Set the Table
There is one quality which one must possess to win, and that is
definiteness of purpose, the knowledge of what one wants and a burning
desire to achieve it.
Before you can determine your "frog" and get on with the job of eating
it, you have to decide exactly what you want to achieve in each area of
your life. Clarity is perhaps the most important concept in
personal productivity. The number one reason why some people get more
work done faster is because they are absolutely clear about their goals
and objectives, and they don't deviate from them. The greater clarity
you have regarding what you want and the steps you will have to take to
achieve it, the easier it will be for you to overcome procrastination,
eat your frog, and complete the task before you.
A major reason for procrastination and lack of motivation is vagueness,
confusion, and fuzzy-mindedness about what you are trying to do and in
what order and for what reason. You must avoid this common condition
with all your strength by striving for ever-greater clarity in your
major goals and tasks.
Here is a great rule for success: Think on paper.
Only about 3 percent of adults have clear, written goals. These people
accomplish five and ten times as much as people of equal or better
education and ability but who, for whatever reason, have never taken the
time to write out exactly what they want.
There is a powerful formula for setting and achieving goals that you can
use for the rest of your life. It consists of seven simple steps. Any
one of these steps can double and triple your productivity if you are
not currently using it. Many of my graduates have increased their
incomes dramatically in a matter of a few years, or even a few months,
with this simple, seven-part method.
Step one: Decide exactly what you want. Either decide for
yourself or sit down with your boss and discuss your goals and
objectives until you are crystal clear about what is expected of you and
in what order of priority. It is amazing how many people are working
away, day after day, on low-value tasks because they have not had this
critical discussion with their managers.
One of the very worst uses of time is to do something very well that
need not be done at all.
Stephen Covey says, "If the ladder is not leaning against the right
wall, every step we take just gets us to the wrong place faster."
Step two: Write it down. Think on paper. When you write down a
goal, you crystallize it and give it tangible form. You create something
that you can touch and see. On the other hand, a goal or objective that
is not in writing is merely a wish or a fantasy. It has no energy behind
it. Unwritten goals lead to confusion, vagueness, misdirection, and
Step three: Set a deadline on your goal; set subdeadlines if
necessary. A goal or decision without a deadline has no urgency. It
has no real beginning or end. Without a definite deadline accompanied by
the assignment or acceptance of specific responsibilities for
completion, you will naturally procrastinate and get very little done.
Step four: Make a list of everything you can think of that you are
going to have to do to achieve your goal. As you think of new
activities, add them to your list. Keep building your list until it is
complete. A list gives you a visual picture of the larger task or
objective. It gives you a track to run on. It dramatically increases the
likelihood that you will achieve your goal as you have defined it and on
Step five: Organize the list into a plan. Organize your list by
priority and sequence. List all tasks in the order they need to be done.
Take a few minutes to decide what you need to do first and what you can
do later. Decide what has to be done before something else and what
needs to be done afterward.
Even better, lay out your plan visually in the form of a series of boxes
and circles on a sheet of paper, with lines and arrows showing the
relationship of each task to every other task. You'll be amazed at how
much easier it is to achieve your goal when you break it down into
With a written goal and an organized plan of action, you will be far
more productive and efficient than people who are carrying their goals
around in their minds.
Step six: Take action on your plan immediately. Do something. Do
anything. An average plan vigorously executed is far better than a
brilliant plan on which nothing is done. For you to achieve any kind of
success, execution is everything.
Step seven: Resolve to do something every single day that moves you
toward your major goal. Build this activity into your daily
schedule. You may decide to read a specific number of pages on a key
subject. You may call on a specific number of prospects or customers.
You may engage in a specific period of physical exercise. You may learn
a certain number of new words in a foreign language. Whatever it is, you
must never miss a day.
Keep pushing forward. Once you start moving, keep moving. Don't stop.
This decision, this discipline alone, can dramatically increase your
speed of goal accomplishment and boost your personal productivity.
The Power of Written Goals
Clear written goals have a wonderful effect on your thinking. They
motivate you and galvanize you into action. They stimulate your
creativity, release your energy, and help you overcome procrastination
as much as any other factor.
Goals are the fuel in the furnace of achievement. The bigger your goals
and the clearer they are, the more excited you become about achieving
them. The more you think about your goals, the greater becomes your
inner drive and your desire to accomplish them.
