Book Notes: “Eat That Frog!” by Brian Tracy
Eat That Frog!: 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time by Brian Tracy (3rd edition, 2017) is a short compendium of time-management and productivity strategies. It reads less like a cohesive book with a thematic through-line and more like a collection of loosely related articles.
The title of the book “Eat that Frog” provides the most indelible lesson from the book: your biggest, most important task is your “frog”, deal with this item first each day (i.e. metaphorically “eat it” by dealing with it). The remainder of the book covers strategies for accomplishing your goals and optimizing productivity: daily planning, time blocking, prioritization, etc.
Pros: Easy to read and to-the-point. Brief, self-contained chapters make it easy to explore specific topics.
Cons: Good info but boring delivery. Beyond his initial ideas and strategies, some of the later chapters feel like filler.
Verdict: This is a decent read for an overview of basic productivity ideas. There are good ideas in here but it’s a fairly bland read. Score: 6/10.
Notes & Highlights
- “Your ability to select your most important task at each moment, and then to get started on that task and get it done both quickly and well, will probably have more of an impact on your success than any other quality you can develop.”
- “An average person who develops the habit of setting clear priorities and getting important tasks completed quickly will run circles around a genius who talks a lot and makes wonderful plans but who gets very little done.”
- Mark Twain quote: “Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.”
- Your biggest, most important task is your “frog.” Deal with this item first each day. Second: don’t sit and look at your frog for very long.
- Successful people are action-oriented.
- The habit of setting priorities, overcoming procrastination and tackling your most important tasks can be learned.
- The three qualities needed to develop focus and concentration: decision, discipline and determination.
- To accelerate your progress: “See yourself as the kind of person who gets important jobs done quickly and well on a consistent basis.”
Chapter 1: Set the Table
- In order to determine what your “frog” is, you must first have clarity regarding your goals and objectives.
- “The greater clarity you have regarding what you want and the steps you will have to take to achieve it, the easier it will be for you to overcome procrastination, eat your frog, and complete the task before you.”
- Think on paper to clarify your goals: 1) Decide what you want, 2) Write it down, 3) Set a deadline, 4) Make a list of everything you need to do to achieve your goal, 5) Organize the list into a plan, 6) Take action on your plan, 7) Resolve to do something every single day that moves you toward your goal.
Chapter 2: Plan Every Day in Advance
- Alan Lakein quote: “Planning is bringing the future into the present so that you can do something about it now.”
- Create a master list on which you record everything you want to do sometime in the future. This is where you capture every idea and every new task that comes up.
- Create a monthly list prior to the start of each new month. This list may include items from the master list.
- Create a weekly list where you plan your entire week in advance. This list will be continuously developed throughout the week.
- Lastly: Transfer items from the monthly and weekly lists onto your daily list.
- “When planning a project, begin by making a list of every step you will have to complete to finish the project from beginning to end. Organize the steps by priority, what is most important, and sequence, which tasks you must complete in order. Lay out the project in front of you on paper or on a computer-based project planner so that you can see every step and task. Then go to work on one task at a time. You will be amazed at how much you get done in this way.”
Chapter 3: Apply the 80/20 Rule to Everything
- Tasks are not equal in value. The Pareto Principle will point you towards your most valuable tasks.
- Resist the temptation to deal with easy, low-value tasks first (most people follow this strategy, but high-performers do not).
- If you focus on low-value tasks, you will develop a habit of always starting and working on low-value tasks. Think of this as a long-term habit that your are developing.
Chapter 4: Consider the Consequences
- “The mark of the superior thinker is his or her ability to accurately predict the consequences of doing or not doing something.”
- “Successful people have a clear future orientation. They think five, ten, and twenty years out into the future. They analyze their choices and behaviors in the present to make sure that what they are doing today is consistent with the long-term future that they desire.”
- “The clearer you are about your future intentions, the greater influence that clarity will have on what you do in the moment.”
- 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.”
- Three questions for maximum productivity:
What are my highest-value activities?
What can I and only I do that will make a real difference?
What is the most valuable use of my time right now?
Chapter 5: Practice Creative Procrastination
- Deliberately exercise procrastination on the small tasks(!)
- “Everyone procrastinates. The difference between high performers and low performers is largely determined by what they choose to procrastinate on.”
