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Eat That Frog!

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Stop Procrastinating

Get More of the Important Things Done—Today!

There just isn't enough time for everything on our to-do list—and there never will be. Successful people don't try to do everything. They learn to focus on the most important tasks and make sure those get done. They eat their frogs.

There's an old saying that if the first thing you do each morning is eat a live frog, you'll have the satisfaction of knowing you're done with the worst thing you'll have to do all day. For Tracy, eating a frog is a metaphor for tackling your most challenging task—but also the one that can have the greatest positive impact on your life. Eat That Frog! shows you how to organize each day so you can zero in on these critical tasks and accomplish them efficiently and effectively.

In this fully revised and updated edition, Tracy adds two new chapters. The first explains how you can use technology to remind yourself of what is most important and protect yourself from what is least important. The second offers advice for maintaining focus in our era of constant distractions, electronic and otherwise.

But one thing remains unchanged: Brian Tracy cuts to the core of what is vital to effective time management: decision, discipline, and determination. This life-changing book will ensure that you get more of your important tasks done—today!

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21 Chapters

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1 Set the Table



Before you can determine your “frog” and get on with the job of eating it, you have to decide exactly what you want to achieve in each area of your life. Clarity is perhaps the most important concept in personal productivity. The number one reason why some people get more work done faster is because they are absolutely clear about their goals and objectives, and they don’t deviate from them. The greater clarity you have regarding what you want and the steps you will have to take to achieve it, the easier it will be for you to overcome procrastination, eat your frog, and complete the task before you.

A major reason for procrastination and lack of motivation is vagueness, confusion, and fuzzy-mindedness about what you are trying to do and in what order and for what reason. You must avoid this common condition with all your strength by striving for ever-greater clarity in your major goals and tasks.

Here is a great rule for success: Think on paper.


2 Plan Every Day in Advance



You have heard the old question, “How do you eat an elephant?” The answer is “One bite at a time!”

How do you eat your biggest, ugliest frog? The same way: you break it down into specific step-by-step activities and then you start on the first one.

Your mind, your ability to think, plan, and decide, is your most powerful tool for overcoming procrastination and increasing your productivity. Your ability to set goals, make plans, and take action on them determines the course of your life. The very act of thinking and planning unlocks your mental powers, triggers your creativity, and increases your mental and physical energies.

Conversely, as Alec Mackenzie wrote, “Taking action without thinking things through is a prime source of problems.”

Your ability to make good plans before you act is a measure of your overall competence. The better the plan you have, the easier it is for you to overcome procrastination, to get started, to eat your frog, and then to keep going.


3 Apply the 80/20 Rule to Everything



The 80/20 Rule is one of the most helpful of all concepts of time and life management. It is also called the “Pareto Principle” after the Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto, who first wrote about it in 1895. Pareto noticed that people in his society seemed to divide naturally into what he called the “vital few,” the top 20 percent in terms of money and influence, and the “trivial many,” the bottom 80 percent.

He later discovered that virtually all economic activity was subject to this principle as well. For example, this principle says that 20 percent of your activities will account for 80 percent of your results, 20 percent of your customers will account for 80 percent of your sales, 20 percent of your products or services will account for 80 percent of your profits, 20 percent of your tasks will account for 80 percent of the value of what you do, and so on. This means that if you have a list of ten items to do, two of those items will turn out to be worth much more than the other eight items put together.


4 Consider the Consequences



The mark of the superior thinker is his or her ability to accurately predict the consequences of doing or not doing something. The potential consequences of any task or activity are the key determinants of how important a task really is to you and to your company. This way of evaluating the significance of a task is how you determine what your next frog really is.

Dr. Edward Banfield of Harvard University, after more than fifty years of research, concluded that a “long time perspective” is the most accurate single predictor of upward social and economic mobility in America. A long time perspective turns out to be more important than family background, education, race, intelligence, connections, or virtually any other single factor in determining your success in life and at work.

Your attitude toward time, your “time horizon,” has an enormous impact on your behavior and your choices. People who take a long-term view of their lives and careers always seem to make much better decisions about their time and activities than people who give very little thought to the future.


