Productivity lessons from Eat that Frog: 21 Ways to stop Procrastination and get More Done in Less Time

Posted on June 22, 2010 By bookguide Topic: Greatbooks, Book summary

Eat that Frog is one those fashionable productivity book that everyone lkeeps talking about. There are lots of productivity acronyms, quotes and aphorisms inside; A look at some important points raised in this book:

[From the Great Books  Series. Also see The Success Manual  - Encyclopedia of Advice, which contains summaries of 100+ Most useful books.]

Apply the 80/20 Rule to everything
Consider the consequences
Practice the ABCDE Method continually
Focus on key result areas
The Law of Forced Efficiency
Prepare thoroughly before you begin
Do your homework
Leverage your special talents
Identify your key constraints
Set the table
Plan every day in advance
Maximize your personal powers
Motivate yourself into action
Practice creative procrastination
Do the most difficult task first
Slice and dice the task
Create large chunks of time
Develop a sense of urgency
Single handle every task 1
Take it one oil barrel at a time
Put the pressure on yourself

Set the Table
* Decide exactly what you want. Clarity is essential. Write out your goals and objectives before you begin.
Jim Cathcart says, “The person you see is the person you will be.”

“ There is one quality that one must possess to win, and that is definiteness of purpose, the knowledge of what one wants and a burning desire to achieve it.” (Napoleon Hill)

Make out 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.
* For example, you would write. “I weigh X number of pounds.
* Great rule for success: "Think on paper."

Rule: “One of the very worst uses of time is to do something very well that need not be done at all.”
Stephen Covey says that, 'Before you begin scrambling up the ladder of success, make sure that it is leaning against the right building.'

Plan Every Day In Advance

* Think on paper.
* Every minute you spend in planning can save you five or ten minutes in execution.

“ Planning is bringing the future into the present so you can do something about it now.” (Alan Lakein)

* Begin today to plan every day, week and month in advance. Make a list of everything you have to do in the next 24 hours. Add to it as new items come up.
* Lay out each of your major goals, projects or tasks by priority, what is most important, and by sequence, what has to be done first.

Alex MacKenzie wrote,'Action without planning is the cause of every failure'.

Apply the 80/20 Rule to Everything
* Twenty percent of your activities will account for eighty percent of your results. Always concentrate your efforts on that top twenty percent
“ We always have time enough, if we will but use it aright.” (Wolfgang Von Goethe)

Make a list of all the key goals, activities, projects and responsibilities in your life today. Which of them are, or could be, in the top 10% or 20% of tasks that represent, or could represent, 80% or 90% of your results?
* Spend more and more of your time working in those few areas that can really make a difference in you life and career, and less and less time on lower value activities.

Rule: “Resist the temptation to clear up small things first.”

Consider the Consequences

* Your most important tasks and priorities are those that can have the most serious consequences, positive or negative, on your life or work. Focus on these above all else.
“ Every man has become great, every successful man has succeeded, in proportion as he has confined his powers to one particular channel.” - Orison Swett Marden
* Review your list of tasks, activities and projects regularly. Continually ask yourself, “Which one project or activity, if I did it in an excellent and timely fashion, would have the greatest positive impact on my life?”
* Remember the wonderful words of Goethe, “Just begin and the mind grows heated; continue, and the task will be completed!”

Rule: 'Long-term thinking improves short-term decision making.'
* Successful people are those who are willing to delay gratification and make sacrifices in the short term so that they can enjoy far greater rewards in the long term. Unsuccessful people, on the other hand, think more about short-term pleasure and immediate gratification while giving little thought to the long-term future.
* The clearer you are about your future intentions, the greater influence that clarity will have on what you do in the moment.

Practice the ABCDE Method Continually
* Before you begin work on a list of tasks, take a few moments to organize them by value and priority so you can be sure of working on your most important activities .
“ The first law of success is concentration – to bend all the energies to one point, and to go directly to that point, looking neither to the right or to the left.” (William Mathews)
* Review you work list right now and put an A, B, C, D or E next to each task or activity. Select your A-1 job or project and begin on it immediately. Discipline yourself to do nothing else until this one job is complete.
* Practice this ABCDE Method every day and on every work or project list, before you begin work, for the next month. By that time, you will have developed the habit of setting and working on your highest priority tasks and your future will be assured!

Focus On Key Result Areas
* Identify and determine those results that you absolutely, positively have to get to do your job well, and work on them all day long.
“ When every physical and mental resource is focused, one’s power to solve a problem multiplies tremendously.” (Norman Vincent Peale)
* Why are you on the payroll?
* you have been hired to get specific results .
* A key result area is defined as something for which you are completely responsible. This means that if you don't do it, it doesn't get done. A key result area is an activity that is under your control. It is an output of your work that becomes an input or a contributing factor to the work of others.

* Here is one of the greatest questions you will ever ask and answer: "What one skill, if I developed and did it in an excellent fashion, would have the greatest positive impact on my career?"

