Project time management: Eat That Frog
Higher productivity thanks to proper prioritisation of tasks
Who hasn’t experienced this? The day begins, the to-do list is longer than what you can actually accomplish and just thinking about it makes you feel overwhelmed. On top of that, there’s that one task that you’ve been avoiding for days for all kinds of reasons, that gives you a stomach ache and that haunts you like a dark shadow. But what if there was a simple method to counteract this feeling and make the day productive and successful? The Eat That Frog method is a simple solution for those who find it difficult to tackle unpleasant tasks and long to-do lists.
What is Eat That Frog?
Eat That Frog is a method for increasing productivity developed by author and motivational coach Brian Tracy. The idea behind it is that you should start each day with the most difficult task. According to Tracy, if this is completed quickly, one continues to work the rest of the day with a good feeling and increased motivation. The method is based on the fact that unpleasant tasks are often put off and at the end of the day you are too tired and unmotivated to tackle them. By tackling the most difficult task at the beginning of the day, i.e. by proverbially “eating the frog”, on the other hand, one not only becomes more productive, but also more self-confident and motivated for the other tasks of the day.
The metaphor with the frog refers to a quote by Mark Twain and to the fact that it would be very unpleasant for most people to have to eat a frog:
«Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.»
Similarly, it can sometimes be very difficult to motivate yourself to tackle an unpleasant task. But if you make an effort to get the task over with as quickly as possible first thing in the morning and just start doing it, you often find that the task becomes easier. So you have mastered the most difficult task and can be proud of yourself. This gives you momentum for the day and frees your mind for other tasks.
How does Eat That Frog work?
The concept of Eat That Frog is simple: Every evening, a list is made of all the tasks that need to be done the next day. Then the most difficult task is picked out so that when you start to work you can immediately set about completing that task. Once you are done with it, you can continue working with a good feeling and tackle the other tasks on the list. So this method helps to keep focus and set the right priorities.
Step 1: List all your tasks
Write down all the tasks you need to do the next day the night before – regardless of how important or unpleasant they are.
Step 2: Identify the frog:
To identify the “frog”, you should evaluate each task and then choose the most difficult one. In doing so, you should take the following factors into account:
- Urgency: Which task needs to be done first because it has to be finished by a certain date? How much time do you need to finish the task? The “frog” is not necessarily the most urgent task, but this is still an important criterion to consider so that you do not get pressured later.
- Difficulty: Which task is the most difficult? The difficulty of a task is often very subjective, because everyone has their strengths and weaknesses. While for one person it can be an almost insurmountable problem to make an unpleasant phone call, for another person it might be transferring key figures into an Excel file. Also ask yourself whether a task that is difficult for you can really only be done by yourself or whether you can transfer it to someone who finds the task easy. Often the frog of the day is the task you would most like to delegate or postpone, as that is the task that is most unpleasant for you.
- Impact: Which task has the biggest impact on your goals and projects? This can be an impact on your company or your team, but also an impact on you personally, such as your personal or professional development.
- Time commitment: Often we cannot plan our daily routine exactly, because unexpected things happen all the time. Therefore, it is important that you reflect at the beginning of the day on how you can use your time in the most valuable way. So estimate the individual tasks as accurately as possible or divide them into smaller tasks that can be completed more quickly.
Weigh these criteria carefully to set the right priorities for the day. On some days, you may also identify several frogs. Therefore, try to prioritise the frogs based on the above criteria and work through them one by one in a focused manner.
Step 3: Get started on the most difficult task immediately
It makes sense to do the first two points the night before so that you can start on the most difficult task immediately in the morning without being distracted by other things. Therefore, focus entirely on completing this task first instead of reading emails or checking your to-do list. Also, make sure that while you are working on the task, you can work with as little distraction as possible so that the task can be completed quickly.
Step 4: Reward yourself
After completing the most difficult task, take a short break to reward yourself and recharge your batteries.
Step 5: Continue with the remaining tasks
Now go through your list of tasks and complete the remaining tasks in the order in which you consider them important.
Step 6: Review your progress
At the end of the day, review how far you have come and consider whether there are any tasks you should complete tomorrow. Update your to-do list and determine the frog for the next day.
Advantages of Eat That Frog
- Increased productivity: By immediately tackling the most difficult task of the day, you can get it over with quickly and be more productive and motivated for the rest of the day.
- Reducing stress and anxiety: Unpleasant tasks can cause stress and anxiety if you keep putting them off. By completing these tasks immediately, you can reduce these negative emotions and often realise that the tasks were not as bad as you thought.
