Eat That Frog! is a great book by Brian Tracy that teaches you how to manage your time better.
It’s a relatively short book that contains 21 basic steps for better time management.
In this Eat That Frog! summary, I will go through each chapter and give you the main points.
Table of Contents
Let’s start: Eat That Frog! – The Basics
The title of the book is based on a quote by Mark Twain who said that if the first thing you do in your day is to eat a frog, you can go through your day knowing that is probably going to be the worst thing you have to do that day.
We all have tasks that are ugly and hard. Tracy says that if we want to be successful, we have to eat those tasks, or frogs, first. We should get them done and out of the way, then move on.
To summarize the entire book
Tracy summarizes the book very succulently in the introduction when he says the following:
“Your ability to select your most important task at each moment, and then to get started on that task and to get it done both quickly and well, will probably have more of an impact on your success than any other quality or skill you can develop.”
The rest of the book builds on that one statement.
1. “Set The Table”
The first chapter starts with a very important step – knowing where you want to go.
To do this, set your goals and write them down.
Set a deadline, make a list of everything you need to do to reach those goals and make a plan. Then take action and do something about your goal every day.
“One of the very worst uses of time is to do something very well that need not be done at all.”
If you don’t have a direction, you won’t get anywhere.
When you set goals and write them down, you know where you want to go and can make sure that the tasks you choose move you in the right direction.
2. “Plan Every Day in Advance”
To be effective, you need to plan your day in advance. Tracy says that every minute that you take planning saves you 10 minutes when you start taking action.
Tracy suggests using lists – a master list, a monthly list, a weekly list, and a daily list.
- The master list is where you put every task you need to do.
- The monthly list is made at the end of one month for the tasks that need to be done in the next month.
- The weekly list is put together before the week starts and contains the tasks that you need to do for that week.
- The daily list is written (ideally) the night before and contains the tasks for that particular day.
How to use the lists
To use the lists, you move tasks from the master list to the monthly list, then you move from the monthly to the weekly list, then you move them to the daily list for that particular day.
It’s not that you have to know exactly what you are going to do that week or month by the day. You can be flexible and change as needed.
But pulling from the lists helps us focus on the tasks that move us toward our goals versus doing the tasks that are most urgent and visible (which may not be important).
Another tip Tracy gives us in this chapter is to help us complete projects. He says that whenever we get a project, we should write out every task that will need to be done for that project and lay them out in sequence.
This makes it easier to plan and implement the project.
3. “Apply the 80/20 Rule to Everything”
The Pareto principle (also known as the 80/20 rule) says that 20% of our effort makes up for 80% of our accomplishments.
Often people focus on activity versus accomplishment. We can be busy, but if we aren’t focusing on what’s important, our 20%, then we aren’t really being productive.
A rule to follow (to rule them all..)
One rule to help us focus on the 20% is to give up clearing up the small tasks first.
Frequently those tasks are the 80% that only produce 20% of our results. Instead, focus on what’s really important.
4. “Consider the Consequences”
We should choose our tasks and actions based on long-term thinking, not short-term.
It’s easy to choose the easy tasks because they are, well, easy. However, if we focus on easy tasks for short-term gratification, we won’t progress toward where we want to go.
There will always be more to do
There will always be more tasks to do and more actions to take.
Tracy says we should obey the law of Forced Efficiency: “There is never enough time to do everything, but there is always enough time to do the most important thing.”
Procrastinate on unimportant tasks and focus on only doing what is most important (as much as possible).
3 great questions to ask ourselves
In this chapter, Tracy also gives 3 questions to ask ourselves for greater effectiveness and productivity:
- “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?”
Tracy calls question 3 the core question of time management.
5. “Practice Creative Procrastination”
Tracy continues on the theme he mentioned in Chapter 4 about putting off unimportant tasks. He says we should “procrastinate on purpose”.
He summarizes the principle with this one rule:
“You can get your time and your life under control only to the degree to which you discontinue lower-value activities.”
