to “deliberately procrastinate on tasks that are of low value so that you have more time for tasks that can make a big difference in your life and work.” That’s what Brian Tracy calls “creative procrastination”.
You’ll always have an endless to-do-list; the point is to get your life under control by discontinuing the lower-value activities.
It is also crucial to learn how to say no without feeling guilty. “No” is one of the most powerful words in time management.
Priorities versus posteriorities
In Eat that frog, Brian Tracy draws a distinction between priority and posteriority. “A priority is something that you do more of and sooner, while a posteriority is something that you do less of and later, if at all.”
Cut down on posteriorities, the time-consuming tasks that give no return of investment. Spend more time working on yourself or with your family. Review your non-work activities to determine which ones are unimportant. Reduce the amount of time you spend watching TV and instead spend it with your family, reading, exercising or doing something that will improve your quality of life.
Eat that frog Chapter 6: Use the ABCDE Method Continually
Planning and setting priorities will help you get things done faster. By all means, think on paper. Here’s how to use the ABCDE method.
Write down on paper all the things you want to accomplish for the coming day. Write an A, B, C, D or E next to each item.
An “A” item stands for something that is very important and that you must do, otherwise there will be serious negative consequences. If you have more than one “A” task, put them in priority by writing A1, A2, A3 and so on.
”Shoulds” versus “Musts”
A “B” item is defined as a task that you should do. The rule is that you should never do a type “B” task when you still have a type “A” task to complete. “You should never be distracted by a tadpole when a big frog is sitting there waiting to be eaten.”
And a “C” task is defined as something that would be nice to do but for which there are no consequences at all, whether you do it or not.
A “D” task is defined as something you can delegate to someone else. Think about the tasks that should be delegated so that you spend more time working on your “A” tasks.
An “E” task can simply be eliminated without making any real difference.
Chapter 7: Focus on key result areas
To help you understand what key results are, let’s take the example of the salesperson. A salesman is completely responsible for specific key areas, if he doesn’t do it, it doesn’t get done. Other people’s work will depend on that salesman getting results in these areas.
“For a salesperson, getting qualified appointments (for example) is a key result area. This activity is the key to the entire sales process. Closing a sale is also a key result area. When the sale is made, it triggers the activities of many other people to produce and deliver the product or service.”
In a similar fashion, you have been hired to get specific results. As highlighted in Eat that frog, you’ll need to identify what those key result areas are. They 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 any one of these vital functions leads to the death of the body. Similarly, if you neglect a key outcome area in your work, it may also lead to the loss of your job.
Poor performance produces procrastination
All business skills are learnable. Underperforming in one key result area doesn’t mean we can’t get better at it. Underperforming also leads to procrastination and lack of motivation.
“The reverse of this is that the better you become in a particular skill area, the more motivated you will be to perform that function, the less you will procrastinate, and the more determined you will be to get the job finished.”
Ask yourself what one skill, if developed and mastered would have the greatest positive impact on your career.
Chapter 8: Apply the Law of Three
Ultimately, we want to manage our time because we want to spend more quality time with our family.
“Never lose sight of the real reasons why you work as hard as you do and why you are so determined to accomplish the very most with the time that you invest.”
The better you perform at work, the more time you’ll have to spend with your closed ones. Time wasted at work often has to be taken away from your family’s.
Eat that frog: The law of three
The law of three helps you manage your time.
Start with a list of the things you’ll need to accomplish and then ask yourself the following questions:
‘If you could do only one thing on this list all day long, which one task would contribute the greatest value to your company?’
And “If you could do only one more thing on your list of key tasks, which would be the second activity that contributes the most value to your company?”
Finally, what about the third most important task?
“The law of three” states that these three tasks produce 90 percent of the value you contribute to your company.
The next step is to focus entirely on these three tasks and delegate all the others. Most people major in minor things and never really have breakthroughs in their work. Talk with your boss how you could contribute far more by focusing on these three tasks.
Three goals in common
Brian Tracy reveals how most people from his coaching sessions share three major goals. Their goals revolve around three main areas: first, financial and career goal; second, a family or personal relationship goal; and third, a health or fitness goal.
Eat that frog: exercises
- “Determine the three most important tasks that you do in your work. Ask yourself, “If I could do only one thing all day long, which one task would contribute the greatest value to my career?” Do this exercise two more times. Once you have identified your “big three,” concentrate on them single-mindedly all day long. “
- “Identify your three most important goals in each area of your life. Organize them by priority. Make plans for their accomplishment, and work on your plans every single day. You will be amazed at what you achieve in the months and years ahead.”
