Why eating frogs are the key to success

I read once that eating a live frog every morning would help me achieve more. I tried it. It’s not pleasant, but it sure as heck works. Here’s why.

Apologies to the Firebrand blog followers who heard a version of this story a few weeks ago. It’s such a valuable tip that I wanted to share it with the 2,500 Wrestling Possums subscribers who might not have.

If anyone ever asked my view on the key to success in business, my answer I fear would disappoint. Yet this one habit has driven my career to date, and whatever success I might have had in it.

It’s a habit that has helped me stay one step ahead and get the opportunities that have come my way. And it’s a habit which might leave you under whelmed. So be it. Here it is.

Now- please try not to shout out ‘huh?’ when I say this obsessive, magical habit is, quite simply- ‘To do’ lists.

Seriously. ‘To do’ lists. That’s the secret. ‘To Do’ lists: well planned; carefully prioritised; obsessively and ruthlessly followed every day.

Get more of the important things done every day. Don’t work harder or longer. Just get your priorities right. And be relentless in getting them done. Every day.  Become the most productive person you know. Here’s how:

1. Plan your day in advance: Every evening I plan my next day. When are my meetings? Am I ready for them? What are my goals? I make a long list of all the things I need to get done.

2. Identify your Big Rock: Then I identify the MOST CRITICAL task I MUST DO that will make the most powerful impact on my job. I call it my BIG ROCK. Brian Tracy calls it his ‘Frog’ in his outstanding book, ‘Eat That Frog.’ Brian’s theory goes something like this…

“Eating a live frog every morning is likely to be the worst thing that will happen to you that day. Every night, work out what is the one thing- no matter what else happens- that you simply MUST get done or make progress on the next day… the one thing that will make the most difference to your job and contribution.. That’s your FROG.”

I work out exactly what that Frog, or BIG ROCK, is, and when I will get it done. Ideally- I make it the very first action of my business day. And if you have two Big Rocks or Frogs for the next day? Well- Tracy says, “eat the ugliest one first!”

3. Prioritise: I then identify my five ‘A’s and prioritise them. A1, A2, A3 etc. Then my five ‘B’s and prioritise them. B1, B2, B3 etc.

4. Write the list: Then I write the list (on a piece of paper- not electronic). First I list my meetings. Then the Big Rock (which I highlight in pink highlighter). Then the Five A’s and the Five B’s.

5. Follow the list, ‘like a terrier on steroids’: The most critical step then is to follow that list relentlessly. I start first always on the Big Rock, making as much progress as I can- ideally finishing it. Move on to the A1. The phone rings. It happens to be – say- a B3 priority on the list- get it done and tick it off. Then finish the A1. Move on to the A2. Finish that. a client calls. Urgent issue- so then create a new A1. Get it done. Go back to the list. Aha- I’m at A3- so I get it moving etc. Stick to your list. Yes- be flexible to deal with the ‘issues of the day’ but keep coming back to your list. Relentlessly. Obsessively. Passionately. Cross off what you’ve done. Make it a personal challenge every day to cross off as many as you can, in the right order.

The day ends. Review your list. 90% of what you needed to do is done. Start again. Think about tomorrow. Plan the day. Make a long list. Identify the Big Rock etc. I know it’s simple. But, it works.

It is without doubt the most valuable business tip I know. And frankly a ‘life’ tip. And a habit best started early in life. When I was 14, my mother found a list I had written- the ultimate list. It was titled: ‘List of Lists I Need To Make’. Enough said. Nothing gave me more pleasure than seeing over the weekend a ‘Things To Do Today’ prioritised list on one of my children’s desks. And that’s despite the fact that her Big Rock was ‘Ask Dad to give me $50′. Oy vey.

>View a video of Chris retelling this post

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16 Responses to Why eating frogs are the key to success

  1. John Skinner August 31, 2011 at 1:16 pm #

    Thanks again Chris – I always enjoy your Possum’s summaries.

    One related observation on your latest topic, by someone smarter than me…

    Question: “What are the most productive days in most people’s lives?”

    Answer: ” The day before they go on their holidays!”

    Best wishes…John

    • Chris Savage August 31, 2011 at 2:10 pm #

      Thanks John- great point and so true…!

  2. Carl Sherriff August 31, 2011 at 1:18 pm #

    Great advice Chris, thanks.

    It made me think what would be best to eat in the morning. Rocks or frogs.
    Then I thought of cane toads and wondered if they would be an ok substitute for frogs.
    If we all ate two of those every morning, it might help the planet.
    They’re on the way down evidently.

    • Chris Savage August 31, 2011 at 2:11 pm #

      Carl, two cane toads would be a big load!

  3. Paul Greenaway August 31, 2011 at 2:13 pm #

    Thanks Chris – Interesting view “on a piece of paper- not electronic”. I totally agree. There are many more sophisticated options to organise your day with smart phones, iPads, Outlook tasks etc. but nothing more satisfying (or final) than drawing a line in pen through that frog on your list at the beginning of the day!

    • Chris Savage August 31, 2011 at 5:50 pm #

      So true Paul- it is one of life’s pleasures indeed!

  4. Greg Flynn August 31, 2011 at 3:21 pm #

    “Eat” that frog? Oh, dear me. I must’ve misheard. All those years ago, I thought you advised us to “#@%*” that frog. Let me tell you, they’re fast moving, slippery little blighters but, if you grasp their hind legs firmly and provided they hold still long enough, it’s a brief, painful but not necessarily unpleasant experience. A bit like a client WIP.

    • Chris Savage August 31, 2011 at 5:48 pm #

      Dear Greg- no wonder we had to let you go….

  5. Cecelia Haddad August 31, 2011 at 9:27 pm #

    Hi Chris
    I’ve been on the bandwagon of EAT THAT FROG with my team ever since you gave me a copy. I’m far from being a procastinator but found it so valuable all the same and still do.
    thanks for the intro.

  6. Tony Spencer-Smith September 1, 2011 at 3:42 pm #

    I’m addicted to to-do lists myself. No other way to keep track of a multiplicity of tasks. Your mention of swallowing frogs reminds me of related advice I was given by a hard-driving Sunday newspaper news editor I worked for for some years: “Do the difficult stuff first.” Great advice, because those are the sort of tasks that invite procrastination.

    • Chris Savage September 6, 2011 at 7:41 pm #

      Thanks Tony- that’s what the frog is all about- the toughest, most difficult yet most important task- and getting it done first!

  7. Mike September 5, 2011 at 11:32 am #

    I have eaten four frogs already this morning; usually by this time I’ve rarely nibbled one. So thanks, great advice. And on a small point (but v niggly to some), shouldn’t the headline be ‘Why eating frogs IS the key to success’?

    • Chris Savage September 6, 2011 at 7:41 pm #

      Good to hear it Mike. And re “IS”- yes, I think you”re right! Good catch. Chris

  8. Gary February 23, 2016 at 3:56 pm #

    After hearing this from you nearly 5 years ago Chris, just wanted you to know I presented to all the employees in my own business . ongoing impact!

    • Chris Savage March 1, 2016 at 9:23 am #

      Good to hear, Gary!!


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