Do you ever find yourself rounding out the workday and thinking “I didn’t get anything done today”? Between the laundry list of projects that are open and the bombardment of interruptions, it’s difficult to make substantial progress on any one thing. A few years ago I read a book that solves this problem.
Eat That Frog by Brian Tracy is a great book for anyone looking to increase their efficiency and effectiveness at work. Increasing effectiveness and efficiency at work is huge because what normally takes you an 8 hour workday to complete, may now take you 5 hours, leaving 3 hours for you to advance on other projects/goals. It allows you to advance more quickly in your career, without having to become a workaholic.
In every workday there is a “frog”. The frog is the one uncomfortable, slimy, difficult, and time-consuming project that is most urgent and important to complete. In the book Eat That Frog, Brian Tracy explains that we should section of early morning time to devote to this project (aka “the frog”), purposefully avoid interruptions, and elect to push other tasks later in the day.
In contrast this is how a typical employee’s workday will unfold- We’ll follow Arthur. Arthur gets in around 9:30am which is when many people are already in but he’s not the last (phew!). Arthur knows that some people get in around 8am but they must clearly must insane. Arthur proceeds to get his coffee, water, and boots up his computer. Arthur then spends the next hour or so clearing and responding to emails that were from yesterday or came in this morning. By 11am, his superior stopped by and asked him to complete a “quick project” and Arthur decided since it was quick he’d tackle it now. At noon Arthur wrapped up the small project and was back to email. After this and a few chats with co-workers, it was time for lunch. Upon returning Arthur learns there is a client “fire” that needs to be handled immediately so he jumps on it. Around 3pm Arthur starts worrying he’s never going to get to the “frog” he really needs to advance on. Always tomorrow!
By following the logic in Eat That Frog and Getting Things Done by David Allen, here is how Arthur’s day would change:
- Arthur gets in at 8am, gets coffee, water, and boots up his computer. Very few people are already in.
- Arthur does not open email and instead opens up the project (frog) he needs to progress on and decides he will devote 3 hours to this project now. He’s choosing to “eat that frog”.
- For 3 hours Arthur plows through the frog, purposefully not engaging co-workers in long conversations or opening emails.
- His supervisor stopped by at 10am and Arthur wrote down the steps he’d have to complete for the “quick project” and asked his super if he could complete it later in the day. “Of course” was the response.
- At 11am, Arthur booted up email and cleared/responded to all new emails of the day (yesterdays were cleared yesterday)
- Arthur left for lunch knowing he made meaningful progress on his project and has the rest of the day to tackle client fires, his other goals/projects, or chat with co-workers.
See the difference here? My man Arthur is now a work-stud. The reason I believe the above scenario will work is because I’ve been doing it for the last two years. When you are in early, section off time and mentally avoid interruptions, you get sh*t done, period. When you wait until the workday is in full force your productivity falls in the hands of others, out of your control. Also, making sure not to read or respond to emails mid-productive time is huge. Shut of the auto-notifier that pops up every time you get an email. I hate that thing; it is such an efficiency killer.
If you have any techniques that have worked for you, please share them for the readers.
Have a great rest of the week and good luck eating your frogs!