Personal Growth

The Frog Rule Can Help You Stop Procrastinating on Important Tasks

Supposedly, Mark Twain once said something along the lines of, "Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day." And that is our productivity tip of the day. You're welcome, and thanks for reading! Just kidding ... kind of.

Related Video: The Science of Procrastination

Hope You're Hungry

Twain wasn't literally suggesting people eat frogs for breakfast (we think). And while this quote, like many, may have been misattributed to the legendary author, a longer version of the supposed quote at least clears up the context a bit: "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." In more practical terms, the "frog" is your worst, most unsavory task of the day. You know, that one thing you're dreading. This daunting task is probably also your most important, and the one that you're most likely to procrastinate on. If you have two frog tasks, start with the one you're least excited to do.

Allotting the first hour or two of your day to your despised frog task will make it easier to get through, seeing as everyone around you is still catching up on emails and starting the coffee machine. Use those quiet hours wisely. By knocking a big task out asap, you'll get a huge sense of accomplishment even before lunchtime. From there, that sense of accomplishment may very well snowball into motivation that will keep your day moving right along.

Retired U.S. Navy Admiral William McRaven revealed a similar tip for being productive at work and maintaining discipline throughout the day. McRaven makes his bed every morning. By doing this, he gains a sense of accomplishment right off the bat, as well as some pride in sticking to a good habit of self-discipline.

A Frog a Day Keeps Procrastination Away

Self-development author and public speaker Brian Tracy digs into this time management and productivity strategy in his best-selling book "Eat That Frog!: 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time." For Tracy, the goal is to turn eating the frog into a lifelong habit. Though the frog task may change from day to day, the habit of conquering that annoying task right away is what should stick. Tracy writes on his blog, "Successful, effective people are those who launch directly into their major tasks and then discipline themselves to work steadily and single-mindedly until those tasks are complete."

You heard the man: Eat your frog. Hope you're hungry.

Correction 9/25/2018: A previous version of this article said William McRaven was a retired U.S. Navy general. McRaven is a retired U.S. Navy admiral; the Navy does not have generals. The article has been updated. 

Get more productivity tips in Brian Tracy's book "Eat That Frog!: 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time." The audiobook is free with a trial of Audible. We handpick reading recommendations we think you may like. If you choose to make a purchase through that link, Curiosity will get a share of the sale.

Written by Joanie Faletto January 2, 2018

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