- “A priority is something that you do more of and sooner while a posteriority is something that you do less of and later, if at all.”
- “Rule: You can get your time and your life under control only to the degree to which you discontinue lower-value activities.”
Chapter 6: Use the ABCDE Method Continually
- To use this method: 1) List everything you have to do for the coming day. 2) Mark each item with a letter. A is for very important items (if you have multiple A-tasks mark them A-1, A-2, etc.). B is for “should do” items. C is for nice to do items. D tasks are for delegation. E tasks can be eliminated altogether and won’t make any difference.
Chapter 7: Focus on Key Result Areas
- A “key result area” is an activity under your control that you perform to generate value.
- Key results areas vary by role or function. Determine your key results area which usually number between 5-7.
- Example: “The key results areas of sales are prospecting, building rapport and trust, identifying needs, presenting persuasively, answering objections, closing the sale, and getting resales and referrals.”
- “Here is one of the greatest questions you will ever ask and answer: ‘What one skill, if I developed and did it in an excellent fashion, would have the greatest positive impact on my career?’”
Chapter 8: Apply the Law of Three
- Identify the three core tasks that you perform that generate the most value and focus on those things.
- “Everything else you do is either a support task or a complementary task that could probably be delegated, downsized, outsourced, or eliminated.”
- Exercise: In 30 seconds write down your three most important goals in life right now (in most cases people first have one financial or career goal; second have a family or personal relationship goal; and third, a health or fitness goal).
- Time management is a means to an end.
Chapter 9: Prepare Thoroughly Before you Begin
- “One of the best ways for you to overcome procrastination and get more things done faster is to have everything you need at hand before you begin.”
- “When everything is laid out neatly and in sequence, you will feel much more like getting on with the job.”
Chapter 10: Take it One Step at a Time
- “One of the best ways to overcome procrastination is for you to get your mind off the huge task in front of you and focus on a single action that you can take.”
Chapter 11: Upgrade Your Key Skills
- “Rule: Continuous learning is the minimum requirement for success in any field.”
- “Refuse to allow a weakness or lack of ability in any area to hold you back. Everything is learnable.”
Chapter 12: Identify Your Key Constraints
- What obstacle(s) are keeping you from achieving your goal? Be honest and specific about identifying these “choke points” so that you can attend to removing them.
- This is the 80/20 rule at work.
Chapter 13: Put Pressure on Yourself
- “Successful people continually put the pressure on themselves to perform at high levels. Unsuccessful people have to be instructed and pressured by others.”
Chapter 14: Motivate Yourself into Action
- “To keep yourself motivated, you must resolve to become a complete optimist. You must decide to respond positively to the words, actions, and reactions of the people and situations around you. You must refuse to let the unavoidable difficulties and setbacks of daily life affect your mood or emotions.”
- Optimists have 4 special behaviors: 1) Look for the good in every situation. 2) Always seek the valuable lesson in every setback or difficulty. 3) Always look for the solution to every problem. 4) Think and talk continually about their goals.
Chapter 15: Technology is a Terrible Master
- Learn to stay calm and clearheaded in the face of overwhelming technology distractions and addictions.
Chapter 16: Technology is a Wonderful Servant
- Melinda Gates: “You must discipline yourself to treat technology as a servant, not as a master. The purpose of technology is to make your life smoother and easier, not to create complexity, confusion and stress.”
Chapter 17: Focus Your Attention
- “All of life is the study of attention; where your attention goes, your life follows.”
Chapter 18: Slice and Dice the Task
- Large and formidable tasks are easy to put-off because they are overwhelming.
- “Salami slice” big tasks into manageable slices. Resolve do to just one slice at a time.
Chapter 19: Create Large Chunks of Time
- “Plan your day in advance and schedule a fixed time period for a particular activity or task.”
- Build your work life around accomplishing these key tasks.
Chapter 20: Develop a Sense of Urgency
- “Do not wait; the time will never be ‘just right.’ Start where you stand, and work with whatever tools you may have at your command, and better tools will be found as you go along.”
Chapter 21: Single Handle Every Task
- “Every great achievement of humankind has been preceded by a long period of hard, concentrated work until the job was done. Your ability to select your most important task, to begin it, and then to concentrate on it single-mindedly until it is complete is the key to high levels of performance and personal productivity.”