Eat That Frog Second! A New Way to Tackle To-Do Lists

Eat That Frog! by Brian TracyIn the world of productivity, Brian Tracy’s “Eat That Frog First” philosophy has been very useful for understanding how to tackle your to-do list every day for maximum efficiency and momentum as you plow through your tasks. In summary, his philosophy is that you should tackle the most difficult item on your to-do list first, so that the rest of your day is free from worrying about the difficult task. He also argues that getting such a big task out of the way gives you momentum to accomplish the relatively less difficult tasks. In other words, if the first thing you do tomorrow is eat a live frog, the day can only get better from there. Click the following link to view a 2 minute video summarizes this philosophy very well:

Brian Tracy’s philosophy makes a lot of sense. You get a feeling of relief and momentum from having just accomplished a tough task. However, this philosophy of productivity directly contradicts my go-to method of productivity. My go-to method is essentially “productive procrastination” in which you are “procrastinating” the toughest item on your list by doing everything else on your list instead. By the time the tough goal is the last thing on your list to do, you’re so close to the finish line that you don’t even hesitate to get it done. I swear by this method because of how easy it is to get started on your tasks for the day, but it definitely has its drawbacks. Namely, it’s intimidating, and even somewhat stressful, seeing that super-tough item on your to-do list all day. I go into more detail about this method of productivity here.

After having experimented with both methods, I have found a combination of the two that gives you the best from both worlds. I call this method Eat That Frog Second. As the name implies, you’re going to tackle your most difficult task for the day SECOND, rather than first. Here’s why: I noticed that it was incredibly difficult to start doing things in the morning when I was faced with the most difficult task of the day right from the get go. I always found it easy to tackle big challenges once I was in the flow of things, but to start with it when I was still a little groggy and not in the flow of work yet, it was quite daunting. I found myself dawdling more than I usually do. Not good.

So here’s what you do:

1)      Start your day with your EASIEST task. This will allow you a quick win that gives you some momentum and gets you “in the zone.”

2)      After this is finished, throw all of your momentum into the “frog” of your day (the most difficult task on your list).

3)      Once this task is completed, you can perform an optional celebration dance, and continue on with the rest of your tasks with feelings of relief, accomplishment, and further momentum.

4)      Optional: When creating your to-do list for the day, if you use hand-written to-do lists, you can draw an arrow next to your EASIEST task and draw a bulls-eye target next to your TOUGHEST task. Then draw a dotted line guiding the arrow towards the target. It’s a fun way to mark of the two tasks to focus on as you get started with your day, plus it symbolizes that completing the first task will give you momentum to jump right into the difficult task. It might look something like this:

-Cook dinner for tonight

-Find my dress socks

↓  -Call mom to say hello

-Submit TPS report

◎ -Write a business plan for my future business

-Vacuum the living room

Try this method for your next set of tasks and let me know how it works in the comments section below!

Feeling the Present Value – A Guide to Confidence and Resolving Negative Thoughts

NegativityWe all feel down on ourselves from time to time. Sometimes our day just doesn’t seem to be going our way. Sometimes our worries and fears get the best of us. Sometimes we are disappointed because we set our expectations too high. Sometimes there is no reason at all. This is something we all experience, but I feel that some people are more prone to experiencing these negative thought patterns than others. In this post, I will propose a strategy that will help resolve negative thoughts (the symptoms) and simultaneously boost confidence (the underlying cause).

Why Logic Doesn’t Always Work

Has anyone ever said this to you? “Cheer up… your day could have been a lot worse.” If so, did it actually cheer you up? Probably not.

Why is that?

When we’re down on ourselves, it’s centered around emotions rather than logic. Even though it’s true that my life could be infinitely worse, I don’t FEEL that way, so I’m still down on myself. Humans adjust to their circumstances and environment, which explains why many wealthy people often feel that they don’t earn enough. Since they usually associate with other wealthy people, they don’t FEEL wealthy. They feel average. I’ve written more on this in my e-book, Unlimited Drive, which I suggest reading if you’d like to learn more on why people become adjusted to their circumstances.

The point I’m trying to get across is that we are often upset, depressed, and down on ourselves for illogical reasons. If the problem is centered around emotions, we need a strategy that is also centered around emotions. That’s where confidence comes in.

