133 Eat That Frog!

eatthatfrogby Brian Tracy, 2001

Eat That Frog! is one of those self-help type books I’ve encountered on the productivity/start-your-own-business websites I peruse. It’s been touted as a great instruction manual for learning how to get off your ass and start getting things done, and so I added it to my list of books that I should probably read. When a recent water shut-off at my apartment building forced me out for a day, I found myself browsing the shelves of a bookstore, where I grabbed this book and promptly read it cover to cover. It’s a slim volume and an easy read and although I personally didn’t learn a whole lot new from it, I can see why people find it valuable.

The concept of “eating the frog” is based on the idea that, for whatever goal you’re trying to accomplish, you do the most important, least pleasant tasks first. We’ve often seen it espoused that the morning is the best time to exercise and it’s not because there’s something magical about the morning hours – it’s because you have less time put it off and convince yourself not to do your workout if you complete it at the beginning of the day. You’re eating that exercise frog. I’m not going to lie, I find a lot of merit in this and it’s one of the main reasons I run soon after I get up. It’s also the reason why, when I was writing my theses in undergrad and grad school, I forced myself to work on a small section at the beginning of each day so that the work would just be done.

That’s my main disappointment with this book – many of the strategies Tracy details are not new or earth-shattering to me. That’s not because I’m some goody-goody who gets everything she needs done, but because I learned early on that procrastination is seriously detrimental to me. I don’t “work better” under pressure – I just cease to care about the work at all and get irrationally angry about having to do it. I also don’t do the following: have email notifications on my phone so that I’m compelled to interrupt my work to read every insignificant message that comes through; spend all of my waking hours on twitter or facebook; binge watch shows that I’m not interested in; say yes to things I don’t want to do. It’s not that I’m some perfect productivity mouse – I just give fewer fucks about meaningless things that put a serious dent in my own happiness.

All this isn’t to say that I didn’t take some good advice from this book. One of Tracy’s rules is that “Continuous learning is the minimum requirement for success in any field,” and it’s a good reminder to me that, not only can you never stop learning about your field, but you don’t have to know everything right now. Likewise, Tracy encourages readers to ask themselves, “What one skill, if I developed and did it in an excellent fashion, would have the greatest positive impact on my career?” For me the answer is easy: marketing and self-promotion. Because I can build a website and I can manage my money, but I hate talking to people and I especially hate talking about myself to people. That’s something I desperately need to work on because no one is going to promote my business better than me.

So, would I recommend Eat That Frog!? I’d say yes. It may not be terribly in-depth, but Tracy has some excellent ideas for those who can’t seem to accomplish much throughout their day. We live in a culture that conflates busy-ness with productivity, that instills a fear of missing out if we’re not connected 24 hours a day, that rewards the ability to “multitask” rather than the ability to concentrate on one thing and get it done right the first time. We’ve created the exact propensity for procrastination that Tracy cautions against, so it’s no surprise that most of us need some help unlearning the terrible habits our culture attempts to impress upon us every day.

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