Are you reading this article while you should be working on something more important? If so, it’s time you learned about Eat the Frog: the workplace productivity method that can help you reduce procrastination and all the stress it causes you. Once you’ve got to grips with the basics, read on for tips to introduce this simple, yet effective method to your workday.
I’ll do it later – an innocuous sounding phrase but one that can have a massive impact on your productivity. Putting off difficult tasks is one of the main reasons that workplace productivity falls, and if you’re a manager, it could be a reason that your team isn’t performing as it should. A recent study in the US showed that the average worker wastes 2.09 hours each day on “non-work” tasks: even if your team’s number is half that, it’s still costing you thousands of dollars per year.
Yes, distractions are everywhere – and the addictive nature of our online world is leading us straight into the traps. However, if you regularly find yourself scrolling social media, taking long breaks, or busying yourself with emails or minor tasks when there’s a job to be done; it could be time to try a new way. That’s where the Eat the Frog technique comes in. Read on to learn:
- What Eat the Frog means and why it’s important.
- The problems caused by procrastination at work.
- The benefits of using the Eat the Frog method.
- How you can start using Eat the Frog today.
- Why Eat the Frog may not be for you.
What Does Eat the Frog Mean?
Depending on who you ask, Eat the Frog could be the cure for procrastination or another self-help fad that wilts in the cold light of your workday. Either way, it’s a popular productivity technique that comes from an age-old principle: get the hard things done first. The general idea is that if you tackle the most challenging task in the morning while your energy is high, unproductive time caused by anxiety and procrastination will be reduced. Better still, with the most daunting task done early, the rest of the day will feel much more relaxed by comparison.
Although it sounds simple (and it’s something that people have been doing for centuries by different names), the technique has seen a revival in recent years, popularized by Brian Tracy in his book “Eat That Frog!: 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time.” Owing largely to the success of the book, more people than ever are using the Eat the Frog technique in their personal and professional lives.
So why are our amphibian friends back in vogue? The reason for that is simple: our online world makes it easier to procrastinate than ever before – and the modern office worker needs to take concrete steps to overcome the blockers.
The Procrastination Problem.
According to the consultancy experts at Solving Procrastination, Workplace procrastination is a phenomenon where people unnecessarily postpone dealing with work-related tasks.
Although it’s often attributed to a lack of drive or willingness to work, there are many factors that cause people to procrastinate. Some of these are to do with the task itself – for example if it is too large or overwhelming, or if the exact goals are unclear – while psychological factors such as anxiety or a fear of failure can also have an effect. External elements, such as notification-heavy apps or social media addiction add to the issue.
If you find yourself procrastinating, the good news is that you’re not alone: studies that indicate 20% of adults procrastinate chronically. The bad news is that your mental wellbeing is at risk. A 2007 survey showed that 94% of people felt that procrastination had a negative effect on their happiness.
So, procrastination makes us less productive, less happy, and (if this study on the economic effects of procrastination is to be believed) it makes us poorer too. As good a motivation as any to find a strategy to overcome overthinking and get more done.
Eat the Frog: A Good Productivity Technique?
There’s no doubt that many people benefit from Eat the Frog. Advocates for the technique appreciate the added focus on their work priorities and the stress-relieving effects of getting the most intimidating tasks out of the way as quickly as possible. If you try the method for yourself, you’ll probably notice one or more of the following:
- More priority focus. By tackling your most important or challenging task first, you ensure that you’re dedicating your peak energy and attention to tasks that make a difference to your team.
- Less procrastination. By starting the day with your “frog”, you simply don’t give yourself time to procrastinate. Better yet, completing a significant task early in the day can create a positive momentum that carries over to other tasks.
- Less stress. Procrastination causes stress and anxiety… which accumulates the longer you put something off. Completing the work that you’d otherwise be trying to avoid stops this from happening.
- More time. Without the time that you’d otherwise have spent procrastinating and avoiding work, who knows what else you could achieve?
How Can I Use the Eat the Frog Method at Work?
For improving your personal productivity, Eat the Frog is a simple method to start with. Here’s what you need to do:
- Identify the most challenging or important task on your to-do list. This is your frog.
