Mark Twain once said that if you eat a live frog first thing in the morning, you know that the rest of your day will be better because the worst is behind you. After all, you’ve already eaten a live frog, what’s the worst that could happen?
Author Brian Tracy applies this same theory to productivity and business. But of course instead of “eat a frog,” he means “complete your worst task.” This can be an assignment you’re dreading, a major project with a tight deadline, or a high-priority task that’s giving you anxiety. Whatever it is, do that one thing right away.
Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day. – Mark Twain
It’s hard to focus on other tasks when there’s something else in the back of your mind that’s stressing you out. Getting your most dreaded assignments out of the way first thing gives you a sense of relief, and the rest of your day will be more productive as a result.
Disciplining yourself to start with the big stuff not only helps you focus on other tasks, but it’s also better for personal productivity. Research suggests that we have more willpower in the morning. As the day passes, you get more tired and exert less self-control. Willpower is a finite resource, so mornings are the optimal time to tackle big assignments.
Don’t trust yourself to swallow your frog? Here’s how to prepare your mornings for maximum productivity:
- Identify the task you’re looking forward to the least.
- Write it down the day before and gather all the materials you need so you can jump right in the next morning. It’ll help you mentally prepare for the day ahead.
- Tell yourself that it’s just one task and then your day will be infinitely better. Make it your mantra – do this one thing and you’ll be invincible.
And if you have more than one task you’re not looking forward to? Take the frog metaphor a step further. As Brian Tracy says, “If you have to eat two frogs, eat the ugliest one first.” In other words, if you have multiple projects, start with the biggest, most complicated ones first and work your way down. As your self-control dwindles, you’ll have already tackled your biggest assignments.
Swallowing your frog, or finishing your most dreaded or important assignments first, will give you a productive boost you need to get it done. And not worrying about it makes the rest of your day more productive, too.