If you’ve heard the term “Eat the Frog” making its way around the internet, you might be a bit confused — and possibly a little concerned.

Rest assured, no animals were harmed in the making of this peculiarly-named productivity method.

In fact, there are plenty of other odd names we’ve given to simple and effective ways to fight procrastination. There’s Francesco Cirillo’s tomato-themed Pomodoro technique, The Checklist Manifesto, and countless others.

Still, you may be wondering: what does eating frogs have to do with managing more productive teams?

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What does Eat the Frog mean?

Many credit self-help author Brian Tracy with coining the term “Eat the Frog” in his best-selling book Eat That Frog!: 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time.

However, he’s been quick to attribute the concept to a popular Mark Twain quote:

“Eat a live frog first thing in the morning, and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.”

If you know anything about Mark Twain, he’s crafted a legacy based on characters who work smart, not hard.

As a manager, you probably pride yourself on how well you delegate tasks to others, but sometimes you have to Eat the Frog (or paint the fence, if you’re more of a Tom Sawyer fan).

Take this advice from Brian Tracy and Mark Twain

In Tracy’s eyes, Twain’s quote is a commentary on procrastination. Unfortunately, we can’t always pass off the work we don’t want to do. In some cases, that’s a blessing in disguise.

That’s why Tracy suggests that we get our largest and most critical tasks out of the way first. An important task might feel like eating a frog at the time, but it’s essential for getting things done throughout the rest of your day.

Brian Tracy on procrastination

How to start using the Eat the Frog method

Ultimately, Eat the Frog involves breaking your tasks down in order of priority. Here’s how to get started.

1. Put your focus on the most difficult task first

Take some time at the end of each day to rank your tasks for the following day based on priority. It can be tedious at first, but this small act can help you hit the ground running each morning.

2. Eat that frog every morning

When you wake up the next day, focus on your most difficult task first. You might need a cup of coffee (or two) to get motivated, but you’ll soon find a bit of momentum. It’s important to use this initial momentum on tasks that matter.

3. Go about the rest of your day

Once you’ve accomplished your big task for the day, you can move on to the next high-priority task on your master list. Repeat this process until you whittle your to-do list down to nothing. Use the sense of accomplishment to your advantage to knock out your remaining tasks.

4. Repeat

It’s easy to find yourself deviating from the Eat the Frog approach at times — but never wait until the end of the day for that most important task. Stick with this routine, or choose a different productivity method altogether.

If you Eat the Frog each workday, you’ll start to see your highest priority work get the most brainpower. This can only lead to better results.

eat the frog tasks list

You can use emojis in your task list to note your frog for that day.

What are the benefits of Eat the Frog?

The biggest benefit to Eat the Frog is riding the momentum. Your focus will waver more and more as the day wears on. The nice thing about Eat the Frog is that your work gets easier as the day progresses.

Once you’re in that staring-at-the-clock, browsing-social-media phase, you’ll be working on some of your easiest tasks of the day. The last thing you want is to feel burned out before you’ve completed your most challenging task.

When you stop procrastinating and hit the ground running each morning, you might be surprised by the benefits. Take it from author and Inventium CEO Amantha Imber:

“Digital leaders should develop a deep work routine utilizing the highest cognitive functioning that occurs within the first two hours awake.”

Dr. Amantha Imber
Author, Founder, and CEO at Inventium

(Source)

Even a few of our team members here at Hubstaff have given the Eat the Frog method a shot. Some of us have been more disciplined than others, but a few of our Hubstaffers swear by the method:

“Eat the Frog” tasks usually require a little more thinking power, so I like to end my days with one of my easier tasks: research. Having the night to sleep on an idea is always refreshing. In the morning, I revisit my research from the day before and hit the ground running.”

Kylie Bonassi
Growth Marketer, Hubstaff

“I implemented it for my team a few years ago. Most days, we start the day by doing easy, enjoyable tasks and tend to procrastinate difficult and unpleasant tasks. Eat the Frog suggests “eating the frog” for breakfast or first thing in the morning. That way, the rest of our day becomes easier.”

