Eat The Frog Time Management Technique: What does it mean, Why and How can you use it

Written by Domantas Vanagas

January 2, 2022

No one likes to get behind on the tasks that they know they need to get accomplished in their day, but at least a quarter of adults consider procrastination to be a personality trait they have. It is a lot easier to say that we are going to get everything done than it is to actually make the strides necessary to get that to actually happen. As good as our intentions may be when we first wake up, actually getting to the finish line and accomplishing what we set out to do is often a lot harder than it looks. That is why some people rely on the eat the frog time management method of time management to help them clear up the tasks that are most pressing in order to move down the line and get to the rest of their daily chores as time permits.

The most pressing tasks tend to be the ones that weigh on our minds most heavily, and clearing them up first helps save us from some of the stress that we would otherwise have. We want to explore precisely what the eat the frog” method is, and why it matters that you use this method in your own life to get things done.

 

What Does Eat The Frog Even Mean?

It sounds kind of gross doesn’t it? Eat the frog? This is the term that people use to describe their method of time management, but it doesn’t necessarily make sense on the surface to someone who has never heard of this or has never practiced it before.

The idea comes from an old quote attributed to Mark Twain that goes like this: 

“If your job is to eat a frog, then it is best to do it first thing in the morning. If your job is to eat two frogs, then you should eat the bigger one first” 

The main idea that Twain was getting at here is that it is best to take care of unpleasant tasks as quickly as possible so that they are out of the way. No one really wants to eat a frog, right?

So the best thing to do is to eliminate this unpleasant task by getting it out of the way and eat the frog first thing in the morning. Then the job is done and you can move on to other things.

Of course, we are not referring to a literal frog when we say this, but rather to the idea that we should try to eliminate a task that is really weighing us down and making us stressed out and unhappy. If we can do that, then we can start to clear up our day with more pleasant activities. 

Of all of the time management methods that exist, the “eat the frog” method helps to move the most frustrating aspects out of your day first and foremost. This clears you up to both tackle the smaller tasks or simply clear up more free time for yourself. 

At What Point Should You Start Using Eat The Frog Technique? 

One must decide for themselves when they are ready to join those who have been using the eat the frog method. When you realize that you are ready to take action regarding the causes of poor time management, you are ready to take the plunge, take concrete steps to get this technique into your daily routine. Most people come to the realization that they may need to use this technique when they feel a lot of pressure to get certain tasks done.

close up shot of a frog holding a guitar

If they are unable to perform at a high level all the time, then they may start to show signs of that strain very quickly. They feel the pressure immediately, and it can be a risk to them because they may drop the ball when it comes to getting everything done as they should have. It is easy to start to feel the pressure bearing down on you when this happens. That is the moment when the eat the frog method comes in handy the most.

How Do You Start The Eat The Frog Technique?

To start the method, you will want to lay out all of the tasks that you need to accomplish in the immediate future. Take stock of where you stand now, and what you need to accomplish to feel that you have had a successful day. Once you see these two things lined up side-by-side, you are more likely to get a sense of where your day is headed, and how you can make the most of each moment of that day.

You should try to understand that the eat the frog method will point you in the right direction in the sense that you will have the opportunity to start chugging away at the tasks that have been putting the most pressure on you and finally get them off the agenda.

Then, you can move on to those other things that you have been meaning to do for a long time. When viewed through this lens, it starts to make more sense how you can maintain the business schedule that you have today, and yet still get to where you need to go from a productivity standpoint. 

Imagine someone who needs to put together a major presentation for their boss. They are feeling the pressure as they know that they need to create a PowerPoint, do their research, find examples that are relevant to the company they work for, and get over their stage freight about presenting to their co-workers. Although fear of public speaking could be one of the most repressing problems, you can only get past it with long-term experience. Having this in mind, working on the biggest frog (the research part) will give such a person a boost of motivation to keep going forward.

man running forward with lots of energy

Once they have put this behind them, then it becomes more reasonable to take care of the rest of the tasks at hand and get that presentation ready for showtime. The time-saving benefits that come with this method also make it easier to put together a presentation that has more quality work put into it.

Why Does Eat The Frog Time Management Technique Work?

Most of the reason why this technique works so well boils down to human psychology. Human beings are designed to look at the first and last items on a to-do list and prioritize those items above others. This is true even if those items are not actually the ones that will make the most impact on one’s day. It is a quirk of human psychology that we work that way, but it has been shown to be true time and time again. 

When we choose to intentionally put the tasks that we are most dreading at the top of our list, we will naturally want to knock those items off first before we move on to other things. Thus, this method helps us to use our own psychology in our favor to get the results that we need from it. We can actually start to see results almost immediately as we find ourselves wanting so badly to get rid of that first to-do list item. 

Another supporting factor that goes into why this method is so effective is because it provides a natural boost to the person who does it successfully.

When you eat the frog first thing in the morning, you will feel accomplished for the rest of your day. You will know that you set out to do something, and you actually made it happen. It is an incredible feeling, and it is something that we don’t always get from everything that we do.

We know that humans respond to rewards, and one of the best rewards that we can get is to know that the work we have put into something has not been in vain. When we knock out something that has been bothering us first thing in the morning, then we set ourselves up for a great rest of our day. 