5 Practice Creative Procrastination



Creative procrastination is one of the most effective of all personal performance techniques. It can change your life.

The fact is that you can’t do everything that you have to do. You have to procrastinate on something. Therefore, deliberately and consciously procrastinate on small tasks. Put off eating smaller or less ugly frogs. Eat the biggest and ugliest frogs before anything else. Do the worst first!

Everyone procrastinates. The difference between high performers and low performers is largely determined by what they choose to procrastinate on.

Since you must procrastinate anyway, decide today to procrastinate on low-value activities. Decide to procrastinate on, outsource, delegate, and eliminate those activities that don’t make much of a contribution to your life in any case. Get rid of the tadpoles and focus on the frogs.

Here is a key point. To set proper priorities, you must set posteriorities as well. A priority is something that you do more of and sooner, while a posteriority is something that you do less of and later, if at all.


6 Use the ABCDE Method Continually



The more thought you invest in planning and setting priorities before you begin, the more important things you will do and the faster you will get them done once you get started. The more important and valuable a task is to you, the more likely you will be motivated to overcome procrastination and launch yourself into the job.

The ABCDE Method is a powerful priority setting technique that you can use every single day. This technique is so simple and effective that it can, all by itself, make you one of the most efficient and effective people in your field.

The power of this technique lies in its simplicity. Here’s how it works: You start with a list of everything you have to do for the coming day. Think on paper.

You then place an A, B, C, D, or E next to each item on your list before you begin the first task.

An “A” item is defined as something that is very important, something that you must do. This is a task that will have serious positive or negative consequences if you do it or fail to do it, like visiting a key customer or finishing a report that your boss needs for an upcoming board meeting. These items are the frogs of your life.


7 Focus on Key Result Areas



“Why am I on the payroll?” This is one of the most important questions you can ever ask and answer, over and over again, throughout your career.

As it happens, most people are not sure exactly why they are on the payroll. But if you are not crystal clear about why you are on the payroll and what results you have been hired to accomplish, it is very hard for you to perform at your best, get paid more, and get promoted faster.

In simple terms, you have been hired to get specific results. A wage or a salary is a payment for a specific quality and quantity of work that can be combined with the work of others to create a product or service that customers are willing to pay for.

Your job can be broken down into about five to seven key result areas, seldom more. These represent the results that you absolutely, positively have to get to fulfill your responsibilities and make your maximum contribution to your organization.

A key result area is defined as something for which you are completely responsible. If you don’t do it, it doesn’t get done. A key result area is an activity that is under your control. It produces an output that becomes an input or a contributing factor to the work of others.


8 Apply the Law of Three



Three core tasks that you perform contain most of the value that you contribute to your business or organization. Your ability to accurately identify these three key tasks and then to focus on them most of the time is essential for you to perform at your best. Let me tell you a true story.

Three months after her first full-day coaching session with me in San Diego, Cynthia told the group a story: “When I came here ninety days ago, you claimed that you would show me how to double my income and my time off within twelve months. This sounded completely unrealistic, but I was willing to give it a try.

“On the first day, you asked me to write down a list of everything that I did over the course of a week or a month. I came up with seventeen tasks that I was responsible for. My problem was that I was completely overwhelmed with work. I was working ten to twelve hours per day, six days per week, and not spending enough time with my husband and my two young children. But I didn’t see any way out.


9 Prepare Thoroughly Before You Begin



One of the best ways for you to overcome procrastination and get more things done faster is to have everything you need at hand before you begin. When you are fully prepared, you are like a cocked gun or an archer with an arrow pulled back taut in the bow. You will be amazed at what you achieve in the months and years ahead. You just need one small mental push to get started on your highest-value tasks.

This is like getting everything ready to prepare a complete meal. You set all the ingredients out on the counter in front of you and then begin putting the meal together, one step at a time.

Begin by clearing off your desk or workspace so that you have only one task in front of you. If necessary, put everything else on the floor or on a table behind you.

