United States: Prioritize Your Tasks By ‘Eating Your Frogs' First

If you were to join our weekly team meeting, it would not be surprising to hear a team member say something like, "I did a great job eating my frogs last week" or, "I need to make sure to set aside time to eat my frogs." Other team members would nod in understanding and likely share similar thoughts. Depending on your familiarity with Mark Twain quotes or the author Brian Tracy, you will join in the nodding, or maybe you will glance around the room wondering who spiked our beverages.

"Eat Your Frogs" has become part of our team language over the past few years and, more importantly, it has become part of our culture. It is an idea and approach to help you stop procrastinating and prioritize appropriately.

What Does 'Eat Your Frogs' Mean?
First, let me give credit where credit is due, which is to Mark Twain who said, "If you eat a frog first thing in the morning that will probably be the worst thing you do all day." Uh, okay?!?!?! Gee, that sounds fun.

Let's start with what a frog is. A quick way to better understand your frogs is to think of the tasks you need to do, but tend not to. Say hello to your frogs. To hammer it home:

Eat Your Frogs = Do your worst tasks first.

Worst = most important.

Most important = tasks you tend to put off.

Your frog (worst or most important task) could be very different each day based on your work landscape. Frogs often need structure and habits to ensure completion (...or consumption?). It is common to put off your frogs until the end of the day, spend time thinking about them (while not completing them) and even rolling them over to the next day. The frogs usually just get uglier and harder to eat. The stress builds. Chewy, stale frogs? No thank you.

It is not just about completing those tasks first thing; it is about feeling like a rock star afterward. It frees up the rest of your day to do other things that are often more enjoyable or less stressful. You will gain momentum and a sense of accomplishment. Insert air guitar solo here!

How to 'Eat Your Frogs'

1. Identify Your Frogs
As mentioned above, this should be easy. The frog is whatever you see as your worst task, but is also likely one of the most important. It is a task that is no fun but needs to get done. Think of your to-do list items as falling into one of these four buckets using a variation of the Eisenhower Method:

  • A more enjoyable task that needs to get done;
  • A more enjoyable task that does not need to get done;
  • An unenjoyable task that does not need to get done; and
  • An unenjoyable task that needs to get done.

You guessed it. Your frogs = an unenjoyable task that needs to get done.

2. Kiss Your Frogs
As if eating frogs wasn't bad enough, now we are asking you to kiss them first?! What we mean is building your plan for getting those hard-to-swallow tasks done and taking into account any preparatory tasks that need to be done in advance. For example, it is all well and good if you have planned to send off that budget to the board, but if there was someone else who needed to review it first then make sure you have allowed time to e-mail it to them and wait for their reply. Another great way to kiss your frogs is to add them into whatever task manager you use and set them as the highest priority.

3. Make Your Frogs Visible to Both You and those Around You
Let your coworkers know that these unenjoyable items are on your list and have to be completed. Our team uses Know Your Company to let each other know what's on the agenda for each week, which helps hold us accountable for all those less desirable tasks (frogs!).

4. Eat!

Additional Resources
Motivational speaker, Brian Tracy, has published a book for productivity titled Eat That Frog, which is based on Twain's quote.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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