Obey the Law of Forced Efficiency
* There is never enough time to do everything but there is always enough time to do the most important things. What are they? .
“ Concentration, in its truest, unadulterated form, means the ability to focus the mind on one single solitary thing.” (Komar)

There are three questions that you can use on a regular basis to keep yourself focused on getting your most important tasks completed on schedule.
* What are my highest value activities?
* What can I and only I do, that if done well, will make a real difference?
* What is the most valuable use of my time, right now?
* Goethe said, "The things that matter most must never be at the mercy of the things that matter least."

Prepare Thoroughly Before You Begin
* The Six P formula:
* Proper Prior Preparation Prevents Poor Performance.
“ No matter what the level of your ability, you have more potential than you can ever develop in a lifetime.” (James T. McKay)
* Take a good look at your desk or office, both at home and at the office. Ask yourself, “What kind of a person works in an environment like that?”
* The cleaner and neater your work environment, the more positive, productive and confident you feel.
* One of the great techniques for overcoming procrastination is for you to get everything completely ready to work in advance. When everything is laid out in order and sequence, you feel much more like getting on with the job.

Do Your Homework
* The more knowledgeable and skilled you become at your key tasks, the faster you start them and the sooner you get them done.
“ The only certain means of success is to render more and better service than is expected of you, no matter what your task may be.” (Og Mandino)

Rule: “Continuous learning is the minimum requirement for success in any field.”

Leverage Your Special Talents
* Determine exactly what it is that you are very good at doing, or could be very good at, and throw your whole heart into doing those specific things very, very well.
“ Do your work. Not just your work and no more, but a little more for the lavishing sake – that little more that is worth all the rest.” (Dean Briggs)

Identify Your Key Constraints

* Determine the bottlenecks or chokepoints, internally or externally, that set the speed at which you achieve your most important goals and focus on alleviating them.
“ Concentrate all your thoughts on the task at hand. The sun’s rays do not burn until brought to a focus.” Alexander Graham Bell
* After Identifying your most important goal in life today, ask yourself, “What sets the speed at which I accomplish this goal? Why don’t I have it already? What is it in me that is holding me back?” Whatever your answers, take action immediately. Do something. Do anything, but get started.
* Successful people always begin the analysis of constraints by asking the question, 'What is it in me that is holding me back?' They accept complete responsibility and look to themselves for both the cause and cure of their problems.
Take It One Oil Barrel at A Time
* You can accomplish the biggest and most complicated job if you just complete it one step at a time .
“ Persons with comparatively moderate powers will accomplish much if they apply themselves wholly and indefatigably to one thing at a time.” (Samuel Smiles)
* There is an old saying that, 'By the yard it's hard; but inch by inch, anything's a cinch!'
Take It One Oil Barrel at A Time
'A journey of a thousand leagues begins with a single step.'

Put the Pressure on Yourself
* Create your own “forcing system.” Raise the bar on yourself and don’t let yourself off the hook.
* Imagine that you have to leave town for a month and work as if you had to get all your major tasks completed before you left.
“ The first requisite for success is to apply your physical and mental energies to one problem incessantly without growing weary.” (Thomas Edison)
* The world is full of people who are waiting for someone to come along and motivate them to be the kind of people they wish they could be. The problem is that, "No one is coming to the rescue."
* These people are waiting for a bus on a street where no busses pass. As a result, if they don't take charge of their lives and put the pressure on themselves, they can end up waiting forever. And that is what most people do.
* Only about 2% of people can work entirely without supervision. We call these people.

Maximize Your Personal Powers
* Identify your periods of highest mental and physical energy each day and structure your most important and demanding tasks around these times. Get lots of rest so you can perform at your best .
“ Gather in your resources, rally all your faculties, marshal all your energies, focus all your capacities upon mastery of at least one field of endeavor.” (John Haggai)
* Make an analysis of your current energy levels and your daily health habits. Resolve today to improve your levels of health and energy by asking the following questions:
o 1) What am I doing physically that I should do more of?
o 2) What am I doing that I should do less of?
o 3) What am I not doing that I should start doing if I want to perform at my best?
o 4) What am I doing today that affects my health that I should stop doing altogether?
* Whatever your answers are to these questions, take action today.