Confidence Helps

When you say that you feel confident about something, it’s another way of saying that you have a rock solid belief that you can create a positive outcome from that event. In essence, this is the opposite of negative thoughts, which steer you towards the belief that negative outcomes are resulting from events you are involved in. Confidence is a powerful negativity fighter, which is why I believe it has a place in this post.

However, confidence is a double-edged sword. Excessive, irrational confidence can lead to poor decision making and a large ego. That’s not what I’m trying to promote. What I’m trying to promote is confidence that is based on your character and experiences. This kind of confidence is healthy, natural, and – as I mentioned earlier – a great negativity fighter.

So enough about theory. Let’s get to the confidence-boosting techniques. Of the two techniques I am going to propose, one is very commonly used and the other is rarely used. I will focus most of my effort on the rarely used technique.

The Two Techniques

The first technique is based on your PAST experiences and your CURRENT characteristics. By recalling positive past experiences and your current character traits that run contrary to your negative thoughts, you can begin resolving those negative thoughts.

For example, Mike is feeling depressed because he didn’t get a job offer from a company he was excited about. Using this strategy, Mike would remind himself that he has lots of good job experience on his resume, he is a strong interviewer, and he has a list of plenty of other jobs he can apply for. Remembering his past actions and current characteristics provides a strong enough emotion to start breaking through his negativity.

So our first strategy is generating positive emotions through dwelling on positive past actions and current characteristics.This is commonly used and fairly effective.

The second technique I wish to discuss is what I like to call “Feeling the Present Value”. To “feel the present value”, you need to project your current path into the future and recognize that your future actions actually have value right now.

In the world of finance, money that is earned in a year from now can be run through a formula to determine what it’s worth today. The same thing applies to your future actions. Although they’re taking place in the future, the fact that you’re on the path to taking those actions at the present moment has value in of itself.  When you dwell on future actions, two things are accomplished:

1) You remind yourself of all of the great things you are on the path to achieving, which can elicit a positive emotional response (and therefore fight negativity)

2) By vividly imagining yourself attaining your future goals, you actually become more likely to attain that goal. Our brains cannot tell the difference between a real experience and a vividly imagined experience. So if your brain keeps vividly seeing you attain a certain goal, the subconscious belief forms that attaining that goal is completely within your grasp. This is the opposite of a mental block, and it’s very powerful.

Going back to the previous example, let’s assume that Mike still isn’t 100% cheered up yet. Yes, his resume is strong, but he is still disappointed that he didn’t get the job. If he can begin to imagine what it would be like to work at the companies he will start applying for in the near future – including the company culture, the benefits, the people he will be working with, etc. – he gives himself a powerful image of his future success.

Although Mike isn’t successful in the current moment, he is rapidly approaching it. In other words, there is a present value to his future actions. His life is exceptional NOW because of the path he is heading towards.

Present Value: One Final Example

Present value isn’t an easy concept to grasp. The most common misconception is “If it’s in the future, why would it have any significance now?” Imagine you won the lottery, but were told that you wouldn’t receive the money for 5 months. Would the fact that you are receiving millions of dollars in 5 months have any significance to you at the present. Of course it would. It would completely change your perspectives, your attitude, and your mindset. And that’s what this post is all about: finding positive events that will occur in the future, which you can dwell upon to create positive emotions.

One Caveat

There is one caveat to this strategy. Unlike the previous example of winning the jackpot, it is never guaranteed that you will actually do something in the future. It can be easy to delude yourself into believing that you will do something stupendous in the near future, but then never getting around to it. When utilizing the “feeling the present value” technique, you must be brutally honest with yourself. When delusion enters the equation, a large ego can result. It all comes down to whether you trust yourself enough to hold to your own future expectations. Do you trust yourself to do that?


Negative emotions are part of life. However, that doesn’t mean that we can’t remedy them with positive emotions. By remembering your past success, taking tally of your current positive characteristics, and by reflecting on the present value of your future endeavors, you will give yourself a nice dose of confidence and positivity. Especially if you’re someone who is just starting on their path to personal development and success, keeping yourself future-oriented and understanding the value of your future endeavors will do wonders for your motivation and confidence. Being able to vividly picture one’s future is so powerful, that Gallup considers it to be its own strength in their reputable “StrengthsFinder” test. Interestingly enough, “future-oriented” came out to be my #1 strength when I took that test 2 weeks ago.

