Eat That Frog Book Review - The Hello World of productivity

5 minute read

At certain points in life, what you choose to focus on exerts significant leverage on your attitude going forward, and this book can help you get on a productive, focused track in an afternoon or so.

Eat that frog book cover

The Author (from Wikipedia): Brian Tracy is a Canadian-American motivational public speaker and self-development author. Brian Tracy is the Chairman and Chief executive officer (CEO) of Brian Tracy International, a company he founded in 1984 in Vancouver, Canada. Brian Tracy International sells counseling on leadership, selling, self-esteem, goals, strategy, creativity, and success psychology.

Before we begin our review, we need to understand one thing: this book is over 15 years old now. This means that a lot of the things that we nowadays take for granted in terms of productivity techniques were still being developed and popularized, and this book certainly had its part in this process due to its 1.6 million+ copies sold.

The book opens by claiming that Mark Twain once said that if the first thing you do each morning is to eat a live frog, you can go through the day with the satisfaction of knowing that is probably the worst thing that is going to happen to you all day long (Quote Investigator disagrees on that, though). The book then builds on this idea by putting ahead several techniques that can make it easier to swallow this frog.

These are the 21 tips the book details in each chapter:

  1. Set the Table
  2. Plan Every Day in Advance
  3. Apply the 80/20 Rule to Everything
  4. Consider the Consequences
  5. Practice Creative Procrastination
  6. Use the ABCDE Method Continually
  7. Focus on Key Result Areas
  8. Apply the Law of Three
  9. Prepare Thoroughly Before You Begin
  10. Take It One Oil Barrel at a Time
  11. Upgrade Your Key Skills
  12. Identify Your Key Constraints
  13. Put the Pressure on Yourself
  14. Motivate Yourself into Action
  15. Technology Is a Terrible Master
  16. Technology Is a Wonderful Servant
  17. Focus Your Attention
  18. Slice and Dice the Task
  19. Create Large Chunks of Time
  20. Develop a Sense of Urgency
  21. Single Handle Every Task

All of these tips are great on their own (and almost all of them quite self-explanatory) and they might work for different people at different points in the productivity scale. For example, the first one, “Set the table”, explains how you can achieve clarity by thinking on paper and writing down your goals before you set out to achieve them.

Structuring ideas

My only major criticism about this book is that it would benefit greatly from a little more structure: grouping these tips in a coherent framework could make them easier to assess and remember. So, here’s how I would go about organizing the ideas in the book:

Step 1: Prepare

  1. Set the Table: Think on paper, write down your goals in core parts of your life such as carreer, relationships or health.
  2. Plan Every Day in Advance: Take a few minutes out of your evening to plan the following day.

Step 2: Prioritize

  1. Apply the 80/20 Rule to Everything: Always resist the temptation to clear up small things first.
  2. Consider the Consequences: Your most important tasks have the most serious consequences, and you need to focus on these above everything else.
  3. Practice Creative Procrastination: Procrastinate on tasks of low value.
  4. Use the ABCDE method: Take some time to organize all of your tasks by value and priority.

The ABCDE Method is a powerful priority setting technique that you can use every single day. 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. If you have more than one A task, you prioritize these tasks by writing “A-1,” “A-2,” “A-3,” and so on in front of each item.

  1. Focus on key results areas: Focus on results that you must have to perform well and work on them all day long.
  2. Apply the law of three: Identify three things you do in your work that account for the majority of your contribution, and get them done before anything else.

Step 3: Execute

  1. Prepare thoroughly before you begin: Have everything you need at hand before you start.
  2. Take it one oil barrel at a time: You can accomplish the biggest and most complicated job if you just complete it one step at a time.
  3. Put the pressure on yourself: Imagine that you have to leave town for a month, and work as if you had to get your major task completed before you left.
  4. Motivate yourself into action: Be your own cheerleader. Look for the good in every situation.
  5. Technology is a terrible master: Take back your time from enslaving technological addictions.
  6. Technology is a wonderful servant: Use your technological tools to confront yourself with what is most important and protect yourself from what is least important.
  7. Focus your attention: Stop the interruptions and distractions that interfere with completing your most important tasks.
  8. Slice and dice the task : Break large, complex tasks down into bite-sized pieces, and then do just one small part of the task to get started.
  9. Create large chunks of time: Organize your days around large blocks of time so you can concentrate for extended periods on your most important tasks.
  10. Develop a sense of urgency: Make a habit of moving fast on your key tasks. Become known as a person who does things quickly and well.

Step 4: Iterate

  1. Upgrade your key skills: The more knowledgeable and skilled you become at your key tasks, the faster you start them and the sooner you get them done.
  2. Identify your key constraints: Determine the bottlenecks or choke points, internal or external, that set the speed at which you achieve your most important goals, and focus on alleviating them.

The Golden Rule

  1. Single handle every task: Set clear priorities, start immediately on your most important task, and then work without stopping until the job is 100 percent complete. This is the real key to high performance and maximum personal productivity.

Broad, but shallow

The most important thing you need to know about Eat that Frog is that it’s a very broad, but also very shallow book. What this means is that if you aren’t a huge fan of personal productivity you’ll find a lot of value from this, but it’s unlikely to be of much use to productivity aficionados.

Thanks for reading! If you have any questions or improvements to add to this review, don’t hesitate to open an issue on my blog’s Github repo!