Focus on the important tasks. Put off the tasks that aren’t important and won’t push you toward your goals.
6. “Use the ABCDE Method Continually”
When organizing your list for the day, Tracy recommends using the “ABCDE” method.
For each item on your list, write A, B, C, D, or E.
- “A” tasks are very important tasks that you must do, and there could be serious consequences if you do or don’t do them.
- “B” tasks are tasks that you should do but only have mild consequences.
- “C” tasks are tasks that would be nice to do, such as phoning a friend, having lunch with a coworker, etc., but don’t have any consequences either way to your work.
- “D” tasks are tasks that can be delegated to someone else.
- “E” tasks are tasks you can eliminate and it won’t matter if you do.
If you have more than 1 “A” task, for example, number them “A-1”, “A-2”, and so on in order of importance.
Then, when you start doing your list, start with “A” or “A-1” and move through the list. Don’t work on “B” tasks until “A” tasks are complete.
7. “Focus on Key Result Areas”
You need to know what the key result areas for your job are. What are the most important responsibilities and tasks for your position? Why were you hired?
Take some time to think about and write down your key result areas. Then, talk to your boss and subordinates to make sure you all are in agreement and on the same page.
Then focus on them as much as possible.
You are limited by your weakest key result area
Take note, however, that your weakest key result area will limit how far you can go with the others. What skill or area is holding you back?
Tracy asks “What one skill, if I developed and did it in an excellent fashion, would have the greatest positive impact on my career?”
8. “Apply the Law of Three”
Out of all of the work that we do at our job, there are three core tasks that we do that contribute the most to the value that we give to our organization.
Take time to think: what three tasks do you do that contribute the most and produce the most value?
After you discover your three core tasks, explore how you can focus more on those tasks and eliminate or delegate the others.
Double the work, double the pay
Tracy gives an example story of a lady who discovered her three main tasks.
After discovering her three core tasks, she went and discussed them with her boss. He agreed that they were her core tasks.
She then asked him to help her delegate the other tasks so that she could focus on her core three. She also said that she believed she could double her contribution and that, if she did, she would like to get paid double.
Her boss agreed.
She doubled her contribution and doubled her pay.
9. “Prepare Thoroughly Before You Begin”
Before starting a task, make sure you have everything you need prepared and ready to go.
Clean off your desk and have only what you need for the task at hand on the desk, and make sure you have everything you need for the task.
Make sure you are comfortable, then begin.
10. “Take it One Oil Barrel at a Time”
Tracy tells the story of when he crossed a 500-mile stretch of the Sahara Desert in a land rover.
Because of the sand, the French years ago had placed oil barrels 5 kilometers apart to help keep people from getting lost.
Tracy said that as you drove, you could see 2 barrels, the one you just passed, and the one ahead of you.
In the same way, when you have a large project to complete, break it down. Take it step by step, one task, one oil barrel, at a time.
11. “Upgrade Your Key Skills”
We should always be learning and increasing our skills in our key result areas. Whether through books, audiobooks while driving, and/or going to seminars and conferences, find ways to improve your skills.
12. “Leverage Your Special Talents”
Find what you are good at, talented at, and enjoy doing. Focus on and grow your skills in these areas.
13. “Identify Your Key Constraints”
What is the limiting factor, the one thing, that slows you down?
It could be internal, such as your skills or habits or discipline, or it could be external, such as government regulations, an inability of a coworker, and so on.
Find out what the limiting factor is, and find a way to alleviate it.
The problem is usually us
It’s easy to focus on the problems around us, but Tracy says that 80% of constraints are internal. Look and see how you may be holding back progress, whether it’s a lack of skill or ability, a bad habit, or something else.
14. “Put the Pressure on Yourself”
You need to put pressure on yourself to put these principles into practice. Don’t wait for someone else to make you or motivate you. Just do it.
