Eat That Frog! Or to give its full name “Eat That Frog!: 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time” was written by Brian Tracy and first published in 2001.
It’s a commonly-championed book in productivity circles and the concept of “eating a frog” to make your day more productive is frequently dropped by anyone talking about time management on the internet.
So, I checked it out (I read the Second Edition, published in 2008, but there is a more recent one published in 2017 that you can get here) and thought I’d post my review for you . . .
Why Eat A Frog?
The title of the book and the theme of eating frogs is explained in the introduction. It’s based around a saying that has often been attributed to Mark Twain – apparently wrongly – and that is:
“If the first thing you do each morning is to eat a live frog, you can go about the rest of your day with the satisfaction of knowing that the worst thing likely to happen to you all day is already behind you.”
~ (Probably not) Mark Twain
With a live frog being a (rather disgusting) metaphor for your biggest and most important task of the day that you are most likely to procrastinate on, Tracy advocates that you should always attack this one first since it is most likely the one that will have the biggest impact on your life and work now or in the future.
And that’s not a bad strategy in my view.
When it comes to eating frogs, Tracy’s first rule is that if you have to eat two frogs (and, let’s face it, most of us will quite feasibly have more than one big task on any given day), eat the ugliest one first.
In other words, you prioritize your tasks by doing the biggest and hardest one before you attack anything else.
Tracy’s second rule of frog-eating is:
“If you have to eat a live frog at all, it doesn’t pay to sit and look at it for very long.”
This means taking action immediately before any thought of procrastination can take hold.
Aside from in the introduction, there is no other significant reference to eating the frog technique in the book, possibly because it requires no further explanation than that one, but the general theme of taking action remains throughout as an over-arching theme.
I don’t think that there is anything in the book that is particularly groundbreaking or cutting edge. But it is a useful compilation of various techniques you can try in order to overcome procrastination and become more productive with your time.
Each chapter ends with an “Eat That Frog!” task or action point relating to the theme of that chapter, but I wouldn’t say that doing that particular task could be classed as big enough or important enough to be an “Eat That Frog!” moment.
My feeling is that Tracy has simply used “Eat That Frog!” as a catchphrase to help market the book. And it certainly gets your attention due to the interesting and possibly vomit-inducing image it conjures up.
Overall though, I personally think the book is a little simplistic and lacks any real substance, but it is an international bestseller and touted as a must-read for anyone serious about productivity and time management, so who the Hell am I to argue?
Anyway, in an attempt to give you a succinct review, here are four things I liked about the book and four that I didn’t like so much.
Things I liked
- “Eat That Frog!” is quite a quick and easy read. I got through the whole thing over a couple of hours while waiting for my kids to finish their dance class.
- The principle of handling the biggest and most difficult task first is solid and in most scenarios, I cannot argue with the logic of doing so.
- The book does not provide a complete, step-by-step strategy, but if you are new to time management and productivity, “Eat That Frog!” book is a great introduction, as it provides the reader with some food for thought and a good amount ideas to try if you’re serious about being more productive on a daily basis.
- Lays out actionable tasks at the end of each chapter that you can use to help become more organized and procrastinate less.
Things I didn’t like
- The language used in the book may feel a little dated to younger generations, but I guess that is because the author is a little more senior. However, most of the messages are still valid.
- The use of statistics without any kind of source or reference is something I don’t like and Tracy does this several times throughout the book. Throwing around statistics is something sketchy salespeople often do to support their pitch and for me, this kind of glibness undermines credibility.
As an example, Tracy says in Chapter 8, “Fully 85% of your happiness in life will come from happy relationships with other people . . .” I mean, where does that statistic come from and how does one measure it? There are some other examples, but I don’t need to labour the point here and anyway, this might just be a personal pet peeve, so ignore if you think I am being picky here.
- While the twenty-one principles Tracy lays out to stop procrastinating and get things done faster are based on fairly solid ideas, I don’t know if I am being unfair in saying that it’s essentially a padded out listicle (see below).
- A bit preachy and repetitive in parts. Several of the twenty-one principles are kind of the same thing, but rephrased or presented in a different way.
Summary of each chapter
1. Set the table
Be clear on your goals and objectives.
2. Plan every day in advance
Break everything down into smaller parts and make a good plan. Time spent planning is seldom wasted.
3. Apply the 80/20 Rule to everything
The Pareto Principle can be applied to your task list. Focus your energy on the high-value activities.
4. Consider the consequences
Understanding the long-term consequences of doing or not doing a task will help determine your choices and behaviours in the short term.
5. Practise creative procrastination
Learn to deliberately put off and say ‘no’ to the low-value tasks, so you can concentrate on the high-value tasks. (Read: How To Stop Procrastinating)
6. Focus on key result areas
Be clear on the activities in your job that determine results and focus your attention on these over other activities.
7. Use the ABCDE Method continually
Prioritise and organise your task list, so that the important, “must-do” stuff is at the top and the low-value tasks are art the bottom or completely eliminated.
8. The Law of Three
Not sure in which way this is really a “law”, but this tip recommends focusing attention on the three most important things you do in your job and the three most important goals in your life.
9. Prepare thoroughly before you begin
Preparation is the key to success. Make sure you have everything to hand that you need to complete a task. An organized work station is vital.
10. Take it one oil barrel at a time
Accomplish the big projects by breaking them down into steps. Another take on bite-sized chunks and elephant burgers.
11. Upgrade your key skills
Always be learning. Knowledge and skills can make you more productive. I think that the ability to learn is more important than ever in the 21st Century.
12. Leverage your special talents
Get some clarity on what you’re good at and what you love doing and throw yourself into those activities.
13. Identify your key constraints
Find the barriers and the bottlenecks to progress and keep moving forward.
14. Put the pressure on yourself
Become a self-driven, high-performing, high achiever. Set your own deadlines and compete against yourself.
15. Maximize your personal powers
Look after yourself to maintain your levels of health and energy.
16. Motivate yourself into action
Choose a positive mental attitude. Be optimistic. Focus on the activities you can do to improve your life and drop the rest.
17. Get Out of The Technological Time Sinks
Use technology as a tool to help you complete your tasks, but don’t become a slave to the technology you’re using.
18. Slice and dice the task
Break the bigger tasks into smaller, manageable tasks, rather than trying to attack everything in one go.
19. Create large chunks of time
Use time blocking techniques to maintain focus on your tasks.
20. Develop a sense of urgency
Get in the zone and get things done without delay.
21. Single handle every task
Develop the self-discipline to concentrate whole-heartedly with 100% focus on the task at hand. Always see it through until the end. Don’t get distracted.
Time Hack Hero Takeaway
If you’re a younger reader and/or new to the world of time management and productivity, this book is probably quite valuable as a starting point.
If, however, you’ve already read a few books on time management or productivity and you’re already using some techniques in your daily life, then you’ll probably want to give this one a miss, as you will likely find the ideas covered a little too simplistic.
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