I’ve learned a great deal from Brian Tracy over the years. One thing in particular stands out from all the others.
This “thing” – call it a concept, an idea, a technique, a metaphor, a suggestion – has been huge in helping me increase my productivity, while also reducing my stress. Sound pretty good? It is!
Tracy has developed and popularized the idea of eating frogs for breakfast. Not the frog’s legs that they supposedly eat in France, but a metaphorical frog.
What he proposes is that we all have things on our ‘to do’ lists that cause us anxiety until they are completed. These are often important tasks that will create positive results for us, but we delay taking action, because there is something that holds us back.
In this short video, you can learn not only why we struggle to “get stuff done”, but also what you can do to improve your productivity and reduce your stress: Eat That Frog by Brian Tracy (video).
With respect to the anxiety we experience when we have a frog that we haven’t eaten, I believe that the source of the anxiety stems from two things: (1) having an unmet commitment to ourselves or others and (2) fear about the anticipated pain associated with the impact of not yet having completed the task.
For example, if you said you would send a client or boss a report by a certain date and time and now that time has passed, you will likely experience anxiety. (1) You will have an unmet commitment, since you have said you would do something and then didn’t. (2) You will worry about having a difficult conversation with your client or boss, who may be upset or at least less trusting of your integrity and reliability.
I would suggest that the benefits of alleviating (or at least reducing) this kind of anxiety and tension from your daily life is equal to, if not greater, than the benefits of “getting your stuff done.”
For me, my frogs are often things like writing a client a proposal, dealing with a complicated email question from a student, or writing a reference letter for someone.
Breaking it down into smaller more (psychologically) manageable chunks certainly helps. What can also help is gathering archived information, so I realize that I’m not starting from a blank canvas (e.g., past proposals, emails, and reference letters).
My wife and I now commonly use the phrase “I’m working on a big frog right now” to let the other know we are proud to be making progress on completing something that we, for whatever reasons, felt a great deal of resistance to doing. This also lets the other know that we would like some time and space to be able to focus on the task at hand to make sure it gets completed.
At the office, I keep a picture of Kermit the Frog on my bulletin board as a constant reminder to reflect on the question, “what are my frogs that I’m currently avoiding?”
It’s easy to busy yourself with an inbox full of emails, attend unnecessary meetings, and to be drawn towards tacking all the easy things on your ‘to do’ list (assuming you’ve even taken the time to make one). However, you only arrive at the end of the day never having really done the one or two things that would have made the day feel like a success. Made it feel productive. Made you feel more relaxed and less stressed.
Also, once you’ve eaten your frog, you’ll feel way more energy and enthusiasm for all the other things you do throughout the rest of the day. They’ll feel easy! You’ll feel light!
What’s your biggest frog right now?
Why is it important for you to eat this frog?
How will you feel once you’ve eaten this frog?
What are you tempted to do instead of eating this frog?
What will you chose to do?
Great! Now get to it! Here’s a napkin, for when you’re done…