Eat the Frog? What Does that Mean? How Does It Relate to Productivity?

There is a quote, often attributed to Bill Gates, that generally says most people underestimate what they can do in a year, but overestimate what they can get done in shorter timeframes.

Is this true? And if so, why?

Of course, there are many reasons. However, a big one of these is that trying to figure out where and how to start on big goals, poor planning and short-term procrastination often cause us to start slow—even flounder quite a bit—when trying to start large or complex projects. Yet, when we do finally get rolling, we often accomplish much more in the long-term than we thought we could.

There are two problems with this idea.

First, we waste valuable time while we are figuring out how to get going.

When we get to the “end” of our project or initiative, we might look back and realize how much MORE we could have gotten done if we hadn’t lost the time figuring out WHAT to do.

The second problem has more far-reaching implications.

Setting “stretch” goals—or BHAGs (Big, Hair, Audacious, Goals)—has been proven to help us accomplish more. Primarily, because when we shoot for the stars and reach the moon, we still accomplish more than if we had not set our goals that high. Alternately, when we become accustomed to this “off-the-line” hesitancy and rambling, we naturally start to set lower goals. Therefore, we lose much of the power of goal setting.

Therefore, it should be clear that stopping our ‘starting line stutter’ is critical to both our short and long-term success, as business owners and individuals—within our professional and personal lives—to a great extent.

A big, positive, step in that direction, is stopping procrastination in its tracks. A quirky, but popular, expression that refers to a strategy for doing this effectively, was coined by Brian Tracy and is called, “Eat the Frog.”

But it didn’t come from Brian first, really, it came from Mark Twain. Twain said, “Mark Twain once said, “If it’s your job to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning. And if it’s your job to eat two frogs, it’s best to eat the biggest one first.”

According to doist.com, the Eat the Frog method for improving productivity is perfect for anyone who:

  1. Struggles with procrastination
  2. Gets a lot done but isn’t making progress on the important stuff
  3. Has a hard time sticking to a productivity system
  4. Has trouble deciding what to work on at any given time
  5. Feels overwhelmed by their to-do list

The crux of ‘Eat the Frog’ is that you focus on one task each day that you’re dreading, struggling with doing or even struggling getting started doing, and you just do it. And while you might be thinking that getting ONE task done isn’t going to make a dent in your to-do list, think again…


The key is that when we start our day by ‘eating the frog,’ it starts positive forward momentum. Additionally, there is an almost magical brain-power that is freed from the trap of stress caused by overthinking or overwhelm.  This allows our ‘productivity train’ to start moving on the track and begin chugging along at a good, solid, clip.

Even better, as we practice the ‘Eat the Frog’ method with intention, eventually, the process — and the associated benefits — begin to come easier, faster, and with a greater positive impact on what we are able to accomplish.  If you’re having trouble with productivity or getting started on big daunting tasks, I encourage you to try “eating the frog” and let me know how it goes for you!