What Is Eat the Frog? A dead simple productivity method

8 min read

If it’s your job to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning ☕️

While you can probably imagine a task more unpleasant than eating a frog, it is more likely that you can think of plenty that are not. For most people, outside of a few circus performers from a hundred years ago, eating a frog sounds miserable. They’re slimy, jumpy, and will very much likely be against the act of being eaten.

If this is starting to remind you of those tasks that you put off every day out of sheer unpleasantness, you’re not alone. For even the most productive of people, there are certain actions that, while necessary, must be done. Maybe it’s calling a certain client. Or maybe it is doing social media work. Or perhaps it is something unrelated to work, like going to the gym or cleaning a space. No matter what it is, everybody has a frog that they have to eat. We just think it is best to go ahead and get it out of the way.

Eat the frog

Why Eat a Frog

No matter what it is, your frog is likely to produce a feeling of dread. However, doing so will drastically increase your productivity. Here’s why it works.

Increases Focus

Think back to the last time that you had a particularly bad frog to eat, especially one that you waited until the end of the day to start. Chances are you thought about it all day and it drove you nuts. The dread of doing it took away from you getting something worthwhile done, sapping your focus. By eating the frog first thing, you eliminate that dread and anxiety. As a result, you are better able to focus on the matter at hand and get everything else done.

Takes Advantage of Your Schedule

If you’re reading this, chances are that you are already taking advantage of other productivity tips. While you may not be the type to wake up at 4 am to have deep, uninterrupted work (or maybe you are!), you are still the type to recognize that your most productive working (or accomplishing, if your frog happens to be a personal goal) hours come first thing. You’re well-rested, satiated after a good breakfast, and likely have the benefit of a cup or two of coffee or tea.

Additionally, everyone else will be distracted for the time being. Whether it is that other people will still be streaming into the office or that they are still in bed, you will be able to focus without having to contend with the interruptions of other people.

Builds Momentum

Finally, eating the frog first thing means that you are able to build momentum for the day. There is little worse than getting to the end of the day and realizing that you haven’t gotten anything accomplished. However, by eating the frog first, you’ll have already accomplished the toughest task of the day. That gives you the drive to finish out whatever you need for the rest of the day.

Increases Productivity Overall

All of this combines to drastically increase your overall productivity by making sure that you are firing on all cylinders. You’re eliminating all that dread, meaning that you’re more focused on what has to be done. Meanwhile, you’re getting it done early so that you are less likely to face interruptions while also building those deep work habits that make tackling a difficult task much easier. Finally, like we said, you’re building momentum for the rest of the day – after all, if knocking out a difficult task early was easy, the rest will just fall into place.

Why It Works

While there are a number of reasons that you should eat the frog first, you may still be waiting for hard facts as to why it works. Luckily, there are three great justifications that get into the psychology of why eating a frog lets you get more done.

Proactive, Not Reactive

While there is never a guarantee that the unexpected will not strike, the decision to eat the frog is definitely a proactive one. Chances are that it is the unpleasant task that will be the most likely to cause complications down the road that will in turn take away from other objectives. By making the choice to eat the frog, you’ve limited the likelihood that this happens, letting you focus on getting everything else done.

You’re In Charge

While we alluded to this earlier, by making the choice to eat the frog early on, you eliminate all the dread that comes with procrastinating. In short, you’re reclaiming your working hours from that anxiety. That can be a very liberating feeling.

This is also true once your supervisors notice. Chances are that your frog is the same that is shared throughout your company or department. A good manager will notice your decision to get it knocked out first thing and will give you more leeway when it comes to setting other priorities as well.

It’s Simple

Most of all, eating the frog is one of the most effective ways to set yourself up for deep work. It is insanely simple, letting you focus on the task at hand and not the path to getting there. Rather than trying to weigh the relative cost-benefits, you simply focus on the tasks that are most difficult (but still important) and get them done. While other planning techniques may take twenty or thirty minutes out of your day, this one takes less than five. In fact, that saved time could help you on your way to achieving the deep work that makes your choice to eat the frog especially worthwhile.

The Psychology of Eating the Frog

Making the decision to eat the frog gets to a great deal of objective-based psychology by limiting the likelihood that the frog becomes a problem down the line that must be reacted to rather than anticipated, while also promoting the sort of liberation that makes deep work possible. Best of all, it is a framework that has little actual psychological weight. In short, it lets you get to work quickly and efficiently, all while building towards a better end of the day.

How to Eat a Frog

If you’ve made it this far, chances are you’re at least willing to give the concept of eating the frog a try in order to find a better route to deep work. Luckily, the methodology of doing it is relatively easy.

Choose a Task

First things first, find a task that is worth being called your frog. Ideally, it should be something that takes at least an hour, but no more than three or four, to accomplish and lends itself to the sort of deep work that will help you build a more productive day.