Chapter 9: Prepare thoroughly before you begin
You’ll need to create a comfortable workspace that will motivate you.
Getting everything prepared remains one of the best ways to overcome procrastination and get more things done faster.
Have everything at hand to help you focus and get less distracted.
Once you get fully prepared, take immediately the next physical action you wrote on your to-do-list. The key according to Brian Tracy is to “Get it 80 percent right and then correct it later.”
“Don’t expect perfection the first time or even the first few times. Be prepared to fail over and over before you get it right.”
Like the Nike slogan, just do it; do it and then you’ll feel even more motivated to do it.
Eat that frog: exercises
The cleaner and tidier your work environment, the more positive, productive and confident you will feel.
Make a resolution today to completely tidy up your desk once you’ve finished your work so that it’s ready to use.
To help you get fully focused on your task, I’d recommend you my article: “Getting things done by David Allen“.
Chapter 10: Take it one oil barrel at a time
“One of the best ways to overcome procrastination is for you to get your mind off the huge task in front of you and focus on a single action that you can take. One of the best ways to eat a large frog is for you to take it one bite at a time.”
Crossing a Great Desert
Brian Tracy recounts his crossing of the Sahara Desert, the Tanezrouft, where there were barrels of black oil every five kilometers to show the road. During the day, one could discern two barrels of oil, the one past and the one five kilometers away.
All they had to do was to head for the next barrel of oil. While more than 1,300 people had perished in the crossing of that stretch of the Sahara in previous years, they still managed to cross the biggest desert in the world simply by taking it “one barrel at a time”.
Take it one step at a time
You can overcome procrastination and accomplish extraordinary things simply by taking the first step, by going after your goal, and then going one step, one barrel of oil at a time.
Lao-tzu wrote, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” This is a great strategy for overcoming procrastination and getting more things done faster.
To help you understand the power of small things, I’d recommend you my article: “The slight edge” by Jeff Olson
Chapter 11: Upgrade Your Key Skills
There are certain things that you can do, or that you can learn to do, that can make you extraordinarily useful to yourself and to others. Your responsibility is to identify the particular areas in which you are unique, and then strive to become very, very good at those areas.
It’s crucial to determine the key skills that will help you achieve better and faster results. “Determine the core competencies that you will need to have in the future to lead your field.”
Never stop learning because you’ll become more motivated as you get better at a key task. You will also feel more motivated and enthusiastic once you upgrade your key skills. Every skill is learnable.
As a rule in Eat that frog; “Continuous learning is the minimum requirement for success in any field.”
Three Steps to Mastery
Brian Tracy recommends three tips:
– Read in your field for at least one hour every day,
– Take every course and seminar available on the key skills that can help you,
– Third, listen to audio programs in your car.
Eat that frog: exercises
- “Identify the key skills that can help you the most to achieve better and faster results. Determine the core competencies that you will need to have in the future to lead your field. Whatever they are, set a goal, make a plan, and begin developing and increasing your ability in those areas. Decide to be the very best at what you do!”
- “Develop a personal plan to prepare yourself to do your most important tasks in an excellent fashion. Focus on those areas where you have special talents and that you most enjoy. This is the key to unlocking your personal potential.”
Chapter 12: Identify Your Key Constraints
“There are always limiting factors and bottlenecks that set the speed of your progress. Your job is to find them and to focus your energies on alleviating them as quickly as possible.”
Identify the Limiting Factor
“This constraint may be a person whose help or decision you need, a resource that you require, a weakness in some part of the organization, or something else.”
Conversely, “Every business has a limiting factor or choke point that determines how quickly and well the company achieves this purpose.”
The 80/20 rule applied to constraints
In “Eat that frog”; Brian Tracy maintains how The 80/20 rule also 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 within yourself, among your own personal qualities, aptitudes, habits, disciplines and skills.
Only 20% of the limiting factors are external to you or to your company.
You then need to face the truth and ask yourself “what is it in me that is holding me back?”
Most successful people keep high awareness of the blind spots that might prevent them from success. They also get feedback from their mentors or their success buddies.
Eat that frog: Exercise
First, identify the most important goal you currently pursue in life.
Second, Ask yourself, “Why haven’t I achieved it yet? What’s inside me that prevents me from doing so? “Whatever your answers; act now. Do something about it. Anything, but go for it.