Gather all the information, reports, details, papers, and work materials that you will require to complete the job. Have them at hand so you can reach them without getting up or moving around. Be sure that you have all the writing materials, log-in information, access codes, e-mail addresses, and everything else you need to start working and continue working until the job is done.


10 Take It One Oil Barrel at a Time



There is an old saying that “by the yard it’s hard; but inch by inch, anything’s a cinch!”

One of the best ways to overcome procrastination is for you to get your mind off the huge task in front of you and focus on a single action that you can take. One of the best ways to eat a large frog is for you to take it one bite at a time.

Lao-tzu wrote, “A journey of a thousand leagues begins with a single step.” This is a great strategy for overcoming procrastination and getting more things done faster.

Many years ago, driving an old Land Rover, I crossed the heart of the Sahara Desert, the Tanezrouft, deep in modern-day Algeria. By that time, the desert had been abandoned by the French for years, and the original refueling stations were empty and shuttered.

The desert was 500 miles across in a single stretch, without water, food, a blade of grass, or even a fly. It was totally flat, like a broad, yellow sand parking lot that stretched to the horizon in all directions.


11 Upgrade Your Key Skills



Upgrading your skills is one of the most important personal productivity principles of all. Learn what you need to learn so that you can do your work in an excellent fashion. The better you become at eating a particular type of frog, the more likely you are to just plunge in and get it done.

A major reason for procrastination is a feeling of inadequacy, a lack of confidence, or an inability in a key area of a task. Feeling weak or deficient in a single area is enough to discourage you from starting the job at all.

Continually upgrade your skills in your key result areas. Remember, however good you are today, your knowledge and skills are becoming obsolete at a rapid rate. As Pat Riley, the basketball coach, said, “Anytime you stop striving to get better, you’re bound to get worse.”

One of the most helpful of all time management techniques is for you to get better at your key tasks. Personal and professional improvement is one of the best time savers there is. The better you are at a key task, the more motivated you are to launch into it. The better you are, the more energy and enthusiasm you have. When you know that you can do a job well, you find it easier to overcome procrastination and get the job done faster and better than under any other circumstances.


12 Identify Your Key Constraints



Between where you are today and any goal or objective that you want to accomplish, there is one major constraint that must be overcome before you can achieve that major goal. Your job is to identify it clearly.

What is holding you back? What sets the speed at which you achieve your goals? What determines how fast you move from where you are to where you want to go? What stops you or holds you back from eating the frogs that can really make a difference? Why aren’t you at your goal already?

These are some of the most important questions you will ever ask and answer on your way to achieving high levels of personal productivity and effectiveness. Whatever you have to do, there is always a limiting factor that determines how quickly and well you get it done. Your job is to study the task and identify the limiting factor or constraint within it. You must then focus all of your energies on alleviating that single choke point.

In virtually every task, large or small, a single factor sets the speed at which you achieve the goal or complete the job. What is it? Concentrate your mental energies on that one key area. This can be the most productive use of your time and talents.


13 Put the Pressure on Yourself



The world is full of people who are waiting for someone to come along and motivate them to be the kind of people they wish they could be. The problem is that no one is coming to the rescue.

These people are waiting for a bus on a street where no buses pass. If they don’t take charge of their lives and put the pressure on themselves, they can end up waiting forever. And that is what most people do.

Only about 2 percent of people can work entirely without supervision. We call these people “leaders.” This is the kind of person you are meant to be and that you can be, if you decide to be.

To reach your full potential, you must form the habit of putting the pressure on yourself and not waiting for someone else to come along and do it for you. You must choose your own frogs and then make yourself eat them in their order of importance.

See yourself as a role model. Raise the bar on yourself. The standards you set for your own work and behavior should be higher than anyone else could set for you.


14 Motivate Yourself into Action



To perform at your best, you must become your own personal cheerleader. You must develop a routine of coaching yourself and encouraging yourself to play at the top of your game.

Most of your emotions, positive or negative, are determined by how you talk to yourself on a minute-to-minute basis. It is not what happens to you but the way that you interpret the things that are happening to you that determines how you feel. Your version of events largely determines whether these events motivate or de-motivate you, whether they energize or de-energize you.

