Mark Twain once said that if you have to eat a live frog, do it first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you for the rest of the day. The eat the frog strategy is a prioritization and productivity method used to help people identify difficult tasks. We detail how you can use the "eat the frog" technique to help you stop procrastinating and improve personal productivity.
Do you ever have one of those work days where you look at your to-do list and feel like you have no idea where to start? How do you identify what's the most important? How can you get it all done?
Mark Twain once said that if you have to eat a live frog, do it first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you for the rest of the day. This productivity method, called the eat the frog method, is a great way to organize and tackle your daily task list. Here’s how.
The eat the frog strategy is a prioritization and productivity method used to help people identify difficult tasks. The idea is that you identify one challenging task (the frog) and complete the task first thing in the morning (eating it).
To put it simply, eating the frog is the process of identifying your most difficult task of the day and completing it before you do any other work. If you have to eat two frogs, eat the bigger one first. Identify which task is more challenging, and do that first thing.
While eating the frog doesn’t sound like the most delicious productivity technique, it does help people get things done. Here’s how it works.
The eat the frog strategy focuses solely on completing one task for the day. That's it. Then, after you’ve completed your most challenging task, you have the rest of your day to complete the smaller tasks that are on your to-do list without the dread of having to do the hardest thing on your list. Getting the hardest thing out of the way can get your intrinsic motivation rolling to tackle the rest of the day.
Scientists have found that some people's speed and accuracy at completing tasks are better in the morning. Your brain is at peak performance in the morning, so why not work on the most challenging task of the day? Use this energy to tackle the most difficult thing on your to-do list so it can get the attention it deserves. That way, you don’t have to worry about doing difficult tasks when you're tired and inattentive at the end of the day.
Eating the frog requires extreme focus. The strategy encourages you to choose the most difficult task of the day and do it first thing in the morning. This means not responding to emails, checking Slack, or attending any meetings. Eating the frog helps you minimize multitasking so you can focus on just the frog—everything else can come later.Read: 6 tips to harness the power of flow state at work
If you have a hard time prioritizing your to-do list, understanding what’s a frog—and what’s not—is the best way for you to tackle your work. Here are a few tricks to figuring out which big task is your frog.
Frogs are tasks that make a positive impact on the rest of the team. Think big tasks that help you make progress on your team's strategy or moves the needle towards your team KPIs or OKRs. Important tasks that contribute to strategy are often frogs.
Small, reactive tasks like answering email, responding to Slack messages, or filing reports—while a necessary part of the job—are not frogs. These tasks often feel urgent, but most of the time, they can wait. If you're having trouble with smaller tasks getting in the way of your focus time for frogs, try time blocking. This strategy can help you carve out deep focus time so you can eat that frog early on.
Frogs typically require more than an hour to complete. The perfect sized frog takes anywhere between one and four hours. If your frog takes longer than four hours to complete, try breaking it down into smaller tasks so that your daily frog only takes a maximum of half a workday. This strategy can help with time management—half of your day is dedicated to focusing on your frog, and the other half is spent for other tasks, meetings, and emails.
Nobody wants to eat a live frog first thing in the morning. This holds true for the task that you identify as your frog. For whatever reason, you may be facing some mental resistance towards doing this task. Maybe it's because the task is mentally challenging, or it's just not your favorite thing to do. Maybe you’re feeling pressure to complete the work, which is causing procrastination. There's usually something about certain tasks that makes them a little harder to get done. These tasks are most likely your frogs for the day.
If you want to do like Mark Twain did and eat the frog first thing in the morning, try these three tips to eat your frog every morning:
While your frogs are the biggest task of the day, you’ll need to accomplish many of those big tasks regularly in order to make progress towards your goals. The more frogs you eat, the more progress you’ see. Each frog you eat is a small part of a much larger goal, and by the time you’ve eaten 100 frogs, you can look back and see how much progress you’ve made.
Frogs should be planned at most one day ahead. Best practice is to plan your frog the day before. That way, you know exactly what you’re working on when you come in the next day, and you don't have to think about anything but eating your frog.
If you plan to eat a frog every day, you'll continually set yourself up for success ahead of time and you can keep your momentum rolling every morning.
The whole point of eating the frog is to get it out of the way so you don't have to worry about it while you're working on other tasks. Frogs are mentally challenging, and as noted before, hard to get through. This is why people are more likely to gravitate towards procrastination when it comes to frogs.
The point is to beat the temptation to procrastinate by just getting the difficult task done right away. That way, you don't have the looming sense of dread when you're working on other tasks, and you're less likely to procrastinate.Read: The secret to stop procrastinating at work
If you're looking for a way to increase your personal productivity with the eat the frog method, try pairing it with a work management tool. Work management tools like Asana can help you prioritize your tasks, keep tasks in one place, and improve collaboration with other teammates.Manage and prioritize tasks with Asana