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Why You Need to Eat a Live Frog First in Order to Be Productive

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If you’re like me and had never heard this quote by Mark Twain, you were probably a little confused by the title of this article.

Eating a live frog refers to completing a task that really, really sucks. I mean, eating a live frog would be fairly traumatizing, right? So the advice intended by Mr. Twain is to eat the frog first in order to get it out of the way and have a more productive day.

What Not to Do in the First Part of Your Day

Opinions vary in regards to how a successful person should begin his or her day. However, there’s one thing experts across the board agree you should not do in the first hour of your morning: check your email.

Why? Because checking your email is really not accomplishing a task. It may feel like you’re doing something productive, by reading and replying to emails, especially if they seem urgent. However, the email reading and replies and forwards and deletions are an endless list that can suck you in and consume more time than you intended to give it.

Also, is there really an email that can’t wait until 9 or 10 a.m. to be answered? Even the most urgent emails don’t need to be answered the minute you start your day. If it is that urgent, the email would be a phone call or a text.

How to Tell if a Frog is a Frog

One thing to remember is that just because a particular task is difficult does not mean it should automatically take priority—regardless of what Mark Twain’s quote tells us. I would revise the meaning a little.

“Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen…” should be a metaphor for the most important task with the most productive outcome, rather than simply the most difficult.

Brian Tracy, author of the well-known time-management book “Eat That Frog,” advised that if you have two difficult tasks before you, start with the one that’s bigger, harder and more important. Often the thing we least want to do is also the most important. Getting a difficult task that is less productive out of the way just to get it out of the way is probably not the best start to the day.

How to Eat Your Daily Frog

The idea is to create a habit of taking care of the most challenging task first thing in the morning.

If you’re a writer, this might mean writing a blog post or an article before checking your email and reading the latest round of articles in your inbox. If you’re a PPC manager, it might mean reviewing and optimizing campaigns before reading the latest from Search Engine Journal and Search Engine Watch.


Good habits are not easy to establish, especially if it’s a habit of doing the thing you want to do the least first. You may need to create a little bit of a setup in order to encourage this action. For example, before you leave work at the end of the day, create a checklist or simply write down the first thing you need to do the next morning. If necessary and possible, gather whatever you need to accomplish it so it’s there waiting for you.

Here’s a real-life example. Let’s say you want to run first thing in the morning because you won’t have time otherwise. You can make a mental note before going to bed that you’re going to work out first thing in the morning no matter what, and you can also take out your shoes and running clothes and lay them next to your bed. Then, once you wake up, you’ll remember the first task on your list for the day and have everything you need right at your fingertips.

This same approach can be applied to your work tasks. You can write down the most important task you’re going to do first the following day and make sure you have everything laid out and ready to go so that you can.

The bottom line is this: successful people develop a lifelong habit of diving directly into major tasks on a daily basis and working steadily and tenaciously until that task is completed. The business world rewards those who produce results—not those who are simply busy. If you regularly set priorities and get important tasks done quickly and effectively at the start of every single day, you’ll rise to the top as an employee or entrepreneur who not only talks the talk but also walks the walk.

Just remember to always eat a live frog first thing in the morning.


Joe Putnam HeadshotKayla Matthews is an iSpionage blogger with an interest in campaign management and productivity. You can read all of her latest posts by following her on Google+ and Twitter.

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  • Sam

    Nice post, Zig Zigular wrote a book called Eat That Frog, on the same theme. Very good.

  • Ros

    I like the reverse approach of what not to do, first thing in the morning, and it’s definitely emails.
    I check mine twice a day and it works well. As for eating the frog, it took me some time but it’s getting better, one has not to think about it and get it done, it will get enjoyable eventually.
    Brian Tracy’s book (and audiobooks) are awesome, I inject them continuously into my brain until it all becomes natural.
    And if you’re looking for a free online tool to manage your tasks and “frogs”, may I suggest one we created at Zenkit, along with an article on “frog eating”, we would love your feedbacks.