Best of the Web – Success, Change, and Healthy Living

I must say, it’s been a very busy month. After the release of my “Unlimited Drive”, every other obligation in my life came stampeding back. Despite my lack of free time, I have a lot of interesting blog posts that are in-process and will be released in a week or so,  so look forward to that. In the meanwhile, I want to provide you some links to some of the best content on the web. The three categories today are success, change, and healthy living. Enjoy!

Finding Success:

Shaping Your Lifestyle Through Career Mastery –

Using The 80/20 Principle to Achieve More Than Ever Before –

College Students, Take Heed! –

Exploring and Embracing Change:

The World Has Changed: Create, Don’t Consume –

Test-drive Your Dream Job Over a Weekend With a Mentor – Vocation Vacations –

Nutrition and Healthy Living:

The Only Article on Nutrition You Will Ever Need (Note: This is a LONG article) –

New and Powerful Science on Preventing Cancer Through Angiogenesis –

Should You Focus On Your Strengths or Weaknesses?

Earlier today, I took Gallup’s famous StrengthsFinder test to help me learn more about my natural strengths. Strengths FinderAccording to Gallup, the reason for taking this test is simple: successful people develop and exploit their strengths, rather than reinforcing their weaknesses. Although this sounded fine at first glance, I later became unsure of how I felt about it. What about being a well-rounded person, I thought. If you only bolster your strengths and neglect to fix  obvious weak points in your life, wouldn’t you feel like something is missing? How can you be truly successful if you feel empty and unfulfilled in certain areas?

In my recently released e-book, Unlimited Drive, I wrote about how gaps and imbalances in your life can distract you and siphon valuable motivation away from your most important goals. It seems that my research on success and motivation conflicted with Gallup’s research on strengths (they own StrengthsFinder and also conduct research).

But if you’ve read my other blog posts on conflicting ideas and philosophies (which you can read here), you’ll know that underneath the surface, most of these conflicting ideas work in harmony with each other. The two ideas here are no exception. After doing further research on success, happiness, and how certain gaps in our lives influence behavior, it turns out both my research and Gallup’s research were correct.

Gaps Matter… Until A Certain Point

The theory that supports my argument about gaps in your life is Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. This theory is demonstrated by a pyramid of needs, within which the lower needs on the pyramid tend to be satisfied before the higher level needs. So if you have a high-level goal at the top of the pyramid (create change in the world, start a business, etc.) then you have to get the other areas of your life handled first (food, water, safety, emotional well-being, etc.). If someone is naturally weak in maintaining relationships with friends and family, and never works on that weakness, Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs argues that he will be distracted from his higher-level goals because he feels unfulfilled from this lack of relationships in his life.Maslows Hierarchy of Needs

However, as I conducted more research, I discovered a theory that threw a new idea into the mix. I will call this idea the base-line theory. According to this theory, huge gaps in your life will surely make you miserable, and correcting them will certainly show improvement. But once you achieve a certain base-line level, further improvement doesn’t show the same effectiveness.

The research that demonstrates this in action was conducted on the relationship between money and happiness. The common notion “money doesn’t buy happiness” was disproved to an extent by this study. As it turns out, the lack of money (aka – being broke) will certainly cause unhappiness. Therefore, giving someone the money to fulfill his basic needs will make him a much happier individual. However, once a certain base-line of income is hit (enough to cover your expenses plus a little extra for leisure), further salary increases don’t make you happier to the same extent that it used to. As you keep going up in salary, you get less and less happiness out of each subsequent pay increase.

I believe that many of our weaknesses operate in the same way. If you have extreme difficulties with any area of your life, whether it’s personal finances, relationships, or health, it will surely distract you from any goals you wish to achieve. But if it’s just a matter of having a natural weakness in an area of your life, that is still above a tolerable base-line (for example, being naturally shy), then further efforts to bolster that weakness comes at an opportunity cost because you could be spending that time further developing your natural strengths.

Opportunity Cost: Maximizing Strengths vs. Building Up Weaknesses

For those of you who had a little difficulty digesting that last sentence, let me break it down. Let’s say you have a choice between taking a $15 per hour job or an $8 per hour job. If you choose the job that pays $8 an hour instead of the job that earns you $15 an hour, your opportunity cost for taking the $8/hr job is $7 per hour. Why, you ask? Because if you had the chance to take the $15/hr job and chose an $8/hr job instead, you essentially gave up $7/hr, which is the cost of taking your chosen opportunity.

