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“But I work best under pressure.” I started repeating this mantra in high school, and it continued through my post-graduate work and on into my professional life. To be fair, I never missed a deadline, but, man, did I load stress on myself in the meantime.
So, when I was choosing a book for this month’s SEJ Book Club, I decided I’d see what Brain Tracy had to offer for my decades-long problem.
“Mark Twain once said that if the first thing you do each morning is to eat a live frog, you can go through the day with the satisfaction of knowing that is probably the worst thing that is going to happen to you all day long.”
In Eat That Frog! 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time, Brian Tracy gives us actionable steps to not only get work done but also to enjoy life more in the process. Tracy sets out 21 bite-sized (pun intended?) chapters full of simple actions to train ourselves to better tackle our work, social, and emotional lives and develop a “positive addiction” to the endorphins we release when we complete important tasks. Developing a habit of tackling a major task first disciplines us to begin on our most daunting tasks immediately and set us in motion for the rest of our day.
The key is to “start with the biggest, hardest, and most important task first.”
Tracy ends each chapter with a takeaway box with two practical exercises to help us apply his advice to our own projects and hurdles.
Ask Yourself These Questions, Repeatedly
Tracy tells us to ask ourselves questions like:
- What are the potential consequences of doing or not doing this task?
- What is the most valuable use of my time right now?
- What one skill, if I developed and did it in an excellent fashion, would have the greatest positive impact on my career?
- What is it in me that is holding me back?
So, How Do you Eat a Frog?
You’ll have to pick up a copy of the book for all 21 steps, but here are a few that made me think I do have the control to make my life a bit easier (and that it isn’t as hard as eating an actual live frog would be!):
- Plan every day in advance. Make lists!
- Use the “ABCDE Method” and organize your tasks by value and priority, on paper, before getting starting on your day.
- Block out your day into chunks so you can get into a flow…and stay in it.
- Apply the 80/20 rule to everything. “Twenty percent of your activities will account for 80 percent of your results.” This can apply to projects, emails, time constraints, and a ton of other aspects of life.
- Put pressure on yourself. You are your biggest motivator.
- Figure out when you work best and optimize those times.
- Take care of yourself—eat well, get sleep, and exercise—you can’t perform well at work when your body can’t perform in general.
- Get out of technological time sinks. “Use technology to improve the quality of your communications, but do not allow yourself to become a slave to it.”
*No frogs were harmed in the writing of this post.
Next Month on SEJ Book Club: I Know How She Does It: How Successful Women Make the Most of Their Time by Laura Vanderkam
Next month, SEJ Features Editor, Danielle Antosz, will review I Know How She Does It: How Successful Women Make the Most of Their Time by Laura Vanderkam.
Feel free to pick a copy online or from your local library and read along with us! Want to see what the SEJ Book Club has read or is planning on reading next? Check out our GoodReads profile.
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Author: Caitlin Rulien