Those who don’t use this method have to stress over those nagging tasks that they did not get done earlier in the day. It zaps their energy, and it even takes away from the enjoyment of their “free time” as they spend so much of it thinking about the tasks that they should have already accomplished. Instead of putting yourself in that hot seat, why not consider using your time to actually get some things accomplished instead?

That is what the eat the frog people do, and they love the results that they get from it. 

Who Should Use Eat The Frog Technique?

This method of time management and productivity is not limited to one group of people, though there are certain individuals who may benefit from it more than others. Anyone with a number of responsibilities should seriously consider getting on board with this method.

 

different people working on a same table

Think about the leader of a business, or perhaps a busy mom who is trying to juggle the schedules of all of her children. These are two very different individuals (in all likelihood), but that doesn’t mean that they can’t both benefit. In fact, both have similar schedule requirements in terms of getting their missions accomplished. The mom needs to keep a complex schedule of events together, and the business leader also needs to understand the importance of prioritizing some of the most burdensome tasks first. Both people have a lot of others counting on them to get it all done. 

Anyone who feels that they are not accomplishing enough because they get swamped by their daily tasks should feel like they have a right to try out these methods. They are not reserved for any special class of people, and everyone likes it when their day is just a little more productive. 

Groups of people who have found the eat the frog method to be most useful include: college students, business managers, religious leaders, artists, designers, freelancers, and overworked parents.

What all of these types of people have in common is that a lot is expected of them, and they are to fulfill their tasks if they want to move on to whatever enjoyment they can find for the remainder of their day. It is not easy being in the shoes of any of these groups of people, but at least they have a method that they can use to try to control some of the chaos that could otherwise take over everything that they do. 

What Are The Benefits of The Eat The Frog Technique?

People often want to know why they should use this method with the funny frog name to sort out their day compared to other methods. It is a fair and valid question, and it is why you should know about some of the major benefits that this specific method can bring to the table for you. If you know the upsides to this method, then you won’t want to let it go. 

  • Prioritizing Is Easier – You can more clearly see where your values are based on which tasks you prioritize, and which are allowed to fall further down your list. You might gain some insights into who you are as a person as a result. After all, you will be able to see where you actually want to put your time and energy when it is all laid out on the table. 

  • More Time For Fun Tasks – You don’t have to rush through your more enjoyable tasks if you have already taken care of the more stressful ones at the beginning of your day. This means you can actually stop and savor them a bit more. 

  • Near Instant Results – The results from using this method are practically instant. They have to be because you are actually putting into motion a plan that will create the most impact on you right from the start. 

7 Tips For Using Eat The Frog Method

Tip 1: Eat The Ugliest or Biggest Frog First

This means that you really need to take out the assignment that you know in your heart is the least desirable.

“If you have to choose between two frogs to eat, you should always eat the ugliest one first.”

For example, if you need to pay for a speeding ticket and also get a haircut, you should pay the speeding ticket first. Both will take time and cost you money, but the speedy ticket provides no clear benefit to you and is, therefore, the uglier frog.

Tip 2: Don’t Waste Time Doing Something Perfectly 

Sometimes, doing something good enough is all that you need to do to accomplish your goals. You shouldn’t put a lot of effort into a project that you may not need to do at all.

That is a wasted effort, and it isn’t going to be appreciated anyway. Besides that, this is an additional effort that you could put towards eliminating an ugly thing from your to-do list. 

Tip 3: Continue To Learn From Your Triumphs And Mistakes

The eat the frog method is a great way to learn from both your successes and your failures. As the results start to roll in from this technique, you can see where you have done well for yourself, and also where there is room for improvement.

person writing on a piece of paper with crumpled papers around

If you see that you continue to make some of the same mistakes time and time again, then perhaps it is time to learn from those errors and correct them.

Likewise, you should also try to pick up on some of the things you have done well, and try to duplicate that success again in the future so you don’t leave out any opportunity to continue to grow as a person. 

Tip 4: Bring Others Into The Practice

Most of us stick to our goals better when we have others to hold us accountable. For example, it is a lot easier to train for a 5k run if you have a partner who will go running with you each day.

The same can be said for practicing good time management as well. Get someone else who loves it as much as you do, and you will be in good shape. 

Tip 5: Don’t Deviate From The Plan 

Getting distracted and wanting to knock out a smaller task are natural urges, but you must resist them as much as possible, especially if the task isn’t so-called ugly. You cannot be successful with the eat the frog plan if you are not truly practicing it.

When you feel that you are struggling to stay on task with this plan, try to read about others who have also worked this plan to get some motivation to continue on. 

Tip 6: Read About Others Who Use The Same Plan 

To stay inspired when using this productivity method, you should read about others who are doing the same. There are a number of books, but you may also find utility in the countless Internet blogs and social media accounts about the topic as well. Reading what others have to say about this method may help you stay on track. 

Tip 7: Stick To The Routine Every Day

This is a lifestyle choice that you are making for the rest of your life. You should practice this method every day, and try to hold yourself accountable for it.

If you make some mistakes, that is okay but don’t convince yourself that you can let things slide too much. You have responsibilities that you should handle, and doing so is a daily practice.

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