However, it is not enough to just list the task. If it is especially daunting, break it up into smaller pieces. For many people, having a checklist that allows you to cross off parts of the frog helps to build the deep work and momentum that allows you to clear the frog more quickly.

Choose a Time

This one sounds straightforward, but it actually is worth mentioning. If there is no way to complete your frog within the time-span allotted, then it is only going to lead to greater frustration. Focus instead on finding a way to either break it up into smaller pieces or make the time allotted bigger so as to allow greater success.

Also, be realistic with your time. If you set a frog of wanting to work up at 4 am to run, take steps to make sure that you will be awake. Otherwise, you will likely beat yourself up for the rest of the day, hindering productivity.

Prepare for Success

Set yourself up for success when it comes time to eat the frog. If your frog is to work out, set your gym clothes and shoes close to your bed before you go to sleep. If it is work-related, set your workspace up the day before so that the transition to working on the task is as simple as possible. No matter what it is, make sure that you’ve done everything to make the transition from arriving at the task to completing the task as simple as possible. One more thing is worth mentioning. You might be tempted to plan out a lot of frogs in advance. Unless it is a habit you are trying to build, like clearing your inbox or going on a run, don’t. Every single day is unpredictable, and in order to achieve that deep work that makes this concept so powerful, you must treat every day as an opportunity to eat a different frog.

Put It into Practice

 Meet Larisa, a 24 year old student with a final project due by the end of the month. In order to finish it on time she needs to dedicate at least 2 hours a day to writing and research. Unfortunately, during the last week she spent way too long procrastinating. Whenever she had a break from her other assignments she tried sitting down to write but inspiration simply wasn’t coming. Something had to change.

Looking back at her notes from the last semester, she realized her most productive time to get her writing done is early morning, when the dorms are peaceful and there are hardly any distractions. 

Finding the frog

Larisa reviewed her upcoming tasks, organized them by priority. She was looking for the task that lingers on her mind and drains her energy. A task that is important, but doesn’t involve a tight deadline. Her final project was the perfect frog. As soon as she identified the culprit behind her lack of success, she was finally able to create a work plan she can stick to. She set a reminder to work on her assignment early in the day.

Set a time frame

Larisa planned her day in advance. She set a time frame, Monday morning from 9am until 11 am. Her classes usually start at 1pm. Mornings for Larisa are the ideal time for getting things done. She planned to finnish the intro after eating breakfast in her dorm room.

Avoid distractions

In order to ensure full concentration, she put her phone on silent with only emergency calls allowed to go through. She wrote a “Do not disturb” note and glued it to the outer part of her door before locking it. She made sure to turn off her laptop notifications and set up everything she needed right where she could see it. 

Eat the frog

Larisa divided her work in a way which allowed her to work on research and writing separately. She spent several days doing research only, elevating the stress of having to go back and forth as her writing progressed. She then dedicated the rest of the time before her deadline, to focused writing sessions, with all relevant material readily available for her. Using this method, Larisa was able to tackle her assignments in a productive way by setting the most suitable times for each task, keeping procrastination at bay. 

Eating the Frog with Any.do:

Eating the Frog can be made easy when you have a designated app used by millions of people to stay organised and get more done. Wherever you are you can take your frog with you. Access Any.do on mobile, laptop, desktop, tablet or even your watch.

Start by setting a reminder

Your first step to Eat the Frog is choosing your frog. The task view is the right place to start. Once you found your frog, Setting two reminders one for the night before and one for the beginning of the task is a brilliant way to use this method. If your frog is too big Make use of Subtasks to break it down to smaller tasks. You can use the Quick Add bar for adding tasks to your task list faster.

Prioritize your work

Your frog is your priority, tag the task with the priority color tag. You can use your Any.do calendar to set an event. The great thing about the event is that you can set a starting time and an ending time. Make sure not to schedule other events at the same time. 

Get it all done

The Focus Mode on the mobile apps (Premium/ mobile only) can help you make sure you get the task done without the distractions of other apps. You can put the Focus mode for 3-4 hours for your frog. You can also add a widget in order to make sure you are in total control and up to date with your ongoing action items.

Stay on point

If you have other platforms you usually use you can integrate them into Any.do with Zapier to get it all under one roof (Premium only). You can create a Zap alert straight from your Any.do account, under the Integrations screen. This will help you share workflows automatically between apps. That way you don’t miss any task or assignment you planned to work on.


Conclusion

Everyone’s frog is different, but that doesn’t mean that you cannot use similar strategies in tackling it. In making the decision to eat the frog, you are helping yourself find that rhythm that builds itself to allow you to perform deep work at a more focused level, increasing your productivity while lowering your stress. In fact, eating the frog may be the key to unlocking your appetite for more and more every day.