Work hard. Go the extra mile. Create imaginary deadlines and meet them. Get things done.
15. “Maximize Your Personal Powers”
Sometimes people believe that if they work extra long hours, they will accomplish more.
However, you can often get more done by stopping, getting some rest and sleep, and starting fresh the next day.
If you want to work at your max, make sure to get enough rest, eat well, and exercise. This will help you stay focused and have the energy to get things done.
16. “Motivate Yourself into Action”
If we want to perform our best, we need to be our own cheerleader. Most of our emotions are determined by how we talk to ourselves.
If we are negative and talk to ourselves negatively, we are going to have a negative perspective. If we are positive and build ourselves up, we are going to have a more positive perspective and perform better.
Resolve to be cheerful and upbeat, no matter the circumstances. Look for the good in every situation, for the solution to every problem.
17. “Get Out of the Technological Time Sink”
Don’t be a slave to technology.
Technology provides useful tools, but we can easily become enslaved to our phones, emails, or other technology. When that happens, our focus often tilts toward the unimportant instead of the most important.
We react and focus on the “urgent” instead of what we need to do.
Be proactive instead of reactive
Set blocks of time away from your email and phone to focus on your most important tasks.
Tracy says that (applying the 80/20 rule) 80% of emails don’t even need to be opened, and 20% of those (4% of all your emails) require an immediate response.
Take time away
Take time to get away from technology. Turn it off for a day or weekend or while you are on vacation.
Remember, rule your technology, or it will rule you.
18. “Slice and Dice the Task”
Some tasks are hard to start because they seem so large.
To combat this resistance, use the salami or Swiss cheese method.
The salami method
With the salami method, you lay out the task in detail, all the steps, and take one slice at a time. You focus on just doing one step.
The Swiss cheese method
The Swiss cheese method is similar. With this method, you try to put a hole in the task by just working on it for 5 minutes, or 10, or however long.
The great part about these methods is our desire for completion. Often, once we get started, we get the momentum to keep going and finish the project. If not, then we can just set another time to take a slice or punch a hole.
19. “Create Large Chunks of Time”
Multitasking doesn’t help – it hurts.
When we are constantly switching tasks, jumping from one task to the next without finishing, we are not more productive, but less.
Instead, set blocks of time for the different tasks that you need to accomplish.
Set a time to phone prospects, look at emails, work on reports, or whatever you need to do.
This will give you focused, uninterrupted time, and it will allow you to give your full attention to the task at hand.
20. “Develop a Sense of Urgency”
If you want to be productive, you need to develop a sense of urgency.
Unproductive people sit around and talk about what they are going to do.
Highly productive people take time to think and plan on their priorities, but then they take action. They don’t sit around and waste time on useless tasks. They get things done.
You need to do the same. Be a person of action, and get things done.
21. “Single Handle Every Task”
When you start a task, focus on it until it’s done. Work on it till it’s 100% complete.
The hardest part of a task to overcome is the initial inertia when you start the task. If you quit and do it later, then you will waste time looking back at where you stopped and then have to overcome that initial inertia again.
If you focus on one task until it gets done, you bypass those problems and accomplish more in less time.
Good time management is not complicated.
Know what your goals, priorities, and most important tasks are, and do them. Focus on the most important, and procrastinate on the rest.
To repeat the quote from Tracy we gave at the beginning:
“..your ability to select your most important task at each moment, and then to get started on that task and to get it done both quickly and well, will probably have more of an impact on your success than any other quality or skill you can develop.”
This book and its steps help you do that.
It’s worth the read
While we did cover the basics of what this book discusses, we only scratched the surface. I highly recommend you buy the book or get it from your library and read it. The action steps and questions at the end of the chapters are worth it on their own.
You can order the book here on Amazon.
He actually has a workbook that goes with it (though I’ve never used it). If interested, you can check it out on Amazon here.
What step are you going to take?
What step are you going to take next to be more productive and manage your time better? Let us know in the comments below.