- Boosting self-confidence: After completing a difficult task, one feels successful, which in turn increases self-confidence and motivation for the other tasks of the day.
- Ease of application: The method is easy to apply and can be integrated into the work routine without the need for big changes.
Disadvantages of Eat That Frog
- Starting difficulties: It can be a challenge to get used to the method, especially if you are used to putting off unpleasant tasks. Prioritising tasks can also be a little difficult at first. However, with a little time and practice, you can get used to the new method and will quickly see its benefits.
- Not for complex tasks: The method is best suited for simple, clear tasks. More complex and lengthy tasks may prove more difficult if you try to complete them as the first task of the day. This is also because it can put pressure on you if you have to work on an important task all day. Therefore, it makes sense to divide these tasks into smaller work packages that you can work on more easily.
- Low flexibility: Since you have to stick to a certain order, it can be difficult to accommodate unexpected tasks or changes in the daily schedule. At the same time, this approach requires a great deal of discipline and can therefore be challenging for people who like to work more flexibly.
- Distractions: It is easy to get distracted while you are working on an important task, or even before you have started. Therefore, give your frog priority over everything else and stick to it. Try to prevent all distractions in advance. For example, turn off your phone, don’t open your email box and ask colleagues not to disturb you while you are working on the frog.
- The frog cannot be done first thing in the morning: Even with externally imposed constraints, for example because the frog is an afternoon appointment or a phone call with a client who is not available in the morning, you can work with the Eat That Frog method. In this case, make sure that your frog actually gets done immediately when it is possible – without excuses or procrastination. Your meeting is at 2 pm or the client is available again from 1 pm? Then stick to that exact deadline and get the task done immediately.
Adaptations of the method
The Eat That Frog method can be adapted to the different needs and working styles of users. For example, some people may have several “frog tasks” per day, while others may want to complete one difficult task per day.
The method can also be combined with other time management methods such as Pomodoro, GTD (Getting Things Done) or the Eisenhower principle for optimal effectiveness. This depends entirely on your working style and needs. It is important to test the different methods and check which one works best for you.
How to make Eat That Frog more effective
- Maintain a to-do list: Write down all tasks that come up directly on a to-do list and cross off the tasks that you have already finished. This not only ensures that you don’t forget a task, but can also have a motivating effect. For the list, you can use a piece of paper and pen, a to-do list on your smartphone, but also a convenient Kanban board.
- Avoid distractions: Try to avoid distractions like phone calls, emails and messages as much as possible while you are working on your most difficult task. This way you can fully focus on it and will get it over with quickly.
- Take breaks: It is very important to take enough time for breaks, especially when working on time-consuming tasks. Here, it can help to divide the tasks into smaller units and combine Eat That Frog with the Pomodoro technique, for example, to increase your productivity even more, to schedule regular breaks and to be able to start with the frog task more motivated.
- Reward yourself: Reward yourself when you successfully complete a difficult task to maintain your motivation and focus for the rest of the day’s tasks. Checking off or crossing off the most difficult task of the day in your to-do list can already have a motivating effect.
- Stay flexible: The Eat That Frog method is a general approach to time management. So be prepared to make adjustments if you notice that something is not working or the priorities of the day change.
Eat That Frog in project management
The method can also be usefully applied in project management by helping you prioritise the numerous tasks you and your team have to do. The focus is therefore no longer on your own tasks, but on teamwork.
If you have defined clear goals for your project, you can use these goals to determine every day which tasks are the most important for the success of your project and which ones should therefore be worked on first. When applying Eat That Frog to project management, it is important that you work closely with your team to ensure that all tasks are completed effectively and efficiently while keeping the big picture in mind. Also, track the progress of the project regularly and be ready to make adjustments if something is not working. Reward your team when difficult tasks have been completed or special milestones have been reached to motivate the team for the rest of the project.
The Eat That Frog method is an effective and simple tool for time management that enables the most important tasks of the day to be completed effectively and efficiently. The method can also be used successfully in project management by setting priorities, tracking progress and being prepared to make adjustments when necessary.
When combined with project management software such as myPARM, the Eat That Frog method can be used even more effectively. When combined with project management software such as myPARM, the Eat That Frog method can be used even more effectively. Feedback can be sent and in the task dashboard you can always see an overview of the tasks currently pending as well as their status. This gives you an optimal overview of your collected tasks as well as their urgency at all times, so that you can easily prioritise them and recognise the “frog” every day.
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