Eat That Frog – Do Your Most Important Tasks In The Morning

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Eat That Frog
One of my favorite books on productivity is Eat That Frog (review) by self-help guru Brian Tracy. The main idea behind the book is that if you do your most important task (MIT) first thing in the morning, the rest of the day is going to be easy in comparison. In the book, Brian Tracy calls it “eating your frog” and he got that from the saying, “If the first thing you do each morning is to eat a live frog, you can go through the day with the satisfaction of knowing that that is probably the worst thing that is going to happen to you all day long!”

Your frog is the most important task. Once you get that out of the way, the other tasks are going to be easy to finish. Plus you set the tone for the rest of the day that work will get done. Now he mentions it in the context of beating procrastination. I like that approach a lot, and I have used this method with success. By doing the task that you will most likely procrastinate on first, it is relatively simple to do the other tasks because they aren’t as bad in comparison to that task you first did.

But I want to take this method to the next level by saying that the first thing you should be working on, is the task that will get you closer to achieving your big goal.

Brian Tracy briefly mentions this in the book, but from my experience, the concept is better geared towards achieving goals than simply trying to beat procrastination.

The Habit of Most Important Tasks First

It is a very simple habit, but extremely powerful if done every day. In the podcast Productivity As A Habit, we briefly mentioned eating your frogs. By working on your biggest opportunity first every single day, it is inevitable that you will achieve the success you desire. Especially if you can commit your focus and energy on your most important tasks, you will get success a lot faster than you might imagine. This is a habit that a lot of successful people have and a common theme among people we consider successful. It is easier for most people to get work done in the morning for several reasons:

  • You have the most energy in that period of time (especially if you have had a good night of sleep).
  • There are few or no distractions.
  • You are more focused.

By doing first thing you do every day, you also take away the pressure of having to complete it later in the day. It can be every stressful when you realize at the end of the day that you still have to do X, Y and Z. Thus by completing them in the morning, especially when you have the energy and focus, you will prevent that stress on your body.

The problem most people have with frog eating is identifying what they should be focusing on. To get that handled, you should get started on goal setting. Some great books on goal setting are Goals! by Brian Tracy and The Power of Story by Jim Loehr. If you work in an office environment, ask your manager or boss what your main focus should be.

Remember in what is productivity, we defined productivity as “the time you spend on working towards your goals”. Thus in order to be productive, you have to actively spend time on working towards whatever you want to achieve in the future. Preferably you want to achieve those goals in the shortest amount of time possible.

You can also look at it this way: you want the highest return on investment on your focus, energy, and work. By getting the most leverage at the most productive time of the day on your most important tasks, you are being the definition of productive.

I Don’t Have Time In The Morning!

I understand this dilemma. You wake up every day at 7 and you show up at work at 9. Where are you supposed to find time to work on your personal projects? Simple: you wake up earlier.

Plenty of people have done this with success including those of us at Asian Efficiency. Another great example is Leo Babauta of Zen Habits where he recently wrote an awesome post on the spiral of success around habits, and he says that he wakes up earlier as part of one of his success habits.

Even waking up just one hour earlier can get you very far. Remember, compounding results eventually add up to be a lot over time. Like Einstein said, “the most powerful force in the universe is compound interest.” By starting today, waking up earlier and working on your most important tasks you can achieve your big (and scary) goals.

The key to waking up early is figuring our your sleeping schedule. How many hours of sleep do you need? Schedule your bedtime around that time as we have detailed in our sleep & productivity article. Let’s say right now you go to bed around midnight, wake up at 7 and show up at work a 9. Try to wake up at 6 without compromising the hours of sleep you need, which means you need to be in bed by 11pm.

Transition To Office Life

The idea of frog eating can of course, also be applied at your job and in the office. As soon as you walk into work, start working on your most important tasks first. This doesn’t just work for your personal life. Even if you have eaten the frog of your personal projects, it is now time to do the same thing for your work.

I used to have a 10-6 office job, and I would wake up every day at 6am to start working on my personal projects. From my experience I would be too tired at the end of the day to work on personal projects (plus often I had social obligations), so I made a commitment to work on those in the morning. One of the best decisions I’ve made.

My frog eating schedule for personal and office job.

My frog eating schedule for personal and office job. I would wake up at 6am, have a quick breakfast and then work on my personal goals till about 7:30am. Between 9-11am I would work on my biggest opportunities within my office role.

