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Why eating a frog can help you achieve more

Why eating a frog can help you achieve more

By: James Wondrasek / March 18, 2022

This productivity strategy comes from a late 18th century French writer, Nicholas Chamfort. His advice has been translated, misquoted and refined as it passed down through the ages until it is now most often found in this form:

“If it’s your job to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning. And If it’s your job to eat two frogs, it’s best to eat the biggest one first.”

It carries an earthy, humorous wisdom. Perhaps this is why it has been misattributed to Mark Twain, a common source of similar pithy phrases.

It simply means do the hard stuff, the daunting stuff, first. Which sounds a little too simple, but the strategy works by taking advantage of a bit of psychology and a pinch of physiology.

Building a habit that pays big dividends

We complain about email and meetings, but they are often the “productive” distractions we turn to when we are faced with a challenge. A challenge where decisions need to be made and hard work needs to be completed. We often use them as a gentle start to the day. Especially if you’ve subscribed to a bunch of industry newsletters. They’re full of useful information you might need to know and it *only* takes an hour to read them all.

Eating the frog first, starting your day with your biggest challenge, is powerful because it builds in you the habit of addressing the most important work first. This is exactly what you need to do to achieve your goals.

No worthy goal is without challenges. Building a working style where you meet those challenges early and without flinching can only make you unstoppable.

That pinch of physiology in eating the frog

One of the benefits of eating the frog first thing in the morning is that is when our mental clarity is at its highest. It is the best time to do challenging work that requires our full attention and focus.

You want to eat that frog before lunch and the afternoon slump kicks in. You might not finish your frog in one sitting, but the progress you make each morning will accumulate and eventually pay off when you successfully finish that particular frog.

There will be other frogs. There’s always more frogs. That’s why you need to build this habit.

Tomorrow’s a great day for frogs

It might be a bit late in the day to eat that frog. But you can be ready to start tomorrow. All you need to do is pick your frog – remember to start with the biggest and most challenging one – and block out time first thing tomorrow morning to get started on it. Maybe schedule in a nice little reward afterwards to help you face it.


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