- Make some time to get this task done. A true frog-eater would do this first thing in the morning, but you can add a little flexibility if you need to.
- Eliminate distractions. If you’re always looking at your phone… turn off your phone. If notifications break your focus… switch them off. From this point until completion, all that matters is your frog.
- Get your task done and move on with your day!
If you’re a manager looking for a way to boost your team’s productivity, elements of Eat the Frog can be used in your projects or daily work. Here are a few things you can do to help.
- Help your team prioritize. If you use a task management tool, tags and deadlines can help you to indicate which tasks are low-priority and which need addressing right away.
- Reduce distractions for your team. Introduce focus times or meeting free days that enable your team to apply their efforts effectively.
- Talk about it. If someone on your team is continually rushed or mentions struggling with procrastination, talk about ways to improve their personal productivity in a safe, judgment-free environment.
This article contains excellent advice for project managers about managing procrastination in teams.
Frogs on Your Agenda?
As a manager, it’s your job to guide your team to maximum productivity. However, on a team level, it’s hard to implement Eat the Frog in a structured task or project management environment. That’s because… everyone has a different frog to eat.
As such, bringing Eat the Frog into your workday is something that will happen on a personal level: for example with a to-do list or – if you’re feeling adventurous – a personal Kanban board. For example, with MeisterTask’s Agenda, selecting and completing which frog you want to eat is simple. You simply have to create a pin just for your frogs and gather your priority tasks there.
After that, your frog will appear on your Agenda – alongside any other tasks you put there – so you can immediately visualize the activities you need to tackle first.
Learn more about using Agenda in our Help Center.
Does Eat the Frog Always Work?
Sadly… no. Like any productivity technique, Eat the Frog might not work equally well for everyone or in every situation. Some people might find that they need a warm-up period in the morning before diving into a difficult task, or simply find that shifting the “big one” to the morning makes procrastination an all-day event. In more serious cases of procrastination – for example if your procrastination is caused by a serious anxiety or depression condition – you may want to seek more specific guidance.
Likewise, not all tasks can be classified as “frogs” – some might require collaboration, research, or other work before they can be completed. In this case, it’s best to break down large tasks into smaller segments, using the Eat the Frog method to control what you can actually influence yourself. In any case, it’s always a good idea to adapt productivity techniques to your personal working style.
Stay Hungry. Eat the Frog Today.
Ready to stop procrastinating and eat the frog? Or would you like to try some different productivity hacks before you swallow? Either way, check out some of these resources on workplace productivity from the experts at Meister:
- Workplace Productivity, Explained.
- The Pomodoro Technique: Can It Really Help You Get More Done?
- Time Blocking: What Is It – And How Can It Help You Stay on Top of Your Workload?
- Getting Things Done (GTD)… Is Productivity Really This Simple?
What is the Eat the Frog Method?
Eat the Frog is a productivity technique that emphasizes completing the most challenging tasks first. It is based on the principle that the majority of people will waste time and energy thinking about tasks they are trying to avoid, so by doing this straight away, they can reduce both stress and wasted time.
Does Eat the Frog Work?
Eat the Frog is regarded as an effective productivity method for tasks that you can complete independently and require significant focus time. However, you might find it difficult to apply the technique to tasks that require collaboration with other people, as they may have different priorities to you.
Is Eat the Frog the Best Productivity Method?
The “best” productivity method is the one that works for you. Before deciding on which technique you want to add to your daily routine, it’s best to try a variety of different methods and see which is the best fit. If Eat the Frog isn’t working for you, you could consider the Pomodoro Technique, time blocking, or the Get Things Done (GTD) approach.
How Do I Get Started with Eat the Frog?
Implementing the Eat the Frog method is reasonably simple. First you need to identify your most challenging or important task (the Frog) when you’re creating your to-do list for the day. After that, you should schedule time to complete the task, preferably first thing in the day. Make sure that nothing else is going to get in the way of you completing the task. After this, “all” you need to do is actually complete the task itself: to do this effectively, make sure to minimize distractions by putting away your phone or working in a quiet environment that helps you focus on your work.