In the morning I would go to the gym because I wanted to get in shape and when I was back I would work on some personal projects, like Asian Efficiency and other web properties. By the time I showed up at work, I had already felt like I’d done a great deal of work. The trend would be set forth by making sure I did the frog eating for my role at the office, so the first two hours I would focus on my biggest opportunities.

By the time noon hits, I would grab lunch with my co-workers and right after check my email. I’m sure you’ve heard it before, but don’t check your email first thing in the morning. It’s such a productivity killer.

Next Actions

Here is how you can use this technique right now.

1. Write down a list of tasks you are going to do tomorrow that will get you closer to your goals (do it for your personal life first and repeat later for your job). You can ask yourself these questions:

  • What are my highest value activities?
  • What can I and only I do that if done well will make a real difference?
  • What is the most valuable use of my time right now?

2. The answer to the last question is your biggest frog. That will be the first task you are going to do tomorrow.

3. Set yourself for the next day for completing that task. Plan how you are going to complete that task tomorrow morning. Get all the necessary tools ready and in place.

For some that means getting up earlier or getting in the office earlier. Do it if you think that will increase the likelihood of having no distractions so you can focus on your most important tasks.

4. At the end of your work day, repeat step #1. Every single (work)day.
It takes less than 5 minutes to do the above steps every day, but it can dramatically change your life. Let us know in the comments below how this simple productivity tip is working out for you.

If you want to know more about Eat That Frog, click here to grab a copy.

(Image courtesy of Joe Buckingham under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 generic license.)

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About

I grew up in The Netherlands, went to university in Los Angeles and now I'm living in different places every couple months. When I'm not writing about personal productivity or time management, I'm probably trying out a new restaurant in the city I'm in (I love food!). One of my specialties is time management for organizations, executives and employees. The reason I started this blog with Aaron is that I love sharing my knowledge with people and helping them become a better person. This blog is a footprint I want to leave behind and I hope you get a lot of value out of my articles. Feel free to get in touch with me anytime!

22 Comments

Posted by A.S.  | May 24, 2011 at 9:36PM | Reply

I’ve putting those strategies in practice and it is working very well. I am in the second week and I can see the difference. Thank you, A.

Posted by AE Thanh  | May 25, 2011 at 5:18PM

Good job! I’m glad to see it is working for you. Keep this up every day and over time you’ll get massive results.

Posted by Anzumana  | September 13, 2011 at 2:23PM | Reply

Just implemented GTD into my life. This Tip helped very much.
Thanks.

Posted by Thanh Pham  | September 13, 2011 at 2:26PM

Awesome to hear it’s been working for you Anzumana.

Posted by Sherifezz  | September 28, 2011 at 4:23AM | Reply

This does not work for people who remain wakeful all the night long. I suffer from great sleep disturbances, I keep in bed twisting for 2 to 3 hours, as this I wake up late, tired and sleepy and hurry for work. usually arrive 10-15 min. late. sleeping is a big problem for me.

Posted by mike  | January 23, 2012 at 1:29PM

Sounds like me, I suspect low grade sleep apnea (if you snore)… I never thought I snored for 20 years, until I started sleeping over the girlfriends house, she has to where ear plugs… Check out treatment options, you should be waking up refreshed…

Posted by Helena  | November 6, 2012 at 2:38PM

If you have severe problems to sleep, definetely go see a doctor! But here are some helpful tips really worth trying:
* Exercising every day should make you feel tired and fall asleep more easily at night (as long as you don’t exercise at night, which will make you still feel alert when going to bed);
* Do not eat heavy meals after 7 PM (only light snacks);
* Avoid backlit screens (TVs, computers, smartphones ans such) after at least 8 PM;
* Don’t work at your bed and/or bedroom — stay there only when it’s time to sleep;
* Before going to sleep, write everything that’s bothering you in a small notebook, so you can think about those things later, when it’s time to solve them; keep that notebook and a pen beside your bed, so if any thought is bothering you and not letting you sleep, you can write it in the notebook, clear your head and go back to sleeping;
* Tidy things up before going to sleep so when you get up in the morning you only do what needs to be done in the morning. If you need, write down everything you need to do in the morning, so you won’t be afraid of forgetting anything;
* Make your room as dark as you can when you sleep; in fact, if you can, use only dim lights after 8 PM;
* Only drink/eat caffeinated things before noon;
* Quit taking naps. If they do you well, you can go back to them once your sleep schedule is fixed.

