Focus On The Important. Eat The Frog First.
December 21, 2020
All of us have a strong desire to be efficient and productive in dealing with our personal and professional priorities. No one likes to be inefficient. Yet, despite being clear about the key priorities, a lot of people struggle with completing the critical tasks.
Many of us have the bad habit of letting ourselves off the hook by not doing the most important things that need to be done and rationalizing about the reasons later.
“Something more important came up that needed my attention.”
“Unfortunately, there were many tasks on my to-do list. “
Consequently, there are many times when we seem to be working very hard, but we are not making any significant progress on the important stuff that matters. We feel overwhelmed with trying to balance the many things that need our attention.
Eat The Frog First
Long back, I had the opportunity to read a book by Brian Tracy intriguingly titled Eat The Frog. In this book, Brian Tracy presents a framework to prioritize tasks and deal with those tasks that matter.
Brian Tracy picked up the term and the concept from a story of Mark Twain in which he says, “If the first thing you do every morning is to eat a live Frog, you will have the satisfaction of knowing that’s probably the worst thing that is going to happen to you all day long.”
The idea is this. Among all the tasks that need attention at any point, there will always some hierarchy of importance.
The Frog refers to the most critical task that will impact your life or work goals. The most vital decisions always tend to be the most challenging, and therefore we tend to procrastinate on those.
Eat the Frog first refers to doing the most important yet painful task first ahead of everything else.
We always think we know what the most important tasks are. Rather than figuring them out in our heads, always make the effort to put them down in writing.
First, make a list of your priorities in writing. Then categorize each of the tasks you have listed based on importance as one of A, B, C, D, or E.
The ABCDE principle
Priority “A” refers to the most critical task you MUST complete, and it has severe consequences for you if you do not complete it-Completing a proposal or submitting a report to your boss, etc. Priority A refers to the FROG you MUST eat FIRST.
Next, categorize those tasks as “B” that you SHOULD do but not doing it has only a mild consequence. E.g., responding to emails or returning a phone call, or attending a departmental meeting. The B tasks will always be of lower importance than the “A” tasks.
Working Rule- NEVER start on a B task when an A task is still to be completed.
A “C” task is a NICE TO DO activity where there are no consequences for whether you do the tasks or not. Examples could be going out for a coffee with a colleague or completing some personal stuff during working hours.
“D” tasks are those that you can delegate to someone else. Here, the working rule is that you SHOULD delegate all tasks that someone else can do without your involvement. By delegating work, you free up time for yourself to focus on the “A” tasks.
An “E” task is something you can eliminate, and it won’t matter whatsoever. “E” tasks may have been important sometime in the past but are no longer relevant. We often have such activities because we are used to doing them out of habit or because we enjoy doing them even though they don’t help us move forward in any way.
Research studies indicate that people spend close to 50% of their time, focus, and energy on tasks that are C or D or E in their importance and impact. Every moment you spend on a C or D, or E task, takes away from the focus and commitment you need to give to your FROG tasks.
The key to making your ABCDE principle work for you is to practice discipline and start your day focussing on Eating the FROG first.