In 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: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0W7GB5Fh2XM
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!