Motivate Yourself into Action
* Be your own cheerleader.
* Look for the good in every situation.
* Focus on the solution rather than the problem.
* Always be optimistic and constructive .
“ It is in the compelling zest of high adventure and of victory, and of creative action that man finds his supreme joys.”  - (Antoine de Saint-Exupery)
* Control your thoughts. Remember, you become what you think about most of the time. Be sure that you are thinking and talking about the things you want rather than the things you don’t want.
* Fully 95% of your emotions, positive or negative, are determined by how you talk to yourself on a minute to minute basis. It is not what happens to you but the way that you interpret the things that are happening to you that determines how you feel. It is your version of events that largely determines whether they motivate or demotivate you, whether they energize or de-energize you.
* To keep yourself motivated, you must resolve to become a complete optimist. You must determine to respond positively to the words, actions and reactions of the people and situations around you.
* It seems that optimists have three special behaviors. They :
* look for the good in every situation.
* always seek the valuable lesson in every setback or difficulty.
* always look for the solution to every problem instead of blaming others.
Motivate Yourself into Action

Practice Creative Procrastinationا
* Since you can’t do everything, you must learn to deliberately put off those tasks that are of low value so that you have enough time to do the few things that really count .
“ Make time for getting big tasks done every day. Plan your daily workload in advance. Single out the relatively few small jobs that absolutely must be done immediately in the morning. Then go directly to the big tasks and pursue them to completion.”
* Creative procrastination is the act of thoughtfully and deliberately deciding upon the exact things you are not going to do right now, if ever.
* Most people engage in unconscious procrastination. They procrastinate without thinking about it. As a result, they procrastinate on the big, hard, valuable, important tasks that can have significant long-term consequences to their lives and careers.

* Rule: “You can only get your time and your life under control to the degree to which you discontinue lower value activities.”

Do the Most Difficult Task First
* Begin each day with your most difficult task, the one task that can make the greatest contribution to yourself and your work, and resolve to stay at it until it is complete .
“ The longer I live, the more I am certain that the great difference between men, between the feeble and the powerful, between the great and the insignificant, is energy -invincible determination- a purpose once fixed, and then death or victory.” ( Sir Thomas Fowell Buxton)
* See yourself as a work in progress. Dedicate yourself to developing the habits of high productivity by practicing them repeatedly until they become automatic and easy.

Slice and Dice the Task

* Break large, complex tasks down into bite sized pieces and then just do one small part of the task to get started
“ The beginning of a habit is like an invisible thread, but every time we repeat the act we strengthen the strand, add to it another filament, until it becomes a great cable and binds us irrevocably in thought and act.” Orison Swett Marden
* A common quality of successful, happy people is that they are action-oriented. When they hear a good idea, they take action on it immediately to see if it can help them.
* An important point to remember is that you have deep within you an 'urge to completion' or what is often referred to as a 'compulsion to closure'
* This means that you actually feel happier and more powerful when you start and complete a task of any kind. You satisfy a deep subconscious need to bring finality to a job or project.

Create Large Chunks of Time
* Organize your days around large blocks of time where you can concentrate for extended periods on your most important tasks .
* “ Nothing can add more power to your life than concentrating all of your energies on a limited set of targets.” (Nido Qubein)
* Work at scheduled times on large tasks. Most of the really important work you do requires large chunks of unbroken time to complete. Work on important tasks with the most significant long-term consequences.
* For example, many people read in the great books 15 minutes each night. In this way, over time, they eventually read dozens of the best books ever written.
* Remember, the pyramids were built one block at a time.

Develop A Sense of Urgency
* Make a habit of moving fast on your key tasks. Become known as a person who does things quickly and well .
* “ Do not wait; the time will never be ‘just right.’ Start where you stand, and work with whatever tools you may have at your command, and better tools will be found as you go along.” (Napoleon Hill)
* Resolve today to develop a sense of urgency in everything you do. Select one area where you have a tendency to procrastinate and make a decision to develop the habit of fast action in that area.
* When you see an opportunity or a problem, take action immediately. When you are given a task or responsibility, do it quickly and report back fast. Move rapidly in every important area of your life.
* Highly productive people take the time to think, plan and set priorities. They then launch quickly and strongly toward their goals and objectives. They work steadily, smoothly and continuously and seem to go through enormous amounts of work in the same time period that the average person spends socializing, wasting time and working on low value activities.
* One of the ways you can trigger the state of flow is by developing a 'sense of urgency.” This is an inner drive and desire to get on with the job quickly and get it done fast. This inner drive is an impatience that motivates you to get going and to keep going. A sense of urgency feels very much like racing against yourself.
* When you become an action-oriented person, you activate the "Momentum Principle” of success. This principle says that although it may take tremendous amounts of energy to overcome inertia and get going initially, it then takes far less energy to keep going.
* The good news is that the faster you move, the more energy you have. The faster you move, the more you get done and the more effective you feel. The faster you move, the more experience you get and the more you learn. The faster you move, the more competent and capable you become at your work.

Single Handle Every Task
* Set clear priorities, start immediately on your most important task and then work without stopping until the job is 100% complete. This is the real key to high performance and maximum personal productivity.
* “ And herein lies the secret of true power. Learn, by constant practice, how to husband your resources, and concentrate them, at any given moment, upon a given point.” (James Allen)
* Single handling requires that once you begin, you keep working at the task, without diversion or distraction, until the job is 100% complete.
* Elbert Hubbard defined self discipline as, 'The ability to make yourself do what you should do, when you should do it, whether you feel like it or not.'

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