Chapter 13: Put the pressure on yourself
Most people wait for external pressure to get things done: they wait for their boss to yell at them, they need supervision to advance in a project, they do everything as if a savior will come to them.
Leaders however can work without supervision. High performance requires internal not external motivations.
Create imaginary deadlines
In his book the four-hour-workweek, Tim Ferriss mentions the Parkinson Law and uses it as a time management tool.
“Parkinson’s Law dictates that a task will swell in (perceived) importance and complexity in relation to the time allotted for its completion. It is the magic of the imminent deadline. If I give you 24 hours to complete a project, the time pressure forces you to focus on execution, and you have no choice but to do only the bare essentials. And if I give you a week to complete the same task, it’s six days of making a mountain out of a molehill. If I give you two months, God forbid, it becomes a mental monster. The end product of the shorter deadline is almost inevitably of equal or higher quality due to greater focus.”
To get back to “Eat that frog”, according to Brian Tracy, “One of the best ways for you to overcome procrastination and get more things done faster is by working as though you had only one day to get your most important jobs done.”
Chapter 14: Motivate yourself into action
Brian Tracy coined the expression “Personal cheerleader” which is to say that you’ll need to motivate yourself most of the time.
In some cultures, they throw a big party whenever someone passes away. While most cultures mourn their death, why do some get all happy? It’s because they interpret it differently. To them, the deceased person just went to a better place, ending their sufferings here on Earth. This is to say that it’s not what happens to us that matters but how we interpret it.
The previous example also implies that “most of your emotions, positive or negative, are determined by how you talk to yourself on a minute-to-minute basis.”
“To keep yourself motivated, you must resolve to become a complete optimist. You must decide to respond positively to the words, actions, and reactions of the people and situations around you. You must refuse to let the unavoidable difficulties and setbacks of daily life affect your mood or emotions.”
Control Your Inner Dialogue
In his book “Master your workday now” Michael Linenberger mentions Marci Shimoff who wrote the New York Times best-selling book “Happy for No Reason”. In Shimoff’s book, scientists tell us we have on, average, 60,000 thoughts per day, 95% of which are similar to, or the same as, our thoughts from the day before; and that 80 percent of our thoughts are negative.
Your inner dialogue determines the level of your self-esteem. Talk positively to yourself and you’ll boost your self-esteem, do the contrary and you’ll stay fearful, negative and unsure of yourself.
As Viktor Frankl wrote in his bestselling book Man’s Search for Meaning, “The last of the human freedoms is to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances.”
Develop a positive mental attitude
You then need to become an optimist because it helps you achieve personal and professional success and happiness.
Optimists adopt four (4) special behaviors as highlighted in “Eat that frog”:
“First, optimists look for the good in every situation. Second, optimists always seek the valuable lesson in every setback or difficulty. Third, optimists always look for the solution to every problem. Fourth, optimists think and talk continually about their goals.”
Eat that frog: exercises
- “Control your thoughts. Remember, you become what you think about most of the time. Be sure that you are thinking and talking about the things you want rather than the things you don’t want. “
- “Keep your mind positive by accepting complete responsibility for yourself and for everything that happens to you. Refuse to criticize others, complain, or blame others for anything. Resolve to make progress rather than excuses. Keep your thoughts and your energy focused forward, on what you can do right now to improve your life, and let the rest go.”
Chapter 15: Technology is a terrible Master
Just like money, technology is a good servant but a terrible master. It can be your best friend or your worst enemy.
Technology itself is not bad; it’s a simple tool that makes our lives easier. The problem arises when we get addicted to it. Almost every ten minutes, we compulsively look at our smartphones.
Brian Tracy reminds us that we have a choice. We need to get technology under control. When you regularly detach from technology, you stay calm, clear headed and are capable of performing at your best.
“A researcher who asked a group of CEOs and entrepreneurs to unplug from technology found they had improved memory, deeper relationships, better sleep, and a greater likelihood of making life-transforming decisions.” (Elizabeth Segran, “What Really Happens to Your Body and Brain During a Digital Detox,” Fast Company, July 30, 2015)
You can also practice information-diet and refuse to be a slave of technology. Tim Ferriss in his book the four-hour-workweek invites us to practice selective ignorance.
“The first step is to develop and maintain a low-information diet. Just as modern man consumes both too many calories and calories of no nutritional value, information workers eat data both in excess and from the wrong sources.” If it’s important enough, someone will tell you the news.