Preethi Ganesh
T1 Support Specialist, Hubstaff

I had the chance to talk with Preethi a bit more about her experience applying the Eat the Frog method to larger groups. She broke the process down into three simple steps:

  1. Create a training or presentation to explain the habit’s premise, concepts, and benefits.
  2. Create a “Frog” folder or list where each team member can place their most difficult or unenthusiastic to-dos for each week.
  3. At the start of each workday, have teams select two tasks from this folder and complete them before beginning their routine work.

Of course, both Preethi and Kylie feel that the Eat the Frog method has its fair share of flaws.

“The method was useful, but, like all management tactics, this is not a standalone practice. It becomes much more efficient when combined with other time management and efficient workflow practices.”

Preethi Ganesh
T1 Support Specialist, Hubstaff

“I try to do the hardest task first, but then the rest varies. Some mornings you have a mental block — usually on Thursdays and Fridays. That’s when I usually go rogue.”

Kylie Bonassi
Growth Marketer, Hubstaff

What’s an example of eating the frog?

If you’re intimidated by the Eat the Frog concept, you might be overthinking it. In writing this post, I’ve realized I employ the Eat the Frog method almost every week as a Blog Writer and Editor without even knowing it.

As I’m writing this section, I glanced at my Sprint today and realized that my decision to “Eat the Frog” — write this post — actually started late last week.

For me, blog writing is my main priority. I have other tasks that would have been more fun to work on while a bit more checked out on Friday, but I chose to get a head start on this post because I knew that:

  1. It would be challenging and time-consuming. Putting it off would only hurt me in the long run.
  2. Writing is the most impactful work that I do. In theory, I provide the most value to Hubstaff when writing. By that, I mean:
    • The more posts I write or update, the more leads we can generate for Hubstaff.
    • More leads usually equate to more trials and more subscriptions.

That’s why, as it currently stands, my Sprint looks like this:

a sprint with a eat the frog task

As you can see, I’ve moved writing this post to the top of my Sprint and marked it as a five-point task. Next, you’ll see that I have two four-point tasks to write product pages. These tasks are my “frogs,” so to speak.

Next, I have some small updates to make on a webpage I’m building. Then, I’ll probably wrap up my week by writing questions and hosting our weekly trivia game on Friday.

While I’d much rather research which NBA player holds the record for most turnovers or which country has the highest number of redheads per capita for our trivia game, it’s not the most productive use of my time. Trivia can wait until later this week when I’ve finished the work that moves the needle for us as a company.

In my opinion, an unbiased approach to prioritizing tasks is what separates Eat the Frog from other time management techniques.

How does Eat the Frog compare to other time management techniques?

The Pomodoro Technique and Time Blocking help you be productive by slicing your focus into small, timed chunks. The problem with these methods is that they put added pressure on you to work around a countdown clock.

The nice thing about the Eat the Frog method is that you’re always working ahead of your deadlines.

By knocking out the most challenging and important projects first, you won’t need to worry as much about how long tasks are taking you. It’s more likely that you’ll finish your most important tasks well ahead of schedule if you start on them early enough.

Using the Pomodoro Technique, Time Blocking, or other time-based methods allows you to procrastinate and put off the tasks you don’t want to do. So how can you resist the urge?

Battling instant gratification

This battle between the logical and emotional components of our brains has been the subject of countless studies. While procrastination isn’t good for one’s long-term wellbeing, the emotional part of the brain craves instant gratification.

While you might experience an endorphin rush for knocking out a minuscule task, it doesn’t mean you made the right decision. You might also feel endorphin rushes as a response to pain, stress, and plenty of other negative experiences.

One could argue that instant gratification impacts us negatively because of the endorphin rush.

For instance, you might feel accomplished after a particularly productive Pomodoro, but probably not for the right reasons.

