Most of us have a natural tendency to put off tedious or challenging tasks. This delay tactic will only come back to haunt us. There is however, a very specific principle we can practice to prevent procrastination on those “big” tasks. This approach certainly takes a considerable amount of discipline and willpower. For most, eating the frog would be undesirable. But what if you changed your mindset around as to why you were eating the frog in the first place? What if the frog gave you the energy you needed to sustain you throughout the day? Instead of staring at the frog and allowing your mind to create a story as to all the reasons why you do not want to eat it, spend time thinking about how it can be of benefit to you. You never know; the frog may even turn into a prince. This “frog” metaphor applies to all tasks that we are dreading. The “eat the frog first” principle is one of the best approaches to procrastination because it efficiently uses willpower, is versatile, and changes the narrative around daunting tasks.
What is the “eat the frog first” principle?
The “eat the frog first” principle is a metaphor for doing the task that will have the greatest impact on your day before you do anything else! The frog represents that this important task is also usually the least desirable task that you will face that day. It is the task that you know you must do but are dreading. Identifying this priority and scheduling the time for it at the start of your day will increase your chances of doing it and positively affect your mood and attitude. For the complete breakdown on this principle, Brian Tracy wrote an inspiring book called Eat That Frog! He illustrates this mindset to eradicate procrastination.
This principle, developed by Tracy, is derived from a quote by Mark Twain.
“If it’s your job to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning. And if it’s your job to eat two frogs, it’s best to eat the biggest one first.” – Mark Twain.
How “eat the frog first” impacts your willpower
When we progress from the complicated to the simple, we create a flow of work that feels effortless, like skiing down a hill. Since willpower declines throughout your day, you want to do what requires the most will first. Early in the day is the best time to confront all the unpleasant and challenging responsibilities on our plate. By doing what requires more willpower first, everything else that follows seems easy in comparison. When you complete a difficult feat in the morning, you start the day with a significant accomplishment. Even if you were not to achieve anything else, you would still feel purpose and sense that you have done something worthwhile.
Getting the wheels into motion is where you can flex your discipline muscle the most. Once the wheels begin to rotate, momentum is on your side, and each subsequent step requires slightly less effort. Even the most challenging tasks feel easier as soon as you start them. Set yourself up for successful frog-eating by getting a quality night’s rest and waking up early, ready to take on those frogs!
When to “eat the frog.”
Anyone who is procrastinating on a big task can apply this principle. Use the “eat the frog first” principle for work, communications, exercise, nutrition, personal finances, and maintaining your home. It is catchy, easy to remember, and can bring a smile to this mundane task.
Your work to-do list:
When prioritizing your work schedule, knock out those challenging tasks and hard conversations early in the day and week. You will spend less time anticipating if you get them done. You will be much happier come Friday.
Your communication strategy:
This mindset does not just apply to chores or work. It is also beneficial when conveying bad news. If you are a professional service provider, start low and end high. When you report bad news first, you address necessary issues while leaving room to end the conversation on a high note.
Your exercise routine:
When you go to the gym, start with the most strenuous workout. With the most arduous exercise out of the way, your experience will improve throughout the training, and you’ll be more likely to remember your training session positively. In addition, you will be excited to show up next time and work out again.
Your meal plan:
When you do your meal prep, plan to eat all your fresh fruits and vegetables early in the week or day. Not only do you absorb more nutrients when the produce is new, but you will fill up on healthy foods before you indulge in your “unhealthy” options.
Your financial health:
If you have to pay your bills, do it in the morning before you go to work. Starting your day paying back those who have helped you experience life will allow gratitude to arise!
Your home life:
When cleaning your house, or doing any chores, start with the task you dislike the most. Once that is out of the way, your experience will improve, and you’ll finish with a more satisfying feeling.
Plan in advance
A good plan of action has a strategy. It would help if you sequenced your action plans by dependencies and time sensitivity. Once you craft your daily to-do list, identify your frogs the evening before. By creating a daily schedule, you set yourself up for victory. Taking ownership of your day allows you to be in control of your time. Prioritize tasks to do challenging “frogs” early while your willpower is full. A disciplined time management technique will allow you to resist the more minor, low impact tasks making space for the major ones. You’ll spend less time dragging your feet and wasting time if you knock those frogs out early. You automatically set yourself up for success when you have a plan to be productive.
The bottom line
The “eat the frog first” principle is one of the best approaches to procrastination because it efficiently uses willpower, is versatile, and makes plans more effective. Our discipline is most assertive in the morning. It is a freshly charged battery with massive power. Use this force for good in your life. “Eat the frog first” creates a routine habit out of the tasks you seek to avoid. Repetition brings ease in action, and slowly, less and less willpower will need to be used, leaving more energy to tackle the next frog that lands on your plate. Proper time management and organization will allow for evenings to be for enjoyment. With the most straightforward goals to reach at the end of your day, you finish with ease and feel energized, retaining a more satisfying sense of a job well done.