For best results, eat the frog

From the Archives

Originally published November 15, 2015

I spontaneously took half a vacation day a few weeks ago because my supervisor and I were up-to-date on our projects and because she was going to be out of the office all day. That happened again last Friday. For the first time since I began working with her six months ago, my supervisor has said that we are ahead of our work. Until recently, she was skeptical every time I suggested that we could ever be ahead of our work. My colleagues have noticed her changed outlook, too, and they want to know how the transformation came about. When they ask me, I share the secret that has become the source of our productivity: We eat the frog.

In case you’re unfamiliar with the term, eating the frog means tackling your toughest, least desirable tasks and projects first. If you’ve ever prioritized tasks based on the things you enjoy doing, you know what happens: you stave off the inevitable long enough for a dark cloud to formulate over your head, and then you carry that cloud around as you seek other ways to procrastinate.

Do that within a day, and you get to go home in a slump over what lies ahead of you the next day. Do that all week, and you only enjoy the anticipation of the weekend momentarily. Eating the frog means doing the least pleasant tasks first and early, when you’re primed and productive. Spend the rest of your day or week knocking out the more pleasant tasks as if swatting flies. Not only will you have accomplished a lion’s share of your work by mid-week or so, but you’ll also reap the benefit of feeling satisfied and even more energetic by the weekend. Reduced stress. Reduced slump. Reduced dark clouds.

Anyway, my supervisor used to put off unpleasant work. Now she dives into it. Together, we unravel accounting mysteries and unearth hidden gems of downtime that we have turned into opportunities for improving our work lives and those of our colleagues around us. It’s out of the bag now: our secret to stealing away early on a Friday afternoon is going after the worst of the worst items on our lists and spending the rest of our time picking at the low-hanging fruit that’s left afterward.

So go ahead and fill your water bottle (or cup, as is my case) to ease the burden ahead of you, and eat that frog. Pick it clean. Then go enjoy a three-day weekend. You’ll thank me – and yourself – later.

Update: Just so you know, “Eat That Frog!” is a book by Brian Tracy. You can find it on Amazon, and if you haven’t already, I highly recommend your reading it. I plan to read it someday soon – when I stop putting it off.