Think about your goals and review them daily. Every morning when you
begin, take action on the most important task you can accomplish to
achieve your most important goal at the moment.
EAT THAT FROG!
1. Take a clean sheet of paper right now and make a list of ten
goals you want to accomplish in the next year. Write your goals as
though a year has already passed and they are now a reality.
Use the present tense, positive voice, and first person singular so that
they are immediately accepted by your subconscious mind. For example,
you could write, "I earn x number of dollars per year by this
date" or "I weigh x number of pounds by this date" or "I drive
such and such a car by this date."
2. Review your list of ten goals and select the one goal that, if
you achieved it, would have the greatest positive impact on your life.
Whatever that goal is, write it on a separate sheet of paper, set a
deadline, make a plan, take action on your plan, and then do something
every single day that moves you toward that goal. This exercise alone
could change your life!
Plan Every Day in Advance
Planning is bringing the future into the present so that you can do
something about it now.
You have heard the old question, "How do you eat an elephant?" The
answer is "One bite at a time!" How do you eat your biggest, ugliest
frog? The same way: you break it down into specific step-by-step
activities and then you start on the first one.
Your mind, your ability to think, plan, and decide, is your most
powerful tool for overcoming procrastination and increasing your
productivity. Your ability to set goals, make plans, and take action on
them determines the course of your life. The very act of thinking and
planning unlocks your mental powers, triggers your creativity, and
increases your mental and physical energies.
Conversely, as Alec Mackenzie wrote, "Taking action without thinking
things through is a prime source of problems."
Your ability to make good plans before you act is a measure of your
overall competence. The better the plan you have, the easier it is for
you to overcome procrastination, to get started, to eat your frog, and
then to keep going.
Increase Your Return on Energy
One of your top goals at work should be to get the highest possible
return on your investment of your mental, emotional, and physical
energy. The good news is that every minute spent in planning saves as
many as ten minutes in execution. It takes only about 10 to 12 minutes
for you to plan your day, but this small investment of time will save
you up to two hours (100 to 120 minutes) in wasted time and diffuse
effort throughout the day.
You may have heard of the Six-P Formula. It says, "Proper Prior Planning
Prevents Poor Performance."
When you consider how helpful planning can be in increasing your
productivity and performance, it is amazing how few people practice it
every single day. And planning is really quite simple to do. All you
need is a piece of paper and a pen. The most sophisticated Outlook
system, computer app, or time planner is based on the same principle. It
is based on your sitting down and making a list of everything you have
to do before you begin.
Two Extra Hours per Day
Always work from a list. When something new comes up, add it to the list
before you do it. You can increase your productivity and output by 25
percent or more — about two hours a day — from the first day
that you begin working consistently from a list.
Make your list the night before for the workday ahead. Move everything
that you have not yet accomplished onto your list for the coming day,
and then add everything that you have to do the next day. When you make
your list the night before, your subconscious mind will work on your
list all night long while you sleep. Often you will wake up with great
ideas and insights that you can use to get your job done faster and
better than you had initially thought.
The more time you take to make written lists of everything you have to
do, in advance, the more effective and efficient you will be.
Different Lists for Different Purposes
You need different lists for different purposes. First, you should
create a master list on which you write down everything you can
think of that you want to do sometime in the future. This is the place
where you capture every idea and every new task or responsibility that
comes up. You can sort out the items later.
Second, you should have a monthly list that you make at the end
of the month for the month ahead. This may contain items transferred
from your master list.
Third, you should have a weekly list where you plan your entire
week in advance. This is a list that is under construction as you go
through the current week.
This discipline of systematic time planning can be very helpful to you.
Many people have told me that the habit of taking a couple of hours at
the end of each week to plan the coming week has increased their
productivity dramatically and changed their lives completely. This
technique will work for you as well.
Finally, you should transfer items from your monthly and weekly lists
onto your daily list. These are the specific activities that you
are going to accomplish the following day.
As you work through the day, tick off the items on your list as you
complete them. This activity gives you a visual picture of
accomplishment. It generates a feeling of success and forward motion.