To keep yourself motivated, you must resolve to become a complete optimist. You must decide to respond positively to the words, actions, and reactions of the people and situations around you. You must refuse to let the unavoidable difficulties and setbacks of daily life affect your mood or emotions.

Your level of self-esteem, how much you like and respect yourself, is central to your levels of motivation and persistence. You should talk to yourself positively all the time to boost your self-esteem. Say, “I like myself! I like myself!” over and over until you begin to believe it and behave like a person with a high-performance personality.


15 Technology Is a Terrible Master



Technology can be your best friend or your worst enemy. Technology becomes the enemy when we give in to an obsessive need to communicate continually. This compulsion to stay plugged in leaves us all psychologically breathless. We have no time to stop, smell the roses, and collect our thoughts.

The key is to keep your relationship with technology under control. Bill Gross, who managed more than $600 billion in fixed-income funds and bonds when he was with PIMCO, is famous for exercising regularly and meditating daily to keep centered while using no technology at all. Despite turning off all his devices, he never misses an important message.

For you to stay calm, clearheaded, and capable of performing at your best, detach on a regular basis from the technology that overwhelms you. A researcher who asked a group of CEOs and entrepreneurs to unplug from technology found they had improved memory, deeper relationships, better sleep, and a greater likelihood of making life-transforming decisions.1


16 Technology Is a Wonderful Servant



You must discipline yourself to treat technology as a servant, not as a master. The purpose of technology is to make your life smoother and easier, not to create complexity, confusion, and stress.

Usually, to get more done of higher value, you have to stop doing things of lower value. Keep asking yourself, “What’s important here?” What is most important for you to accomplish at work? What is important in your personal life? If you could do only one or two of the activities available to you, which ones would they be?

Use your technological tools to regularly remind yourself of what is most important and protect yourself from what is least important. Technology can be a simple way to get control of your communications, your time, and even your emotions.

Clear your digital workspace as you would your physical desk; close every program not needed for the task at hand. Block the websites that distract you the most. Make sure that only the communication channels you need to complete your task are open. Most tasks require some communication, but having ten different ways to communicate is overkill. Once only relevant information is visible on your screen, arrange your windows for perfect workflow.


17 Focus Your Attention



Focused attention is the key to high performance. The “attraction of distraction,” the lure of electronic and other interruptions, leads to diffused attention, a wandering mind, a lack of focus, and, ultimately, under-achievement and failure.

Current research proves that continuously responding and reacting to e-mails, telephone calls and texts, and instant messages (IM) has a negative effect on your brain, shortening your attention span and making it difficult, if not impossible, for you to complete the tasks upon which your future and your success depend.1

When you check your e-mail first thing in the morning or when you respond to the bell or other sound that indicates an incoming e-mail or message, your brain releases a tiny shot of dopamine. This shot gives you a pleasant “buzz.” It stimulates your curiosity and causes you to react and respond immediately. You instantly forget whatever else you were doing and turn your full attention to the new message.


18 Slice and Dice the Task



A major reason for procrastinating on big, important tasks is that they appear so large and formidable when you first approach them.

One technique that you can use to cut a big task down to size is the “salami slice” method of getting work done. With this method, you lay out the task in detail, writing down every step in order, and then resolve to do just one slice of the job for the time being, like eating a roll of salami one slice at a time—or like eating an elephant one bite at a time.

Psychologically, you will find it easier to do a single, small piece of a large project than to start on the whole job. Often, once you have started and completed a single part of the job, you will feel like doing just one more slice. Soon, you will find yourself working through the job one part at a time, and before you know it, the job will be completed.

An important point to remember is that you have deep within you an “urge to completion,” or what is often referred to as a “compulsion to closure.” This means that you actually feel happier and more powerful when you start and complete a task of any kind. You satisfy a deep subconscious need to bring finality to a job or project. This sense of completion or closure motivates you to start the next task or project and then to persist toward final completion. This act of completion triggers the release of endorphins in your brain, mentioned earlier.


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