I know it’s hard, but if you apply at least some of these tips, you should see some difference in your sleeping time quality. Good luck!

Posted by Productivity aid: Scripton Chronodex Planner  | May 28, 2012 at 2:08PM | Reply

[…] of this process is to block out time in for the following day to ensure that my MITs (Most Important Tasks) get done. I have been doing this as a simple vertical timeline which I sketch into my notebook each […]

Posted by Sharon  | January 30, 2013 at 6:50AM | Reply

I like what you say and have one tiny gripe – the frog concept assumes that you don’t like your most important activities. My goal is to do work I love so that I wont have to feel like I am eating or kissing frogs daily.

Posted by Phil  | March 4, 2013 at 3:16PM | Reply

Great post. Get up earlier…so simple.

I was already getting up at 6am to go to the gym before work. Now I get up at 5am instead.
I love you guys for helping me get more done…though I do hate you every morning my alarm clock hits

Posted by Thanh Pham  | March 4, 2013 at 6:03PM

Haha thanks :)

Posted by Mariya Manahova  | April 6, 2013 at 4:08PM | Reply

I actually do that, but the most surprising (and completely logical) thing was the statement about not checking your email first thing in the morning. So true… I’ll start doing that now.

Posted by Philiipa Hughes  | April 8, 2013 at 4:02PM

Hi Mariya, where about is the comment about not checking your emails first thing in the morning??

Posted by Aaron Lynn  | April 26, 2013 at 5:52AM

Just above Next Actions:
“By the time noon hits, I would grab lunch with my co-workers and right after check my email. I’m sure you’ve heard it before, but don’t check your email first thing in the morning. It’s such a productivity killer.”

Posted by The Silent Cockpit Theory of Time Management  | July 18, 2013 at 3:32PM | Reply

[…] the possibility of external distractions and interruptions drops drastically) and working on your most important task(s). The key is to do this when no one else is up and about and you aren’t going to be […]

Posted by Moira Wight  | August 12, 2013 at 3:53PM | Reply

This post shares such a useful concept on how to improve productivity that many people need to apply when they are trying to build an online home business. Eating that frog first enables us to get things done in less time and so be able to enjoy that time freedom we are all striving for. Thanks for sharing this concept. I have shared your post amongst my Curated Content Collection so that my community can benefit too. Thank you.

Posted by Thanh Pham  | August 13, 2013 at 9:17PM

Thanks for spreading the word Moira!

Posted by Monica Barthalomeo  | August 22, 2013 at 6:50AM | Reply

Thanks a ton for this information. It’s impact is reflected in my everyday schedule. You not only showed the significance of “Eating the Frog” but also “how to do it”. This has indeed made my life clutter-free. Thanks once again :)

Posted by Narendra Kadwadkar  | August 24, 2013 at 7:29AM | Reply

I have just gone through East That Frog with 21 Great Ways to stop procrastination. I found it is very useful tips for growth in life routine, business, achieving goals and to become successful in all respects. I was giving priorities less value tasks rathar than valuable task. Because of this, I was lacking behind Success. I now want adopt all such tips and to become successful person in my MLM business. I hope it should work. Thank you very much.

Posted by Aubrey Madrona (  | September 10, 2013 at 6:03AM | Reply

The best work habit you can ever get into is very simple: Do your worst task first thing in the morning. Every given day, you’ve got one major to-do that’s highest priority. But when you’ve got the whole day stretching out ahead of you, it’s easy to put it off until after you get your coffee, check our email, or go to that meeting. But just like breakfast is the most important meal of the day, the first thing you accomplish at work sets the tone for the rest of the day.

Posted by Tim  | January 27, 2014 at 10:47AM | Reply

i think it is really important to make your to-do list in the evening for the following day. some other articles say that your subconcious mind is working on solving the problems then, but i just like the fact that everything is planned and in order before i go to bed.

to find the biggest frog you can ask yourself something like this: if i could just finish one task today, which one would make me the most satisfied when finished? this helps sometimes against procrastination too (at least for me), since you focus on the good feeling afterwards and not on the (ugly) task.

i really like the interlinking of your posts. at the end of each post i have at least two new posts i want to read.

Posted by AndriaYiasmin  | February 24, 2014 at 4:07PM | Reply

Loved the article! The MIT strategy helped me and the people I’ve shared it with!

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