Chapter 16: Technology is a wonderful Servant
“You must discipline yourself to treat technology as a servant, not as a master. The purpose of technology is to make your life smoother and easier, not to create complexity, confusion, and stress.”
The key is to focus more on high value tasks and be relentless in cutting out low value ones.
Take control of your communication
Block the websites that distract you the most. Identify what’s holding us back. There is a reason why we are unproductive. We shall take time to examine what’s preventing us from moving forward and taking action.
For example, one of the main causes of my inefficiency was my phone. I know too well how it can hinder my organization the next day. Lying on bed at night, I will start to check my social network notifications and it can take up to 2 hours until I get exhausted. Sometimes, I am tempted to watch a movie until midnight which I know will have a negative effect on my productivity the next day. As I identified the main reason of my unproductivity, I now try to turn my phone off and leave it in a different room. This decision changed everything.
What about emergencies?
Whereas it’s recommended to turn off one’s phone, the main idea is to be available only to a few people, not to everyone at all times.
Preferably, you can create a phone number, e-mail address, or other communication channel that only the caretaker of your loved one knows about. Leave that channel open, and reserve it for emergencies. If you desire, you can do this for your work life as well. Give your boss or key clients a way to reach you that no one else has access to.
Give yourself a time to work and time block a specific task
First, turn off your mobile phone, turn off the internet connection and focus on the single task ahead. Decide to block a specific time, and do nothing but the task you promised to do.
Alexander Graham Bell said, “Concentrate all your thoughts upon the work at hand. The sun’s rays do not burn until brought to a focus.” Time blocking helps us do so. Put first things first and just do it.
Take control of your emotions using technology
Many people have a fixed mindset, they believe that they can’t improve in a specific area; technology is not an exception. To them, technology is way too complicated, they let their fear hold them back.
Brian Tracy constantly reminds us that everything is learnable. We need to adopt a growth mindset, believing that “our current situation is not necessarily our final destination”.
Technological tools can make our lives easier and much more efficient. Avoid the phrase “I can’t” because technology is no longer optional; it is just as important as reading, writing, and arithmetic.
In 1500, people asked why they needed to learn reading and writing. Now, it’s evident why we should. Conversely, people no longer should ask why they need to learn technology because it’s already an indispensable skill nowadays.
By using technology more efficiently, you generate positive emotions which lead to increased productivity and high motivation at work.
Eat that frog: exercises
- “Resolve today to turn off all notifications, except for your emergency channels. Create special areas in your digital life for your most important tasks. “
- “Resolve to research and install one piece of software or one app that will help you be more efficient and focused.”
Chapter 17: Focus your attention
Where attention goes, energy flows and the result shows. What we focus on expands. “Life is a manifestation of where you direct your energy” Dandapani would say.
To understand it, try to water your garden and do that every day. In a couple of weeks, weeds and flowers would grow together. The water treated both plants either good or bad in the same way.
Now, replace water with energy. In a similar fashion, energy doesn’t make any difference between good or bad. If we put our energy into unproductive tasks, we will manifest failures in our life. By the same token, if we invest our energy in acquiring new skills, we can achieve success.
Our current situation is the sum total of what we’ve been pouring our energy and attention in.
To succeed in life, we need to set goals and have a life purpose and then direct all our attention to accomplish it.
Developing an addiction
In “The power of habit by Charles Duhigg”, the author describes the habit loop which is composed of: cue, routine and reward.
There are three steps for a habit to form: cue, routine and reward.
“First, there is a cue, a trigger that tells your brain to go into automatic mode and which habit to use. Then there is the routine, which can be physical or mental or emotional. Finally, there is a reward, which helps your brain figure out if this particular loop is worth remembering for the future: Over time, this loop—cue, routine, reward; cue, routine, reward—becomes more and more automatic.”
When you check your phone first thing in the morning, your brain gets addicted because it releases dopamine when your friends send you their news, when a person likes your posts etc.
The Multitasking Illusion
In “The one thing by Gary Keller”, we saw how “Multitasking is neither efficient nor effective.”
“People can actually do two or more things at once, such as walk and talk, or chew gum and read a map; but, like computers, what we can’t do is focus on two things at once. Our attention bounces back and forth.”
“You can do two things at once, but you can’t focus effectively on two things at once.”
“Researchers estimate that workers are interrupted every 11 minutes and then spend almost a third of their day recovering from these distractions.”