Imagine you have to choose between a job that you despise, but pays $100,000 a year, or a job you love that pays $40,000 a year. If you end up taking the job you love, what was the opportunity cost for doing so? If you answered $60,000, you’re correct. In this example, you chose to give up $60,000/year in order to enjoy life and not be miserable at work every day.

So why am I giving you a tutorial on opportunity cost?

If you’re too focused on building up your weaknesses past the base-line we discussed earlier in this post, you’re losing out on the immense benefits that come from maximizing and exploiting your strengths. This all ties back to Gallup’s research that shows that successful people achieved success by capitalizing on their strengths, rather than continually building at their weaknesses. There is only a limited amount of time per day, so if you use up all of your time to work on your weaknesses, you are giving up the opportunity to maximize and exploit your strengths. According to Gallup’s conclusions, the cost of ignoring your strengths is high.

As an analogy, imagine that your goal is to draw a picture of a beach. If you’re a righty, naturally you will utilize your right hand to draw the beach. It wouldn’t make any sense to use your left hand to draw the beach for the sake of “building up your weaknesses.” If your weakness isn’t impeding you (in other words, it’s above an acceptable base-line), why bother with it when you can be utilizing your strengths instead? Is the lack of drawing skill in your left hand impeding your goal here? It most certainly isn’t. Therefore, you should ignore your left hand’s weakness and focus on using your right hand instead. Although this is a somewhat imperfect analogy, I hope it helps you better understand why it’s better to utilize strengths to achieve your goals.

Borrow Some Advice from a CEO

In my Strategic Management class, I’m learning about the various strategies businesses take to maximize profit and stay competitive. Based on the case studies and research we discuss in class, it quickly became clear that a business that tries to excel in everything fails quickly. By trying to be the best in everything, the business ends up becoming mediocre in everything. There are simply not enough resources within a company to invest in becoming the best in everything. Obviously, a company needs to at least be competent in finance, operations, customer service, distribution, and so on, but that doesn’t mean it needs to excel at every one of these. Rather, decades of research and case studies show that successful companies are experts at leveraging their “core competencies,” which is a fancy way of describing a company’s core strengths.

Walmart doesn’t focus its resources on trying to improve its weak customer service because its core strength is low prices. People go to Walmart for the low prices, not for the customer service. If Walmart stopped focusing on keeping prices low so that it could focus on having amazing customer service, the most likely result would be that Walmart becomes mediocre at both, loses its competitive edge, and loses profits.

In the same way a company’s CEO utilizes core strengths to be successful in the marketplace – rather than bolstering weaknesses to become good at everything – you can focus on your “core competencies” to be successful. In doing so, you will find a higher success rate than if you try to fill in your weaknesses and bring them to the level of your natural strengths.


I’ve argued in this post that:

1)      Being a well-balanced person AND exploiting your natural talents are important for success.

2)      You should build up your weaknesses to your base-line to keep yourself well-rounded

3)      Once your weaknesses achieve a base-line, focus on building and exploiting your natural strengths

At this point, you may be wondering: “How do I know when my weaknesses have hit a base-line?” In order to do this, all you need to do is ask yourself the following question:

Does my weakness keep me up at night or distract me from achieving my most important goals?

If the answer is “yes”, then you have just identified a weakness you should begin working on as soon as possible.

By bringing your weaknesses to a base-line point and then focusing on maximizing your strengths, you will find yourself achieving more and enjoying life more.  To do this, try the following action plan:

1)      Identify your natural strengths. Taking the StrengthsFinder test is a great way to do this. Be aware that it costs $30 or so. If you’re strapped for money, use your intuition and common sense to create a list of your strengths. Ask your friends and co-workers about your strengths and write down what they say. Doing a Google search on how to identify your strengths will also serve you well.

Update (5/9/11): also offers plenty of effective, free strengths tests. I highly recommend it.

2)      Identify your weaknesses. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is a good tool for this. You can read Unlimited Drive for more information on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Otherwise, a simple Google search on identifying weaknesses should do the trick.

3)      Within your weaknesses, identify the ones that keep you up at night and/or distract you from achieving your most important goals. These are the weaknesses you should begin working on.

4)      Once you’ve built up each weakness to the point where it doesn’t keep you up or night or significantly distract you, it’s time to focus on your strengths. Build your strengths and then utilize them to achieve success! This can be done through reading books, practicing the skill, and planning how you want to apply that skill now and in the future.