Mark Twain once quipped that if the first thing you did each morning was to eat a live frog, you could go through the day with the satisfaction of knowing that that is probably the worst thing that is going to occur to you all day long.
That is both the the premise and the title of Brian Tracy’s excellent book ‘Eat That Frog’ and it tackles head on the single greatest predictor of performance – namely procrastination.
Your ‘frog’ represents your biggest, most important task, the one you are most likely to procrastinate on. Ironically, it is also the one that can have the greatest positive impact on your business and life performance.
The key to achieving and sustaining high levels of performance and productivity is to develop the lifelong habit of tackling your major task first thing each morning. You must develop the routine of ‘eating your frog’ before you do anything else and without taking too much time to think about it.
Failure to execute is arguably the number one issue in organisations today. Many people confuse activity with accomplishment. They talk a great talk; hold endless meetings; and espouse grandiose plans but in the final analysis goals are not met and performance suffers.
The ‘Three Ds’ of a New Habit For Action.
The key to overcoming procrastination is to develop a positive addiction to the consumption of your frog first thing in the morning. In order to do this employ the services of the ‘Three Ds.’
Firstly, make a DECISION to develop the task of eating your frog first thing in the morning. Secondly, DISCIPLINE yourself to practice the principles described in this summary until they become automatic. Thirdly, apply pig-headed DETERMINATION to the habit until it is second nature.
Tracy outlines 21 strategies to induce ourselves to take action and make things happen.
1. Clarity: Clarity is possibly the most important concept in personal productivity. Answer the simple question ‘What do you want? Begin every day; meeting; and project with ‘the end first in mind.’
2. Plan Your Next Day the Night Before. Ever go shopping without a shopping list? Two things tend to happen. You forget the really important things you came buy and end up buying stuff you don’t really need. The same applies to your day.
3. Apply the 80/20 Rule to Everything: 20% of your activities will Account for 80% of your results. Consistently focus your efforts on that top 20%. Resist the temptation to do the little things first.
4. Obey the Law of Forced Efficiency: The Law of Forced Efficiency says that ‘There is never enough time to do everything, but there is always enough time to do the important things.’ Ask yourself, ‘What are my highest-value priorities and what is the most valuable use of my time right now?
5. Practice Creative Procrastination: given that you can’t do everything, learn to consciously put off those low value tasks in order to free up time to do the high-value stuff.
6. Use the ABCDE Method continually: Tracy defines an ‘A’ item as ‘something that is very important, something that you must do.’ Then continue working on the next most important task.
7. Focus on Key Result Areas: Your role can invariably be broken down into a handful of key result areas, seldom more. For example in management the KRAs are planning, organising, staffing, delegating, tracking and reporting. In sales the KRAs are prospecting, building rapport, needs analysis, presenting, handling objections and closing the sale, poor performance in any of these skills can lead to reduced sales and morale.
8. Apply the Law of Three: Identify the three things you do in your work that Account for 80% of your contribution, and focus on getting them done before anything else. In addition consider asking the following three questions. What are your three most important business or career goals now? What are your three most important family goals? What are your three most important physical goals?
9. Prepare Thoroughly Before You Begin: It’s fascinating how how many books never get written; how many degrees never get completed; and how many life changing tasks never get completed because people fail to prepare in advance. Have everything you need at hand before you start. Assemble all the papers, information, tools, work materials to ensure you won’t be distracted when you start.
10. Take it One Oil Barrell at a Time: There’s an old adage that says ‘by the yard it’s hard; but inch by inch it’s a cinch.’ You can accomplish the biggest and most complicated task if you complete it just one step at a time. Think of Aesop’s hare and tortoise.
11. Upgrade Your Key Skills: The more adept and skilled you are at your key tasks the faster you start the and the sooner you get them done. What one skill, if you mastered this year, would have the biggest impact on your business and life?
12. Leverage Your Special Talents: Identify precisely what it is you are super good at. There is at least something that everyone is particularly adept at. The psychologists would go as far as saying that we should focus on that what we do best and jettison the rest.
13. Identify Your Key Restraints: Determine the bottlenecks or choke points, internal and external, that determine the speed at which you achieve your most important goals.
14. Put the Pressure on Yourself. Imagine you were going off on holidays for a month this afternoon. What would you work on this morning? Now, do that everyday.
15. Maximise Your Personal Power: Some people function best in the morning; others in the evening. Identify your own particular body biorhythms and play to them.
16. Motivate Yourself Into Action: It’s different for everyone but the bottom line is you need to be your own cheerleader. Martin Seligman, the Happiness Professor, has revealed that optimism is the most important quality you can develop for personal and professional success and happiness. It transpires that optimists have four characteristics, all learned through repetition and practice. Firstly, they see the good in all situations. Secondly, they seek the valuable lesson to be learned in each situation. Thirdly, they seek solutions. Fourthly, optimists think and talk continually about their goals.
17. Technology is Your Friend. Embrace it: Use technology to improve your quality of communications, but avoid becoming enslaved to it. Learn to occasionally turn devices off and leave them off.
18. Slice and Dice Tasks: Break large tasks into small components and begin by completing one. I find mind mapping the single most important tool for breaking down large and complex projects into manageable steps.
19. Create Large Chunks of Time: Organise your days around large blocks of time where you can concentrate for extended periods on your most important tasks. The single most effective time manager I ever met had a mantra and way of life as follows. ‘When I’m fishing, I’m fishing. When I’m drinking, I’m drinking. And when I’m working, I’m working.’ That’s nailing it.
20. Develop a Sense of Urgency: Develop the habit of moving fast on your key tasks. Become known as a person who does things quickly and well. Do It Now.
21. Start and Finish Tasks. The secret to success and fulfilment is to set clear priorities, start immediately on your most important task, and then work without stopping until the task is 100% complete.
‘Delaying gratification is a process of scheduling the pain and pleasure of life in such a way as to enhance the pleasure of life in such a way as to enhance the pleasure by meeting and experiencing the pain first and getting it over with. It is the only decent way to live.’
― M. Scott Peck, The Road Less Traveled:
1. What are the ‘Frogs’ in your business and life currently?
2. Could you make the decision to ‘Eat Your Frogs’ early in the day?
3. What ‘Frogs’ will your eat first thing tomorrow?