Seeing yourself working progressively through your list motivates and
energizes you. It raises your self-esteem and self-respect. Steady,
visible progress propels you forward and helps you overcome
Planning a Project
When you have a project of any kind, begin by making a list of every
step that you will have to complete to finish the project from beginning
to end. Organize the steps by priority, what is most important,
and sequence, which tasks you must complete in order. Lay out the
project in front of you on paper or on a computer-based project planner
so that you can see every step and task. Then go to work on one task at
a time. You will be amazed at how much you get done in this way.
As you work through your lists, you will feel more and more effective
and powerful. You will feel more in control of your life. You will be
naturally motivated to do even more. You will think better and more
creatively, and you will get more and better insights that enable you to
do your work even faster.
As you work steadily through your lists, you will develop a sense of
positive forward momentum that enables you to overcome procrastination.
This feeling of progress gives you more energy and keeps you going
throughout the day.
One of the most important rules of personal effectiveness is the 10/90
Rule. This rule says that the first 10 percent of time that you spend
planning and organizing your work before you begin will save you as much
as 90 percent of the time in getting the job done once you get started.
You only have to try this rule once to prove it to yourself.
When you plan each day in advance, you will find it much easier to get
going and to keep going. The work will go faster and smoother than ever
before. You will feel more powerful and competent. You will get more
done faster than you thought possible. Eventually, you will become
EAT THAT FROG!
1. Begin today to plan every day, week, and month in advance.
Take a notepad or sheet of paper (or use your smartphone) and make a
list of everything you have to do in the next twenty-four hours. Add to
your list as new items come up. Make a list of all your projects, the
big multitask jobs that are important to your future.
2. Lay out all of your major goals, projects, and tasks by
priority, what is most important, and by sequence, what
has to be done first, what comes second, and so forth. Start with the
end in mind and work backward.
Think on paper! Always work from a list. You'll be amazed at how much
more productive you become and how much easier it is to eat your frog.
Apply the 80/20 Rule to Everything
We always have time enough, if we will but use it aright.
JOHANN WOLFGANG VON GOETHE
The 80/20 Rule is one of the most helpful of all concepts of time and
life management. It is also called the "Pareto Principle" after the
Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto, who first wrote about it in 1895.
Pareto noticed that people in his society seemed to divide naturally
into what he called the "vital few," the top 20 percent in terms of
money and influence, and the "trivial many," the bottom 80 percent.
He later discovered that virtually all economic activity was subject to
this principle as well. For example, this principle says that 20 percent
of your activities will account for 80 percent of your results, 20
percent of your customers will account for 80 percent of your sales, 20
percent of your products or services will account for 80 percent of your
profits, 20 percent of your tasks will account for 80 percent of the
value of what you do, and so on. This means that if you have a list of
ten items to do, two of those items will turn out to be worth much more
than the other eight items put together.
Number of Tasks versus Importance of Tasks
Here is an interesting discovery. Each of the ten tasks may take the
same amount of time to accomplish. But one or two of those tasks will
contribute five or ten times the value of any of the others.
Often, a single task can be worth more than all the other nine
items put together. This task is invariably the frog that you
should eat first.
Can you guess on which items the average person is most likely to
procrastinate? The sad fact is that most people procrastinate on the top
10 or 20 percent of items that are the most valuable and important, the
"vital few." They busy themselves instead with the least important 80
percent, the "trivial many" that contribute very little to results.
Focus on Activities, Not Accomplishments
You often see people who appear to be busy all day long but seem to
accomplish very little. This is almost always because they are busy
working on tasks that are of low value while they are procrastinating on
the one or two activities that, if they completed them quickly and well,
could make a real difference to their companies and to their careers.
The most valuable tasks you can do each day are often the hardest and
most complex. But the payoff and rewards for completing these tasks
efficiently can be tremendous. For this reason, you must adamantly
refuse to work on tasks in the bottom 80 percent while you still have
tasks in the top 20 percent left to be done.
Before you begin work, always ask yourself, "Is this task in the top 20
percent of my activities or in the bottom 80 percent?"
Rule: Resist the temptation to clear up small things first.
Remember, whatever you choose to do over and over eventually becomes a
habit that is hard to break. If you choose to start your day working on
low-value tasks, you will soon develop the habit of always starting and
working on low-value tasks. This is not the kind of habit you want to
develop or keep. Low-value tasks are like rabbits; they multiply
continually. You never get caught up.
Excerpted from "Eat That Frog!: 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time" by Brian Tracy. Copyright © 2013 by Brian Tracy. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.