Eat That Frog is Brian Tracy’s tract on the simplest and most fundamental ways to enhance productivity and stop procrastination in its tracks. He begins his Preface with a bold statement–that, no matter hard you may try, you will never finish everything you need to do. This seems paradoxical in a book about getting things done, but Tracy goes on to explain himself. The most critical skill in effective time management is the ability to determine and fully complete the most difficult tasks first. These tasks are the ones you’re most likely to procrastinate on, but they are probably the most meaningful. You can greatly enhance your productivity simply by working through your projects in order of significance. As Tracy writes, “The ability to concentrate single-mindedly on your most important task, to do it well and to finish it completely, is the key to great success, achievement, respect, status, and happiness in life” (xii-xiii). The less important tasks will simply have to wait.
Eat that Frog! – Book Review
Tracy draws the unusual title of his book from an old adage: if eating a live frog is your first task of the morning, everything that follows could not possibly be worse. He encourages readers to envision the most demanding aspects of their profession as big, ugly frogs. Noting that in the world of business, professionals are paid and promoted based on their performance, Tracy advises that establishing the habit of taking on these frogs first thing in the morning is a great key to enhancing effectiveness.
The first step in Tracy’s system is establishing clarity regarding job expectations and output responsibilities. In order to be highly effective in your profession, you must fully understand the nature of the tasks and all the functions required of you. Tracy claims that there are usually no more than five unique facets, or “key result areas,” of any job. You, as a highly skilled professional, will naturally be more or less apt at each facet. Those that aren’t your strong suits are your “key constraints.” By focusing on improving in your areas of greatest weakness, you will become better at eating the “frogs” that present themselves every day.
Start the process of becoming better in all of your key result areas by establishing the relative significance of each of your tasks. Tracy introduces what he calls the ABCDE Method in order to make this easy. Once you have before you a list of all of your tasks, assign a letter from A to E to each of them. “A” tasks are the essential or urgent ones that you must do—your biggest, ugliest frogs. “B” tasks are ones you should do, though they aren’t a top priority. “C” tasks are even less of a priority, and have no negative consequences attached to not completing them. “D” tasks are those you can delegate to someone else, and “E” tasks so inessential that you can eliminate them altogether. If on your list you have more than one of each letter, use numbers to rank within the letter the most significant of each set. You surely know what to do now. Start with your A1 task and eat your ugly frog!
Throughout Eat That Frog, Tracy emphasizes the value of both short- and long-term planning. In scheduling your day, your week, and your month, abide by what Tracy calls the Law of Forced Efficiency: “There is never enough time to do everything, but there is always enough time to do the most important thing” (41). Always be working on the most meaningful, most urgent, most valuable of your tasks at that moment. And no matter how difficult of complex the task at hand may be, preparing adequately before you begin will greatly increase your efficiency and effectiveness. You know by now that the biggest and ugliest of your frogs are the most complicated, detailed, and demanding tasks assigned to you. Tracy recommends the technique of chopping up these frogs into small, manageable sections, and ordering them in terms of importance. The human mind naturally wants to get things done–you are probably familiar with the feeling of accomplishment and pride upon finishing a big project. By breaking a task down into its elemental parts, you are able to experience that feeling after each part is done. By taking on the most important parts first, you are increasing your efficiency and eating your frog.
Tracy notes that it takes focus and willpower to “single handle” each task–that is, to work on it diligently and without diversion or distraction until it is completed. However, this is an essential skill for any professional, and honing it increases efficiency astronomically. Put pressure on yourself to perform to the best of your ability, and maintain your energy and self-motivation. You’ll work through your A, B, and C tasks quickly and steadily. The quality of your work in each of your key result areas will improve. As you see your productivity and effectiveness grow, you will be inclined to further enhance your self-discipline. Finally, when these simple techniques are integrated as habits in your working life, eating your big, ugly, daily frog won’t seem so daunting after all.