Why multitasking short-circuits you
- “There is just so much brain capability at any one time. Divide it up as much as you want, but you’ll pay a price in time and effectiveness.”
- “Bounce between one activity and another and you lose time as your brain reorients to the new task.“
- “Multitaskers make more mistakes than non-multitaskers.”
“After an Internet interruption, it takes about seventeen minutes for you to shift your total attention back to your task and continue working.”
Strategies to focus your attention
In “Eat that frog”, Brian Tracy shares a few tips on how to be productive:
– Don’t check your email in the morning
– Check your email but get in and out fast and then, get back to work,
– Resolve to check your email only twice a day, at 11:00 am and 3:00 pm.
– Provide a special telephone number for an emergency if necessary
– Plan each day in advance and select your most important task
– Work non-stop for 90 minutes without any interruption or distraction
– Get yourself 15-minute break
– Work another 90 minutes
– You can reward yourself as you worked 3 hours straight.
Chapter 18: Slice and Dice the Task
One of the main reasons why you procrastinate on big, important tasks is because they seem too big and too important at first glance.
One of the techniques shared in “Eat that frog” is the salami slice technique. You can divide a large task into reasonably sized pieces. This involves describing the task in detail, and then tackling a single slice of work in the first instance, much as if you were eating salami (one slice at a time).
Psychologically, you’ll find it easier to accomplish one small part of a large project than to tackle the whole project. Often, once you’ve started and finished part of your work, you’ll be in the mood for just one more little slice. In a short period of time, and without even realizing it, your work will get done, one task at a time.
“Swiss Cheese” Your Tasks
There is another technique you can use to motivate yourself to keep moving forward: the “Swiss cheese” technique. You will use it to get to work by deciding to drill a hole in the task, much like a hole in a piece of Swiss cheese.
You turn a task into a Swiss cheese when you decide to work on it for a specific amount of time. It can take as little as 5 to 10 minutes, after which you stop and do something else. You’ll take just one bite of your frog and then rest or do something else.
“The power of this method is similar to that of the salami slice method. Once you start working, you develop a sense of forward momentum and a feeling of accomplishment. You become energized and enthusiastic. You feel yourself internally motivated and propelled to keep going until the task is complete.”
Chapter 19: Create large chunks of time
Most of the really important work you have to do requires you to spend long, uninterrupted periods of time doing it. Brian Tracy calls it “large chunks of unbroken time”.
Many high-performing people make a habit of scheduling specific activities throughout the day that they perform at a set time.
“Some people allocate specific thirty-to-sixty-minute time periods each day for exercise. Many people read great books fifteen minutes each night before retiring. In this way, over time, they eventually read dozens of the best books ever written.”
These people build their working lives around accomplishing their main tasks one step at a time. As a result, their performance keeps getting better and better. They end up doing twice, three times and even five times more work than the average person.
Use a time planner
A time planner broken down into hours and minutes, filled out in advance, can be one of the most powerful personal productivity tools available.
When working on a given task, turn off your telephone, eliminate distractions and work without interruption.
One of the best work habits you can form is getting up early to work at home for several hours in the morning. During that time, you would do three times as much work without interruptions as you could ever do in a busy office where you would be surrounded by people and bombarded by phone calls.
Chapter 20: Develop a sense of urgency
Highly effective people are incredibly goal and action-oriented. They take time to think, brainstorm, plan and set priorities. Overall, they decide quickly and take action immediately.
Getting into “Flow”
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”.
At some point, you might have experienced what martial artists call a “mind like water” or what top athletes refer to as the “zone”. It’s a state where everything is flowing perfectly. Your mind is clear and your productivity is at its best. It is a state both for peace of mind and for performance.
In our busy world however, such a state is rare. We feel more stressed. Distractions wait at every corner.
“Really successful people are those who get themselves into this state far more often than the average person.”
“When you’re in the state of flow, which is the highest human state of performance and productivity, something almost miraculous happens to your mind and emotions. You feel elated and clear. Everything you do seems effortless and accurate.”
Yet, it is possible to get back to the “mind like water” state whenever we want. Getting things done by David Allen teaches you how. With it, you will be freed from all worries and you can focus on the task ahead, the project to be achieved.
Another tip to trigger this state of flow is by developing a sense of urgency.