By timing yourself, you’re adding stress to a situation that probably doesn’t require it. Regardless of how productive you were during that Pomodoro, entering a break period relieves this stress and gives you an endorphin rush.

This creates a false sense of accomplishment when finishing a Pomodoro. It’s not tied to doing exceptional work; it’s the relief of getting done with a timed session.

When using the Eat the Frog method, you probably won’t feel the same rush as other productivity methods. That’s because you’re using logic to think beyond instant gratification to do the best work in the long run.

Eat the Frog for entrepreneurs

Since entrepreneurs aren’t at the stage where they can delegate tasks, it’s hard to stay focused on larger goals.

Small, administrative tasks still need to be done, but they don’t propel a business forward the way that strategy, day-to-day operations, and other larger tasks do. So how do you find a balance between smaller tasks and larger ones that create a positive impact?

Using Eat the Frog as an entrepreneur

When you venture out on your own, there’s never a shortage of work. If you fail to plan, it’s easy to find yourself buried in smaller tasks. You’ll quickly find yourself content with surviving instead of thriving.

That’s why successful entrepreneurs learn to master task management by thinking of the big picture. That could come in the form of writing a business plan, developing a budget, or advertising to grow your business.

Practicing the Eat the Frog method as an entrepreneur is easier said than done, though. Tandem Legal Group CEO Michael McDevitt took to Forbes to explain how his experience got off to a rocky start:

“By the end of the week, I was 0 for 7.

Some days I would wait until I got to the office and ended up diving into email. Other days, somebody would ambush me with a burning issue as soon as I stepped in the door. Habits are hard to break and maybe even harder to start.”

Michael McDevitt
CEO, Tandem Legal Group

If Michael’s experience is relatable, maybe it’s time to reassess the ugliest frog in the room: finding a way to clear away emails, put out fires, and tackle other unexpected obstacles without derailing your workday.

Sharing the Frog: The case for virtual assistant software

Nobody likes spending time and money, but one of the best productivity hacks is knowing when to seek help from others. It can be hard as an entrepreneur to know when you need to outsource or hire a virtual assistant.

But ask yourself this: Will making this difficult decision help your business in the long run?

With the best virtual assistant software at your disposal, you’ll be able to delegate tasks like responding to emails, scheduling social media posts, and even vetting applicants. That way, you can focus on meeting your goals and growing your business.

Of course, you won’t find immediate gratification if you go with this route. You’ll have to put in the extra work to research, train, and find the right software.

Fortunately, there are tools that can serve as both task management and virtual assistant solutions.


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Add the Eat the Frog technique to your workflow with Hubstaff Tasks

With Hubstaff Tasks, you can take your to-do lists to new heights. Virtual Kanban boards, Sprints, and Epics make it easy to create a task hierarchy that’s perfect for executing the Eat the Frog method.

Start by using the labels feature to note what the frog will be that day. You can add comments, attachments, and other details to each Task if you’re passing it off to other members of your team. Or, if it’s a task only you can handle, switch to Sprint view and drag it to the top of your list.

eat the frog example

Sometimes the biggest frogs will need to be broken into smaller pieces. You can achieve this by creating your own Epics. From there, you can add assignees to each subtask, track time spent, and see budget updates in real-time.

If you’re managing a remote team, you’ll benefit from virtual Stand-ups. With Stand-ups, you can limit time spent in meetings by creating an automated system where employees can share their upcoming tasks and any obstacles they’ve run into.

Worst things first: Eating the frog each day

The wonderful thing about Eat the Frog is that you’re in control. That said, you’ll need to be honest with yourself about what your most difficult tasks are.

Like all productivity methods, some days will be easier than others. Your biggest challenge will be finding consistency and helping your team do their best work day in and day out.

Of course, you might find that Eat the Frog just isn’t for you. If that’s the case, check out our thoughts on other popular productivity and time management methods.


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