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Dec 31, 2016
Jack Neu

I spoke with a friend a couple of months ago who says that he still remembers something I said from the first time we met, “Eat That Frog.”  He said whenever someone mentions me that is the first thing that pops into his head.  To some people that might be a weird thing to be remembered for, but for me it means I effectively communicated to him one of the philosophies I live my life around, and he still equated that concept with me. But what exactly is “Eat That Frog?”

Mark Twain had an old saying that goes…”If the first thing you do when you wake up in the morning is eat a live frog, then nothing worse can happen for the rest of the day!”  Brian Tracy, a professional speaker and trainer, refines it to say that your “frog” should be the most difficult item on your “to do” list, the one you’re most likely to procrastinate on; because, if you eat that first, it’ll give you energy and momentum for the rest of the day.

But, according to Tracy, “… if you don’t…and let him sit there on the plate and stare at you while you do a hundred unimportant things, it can drain your energy and you won’t even know it.”  As the new year begins we all tend to break out new planners, journals, task lists, etc. to “take charge of our lives in 2017,” but if you don’t have a vision of how you will tackle all the things you have to do RIGHT NOW, you won’t be successful.  “Eat That Frog” gives you a framework on which to build your task list and cuts to the very essence of what is vital to effective time management: decision, discipline and determination.

Tracy identifies 21 rules/steps to making this happen and I’m going to share just a couple that have been effective for me:

Apply the 80/20 rule to everything: The 80/20 Rule is one of the most helpful of all concepts of time and life management. It is also called the Pareto Principle.  Pareto noticed that people in his society seemed to divide naturally into what he called the “vital few”, the top 20 percent in terms of money and influence, and the “trivial many”, the bottom 80 percent. He later discovered that virtually all economic activity was subject to this principle as well.

For example, this principle says that 20 percent of your activities will account for 80 percent of your results, 20 percent of your customers will account for 80 percent of your sales, and so on. This means that if you have a list of ten items to do, two of those items will turn out to be worth five or ten times or more than the other eight items put together. So EAT THEM FIRST!!

First Rule of frog eating:  If you have to eat two frogs, eat the ugliest one first!

Second rule of frog eating:  If you have to eat a live frog at all, it doesn’t pay to sit and look at it for very long.  Make the decision to do the ugliest, messiest ones first.  Don’t let it sit there throughout the day, staring at you, sucking the energy from the entire day.  Just DO IT (credit to large sportswear company for that one)!!

Plan every day in advance:  How do you eat an elephant?  One bite at a time!  How do you eat your biggest, ugliest frog?  The same way. Break it down to specific, step by step activities, and then start the first one.  In his book The Time Trap, Alec Mackenzie says “Taking action without thinking things through is a prime source of problems.” Do the same thing in planning for your day.  What are the frogs that you have to eat first, then what do I need to focus on that will bring the most to my business, and finally, what is left that makes the most sense to accomplish for that day.  A lot of leaders tell you to get all the things done that don’t take much time to give yourself a sense of accomplishment.  But if those things don’t account for 80% of your sales, or goals, why do them.  Get the frogs out of the way first.

Tracy sums it up this way: “Effective, productive people discipline themselves to start on the most important task that is before them. They force themselves to eat that frog, whatever it is. As a result, they accomplish vastly more than the average person, and are much happier.“ This should be your goal, and your way of working, in 2017 as well.