Build a sense of momentum
To help you understand the importance of momentum, Jim Collins in his book “Good to great” takes the example of a flywheel:
“Picture a huge, heavy flywheel—a massive metal disk mounted horizontally on an axle, about 30 feet in diameter, 2 feet thick, and weighing about 5,000 pounds. Now imagine that your task is to get the flywheel rotating on the axle as fast and long as possible.
Pushing with great effort, you get the flywheel to inch forward, moving almost imperceptibly at first. You keep pushing and, after two or three hours of persistent effort, you get the flywheel to complete one entire turn.
So you keep pushing, and the flywheel begins to move a bit faster, and with continued great effort, you move it around a second rotation. You keep pushing in a consistent direction. Three turns … four … five … six … the flywheel builds up speed … seven … eight … you keep pushing … nine … ten … it builds momentum … eleven … twelve … moving faster with each turn … twenty … thirty … fifty … a hundred.
Then, at some point—breakthrough! The momentum of the thing kicks in in your favor, hurling the flywheel forward, turn after turn … whoosh! … its own heavy weight working for you. You’re pushing no harder than during the first rotation, but the flywheel goes faster and faster. Each turn of the flywheel builds upon work done earlier, compounding your investment of effort. A thousand times faster, then ten thousand, then a hundred thousand. The huge heavy disk flies forward, with almost unstoppable momentum.
Now suppose someone came along and asked, “What was the one big push that caused this thing to go so fast?”
You wouldn’t be able to answer; it’s just a nonsensical question. Was it the first push? The second? The fifth? The hundredth? No! It was all of them added together in an overall accumulation of effort applied in a consistent direction. Some pushes may have been bigger than others, but any single heave—no matter how large—reflects a small fraction of the entire cumulative effect upon the flywheel.”
It also shows the power of compound effect explained by Darren Hardy.
Chapter 21: Single Handle Every Task
“Single handling requires that once you begin, you keep working at the task without diversion or distraction until the job is 100 percent complete.”
“By concentrating single-mindedly on your most important task, you can reduce the time required to complete it by 50 percent or more.”
“You have to overcome inertia and get yourself going again. You have to develop momentum and get into a productive work rhythm.”
“The truth is that once you have decided on your number one task, anything else that you do other than that is a relative waste of time. Any other activity is just not as valuable or as important as this job, based on your own priorities.”
The more you discipline yourself to work on a single task without interruption, the more you will move up the “efficiency curve”. You will do more and more quality work in less and less time.
Eat that frog: exercises
- “Take action! Resolve today to select the most important task or project that you could complete and then launch into it immediately. “
- “Once you start your most important task, discipline yourself to persevere without diversion or distraction until it is 100 percent complete. See it as a test to determine whether you are the kind of person who can make a decision to complete something and then carry it out. Once you begin, refuse to stop until the job is finished.”
The book Eat that frog gives twenty-one ways to stop procrastinating and get more things done faster. Here are the rules and principles as you’ll need to regularly review them.
- Set the table
- Plan every day in advance
- Apply the 80/20 Rule to everything
- Consider the consequences
- Practice creative procrastination
- Use the ABCDE Method continually
- Focus on key result areas
- Apply the Law of Three
- Prepare thoroughly before you begin
- Take it one oil barrel at a time
- Upgrade your key skills
- Identify your key constraints
- Put the pressure on yourself
- Motivate yourself into action
- Technology is a terrible master
- Technology is a wonderful servant
- Focus your attention
- Slice and dice the task
- Create large chunks of time
- Develop a sense of urgency
- Single handle every task
Eat that frog: Conclusion
I’ve already read and practiced most of the principles Brian Tracy highlighted in his book. Personally, I love searching for the “why?” and while I have found this book practical, I also observed how it doesn’t go deeper into the topics.
It’s difficult for me to “blindly” follow a piece of advice without knowing and understanding why I should follow it. Eat that frog does that but it mostly scratches the surface of the topics.
For example, he explains why we need to work in a “flow state” but doesn’t really go deeper into how we can achieve this “flow state”.
That being said, Eat that frog can still be a life-changing book for you. It’s a quick read, it’s concise and the powerful principles will help you increase your focus and productivity.
I especially liked the great analogies such as the “eat that frog”, the “salami slice” or the “Swiss cheese method”.
Brian Tracy focuses on how to get yourself organized by setting priorities and by working from a list. The exercises proposed are highly practical too.
I observed a few repetitions either in the different chapters or within the same chapter as he just expresses the same ideas in different ways.
The real key is to apply the principle one step at a time and develop a habit in applying them.