What does "eat that frog" mean?

Mark Twain once famously 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.”


This basically translates to — stop procrastinating!

Eat that frog

Why Do We Procrastinate?

Whether you dabble in it from time to time or are a fully-fledged culprit, procrastinating is something we are all guilty of (come on, don’t lie to yourself). We can all agree that it’s just too easy a habit to get into, especially with distracting devices available at our fingertips (smartphones, anyone?)

But why is this? Why do we put things off when we know they need to be done?

Well, according to Joseph Ferrari, PhD, associate professor of psychology at De Paul University in Chicago, there are three types of procrastinators, and the category you fall into explains why you procrastinate.

  1. “Arousal types, or thrill-seekers, who wait to the last minute for the euphoric rush.
  2. Avoiders, who may be avoiding fear of failure or even fear of success, but in either case are very concerned with what others think of them; they would rather have others think they lack effort than ability.
  3. Decisional procrastinators, who cannot make a decision. Not making a decision absolves procrastinators of responsibility for the outcome of events.”

Spongebob procrastination: How to not eat that frog
Don’t do this.

But Wait, What Is This ‘Frog’ You Speak of?

The term ‘eat that frog’ refers to getting your worst task out of the way first. The ‘frog’ is the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad task that you just don’t want to do — but know that you have to. It’s the one that holds the most consequence if you don’t complete it, and the one that is most likely to fall prey to procrastination. However, it’s also the task that will give you the biggest feeling of accomplishment once it’s out of the way. The one that will set the ball rolling for the rest of your tasks for the day.

This is why you should tackle it first.

And How Can I Spot the Frog?

The Eisenhower Method (made popular by Eisenhower himself) categorizes tasks by urgency and importance. By creating a similar matrix of need v.s. want, you can categorize your tasks into four groups:

  1. Things you have to do, and don’t want to do
  2. Things you have to do, and want to do
  3. Things you don’t have to do, and want to do
  4. Things you don’t have to do, and don’t want to do

The ‘frog’ belongs in the first group. Simply put, it’s the task you need to do, but don’t have any desire to do it whatsoever, which is the reason why you procrastinate.

Zenkit's eat that frog graph

So, How Can I Eat That Frog?

Fast forward to about 100 years since Twain uttered his famous, froggy words, and the catchphrase ‘eat that frog’ has become a productivity mantra, coined most notably by motivational and self-development professional, Brian Tracy, in his book — aptly named — Eat That Frog! 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time. So, when you hear someone say, “eat that frog”, they’re not challenging you to a bizarre food contest, they’re telling you to quit delaying, and get on with it.

Here are some tips to help you eat that frog:

Don’t check your email first thing

Know the difference between an activity and an accomplishment. For example, while it may appear that you’re accomplishing something by going through your inbox, you aren’t. You are merely faffing about and avoiding what truly needs to be done — the frog. Steer clear of checking your email first thing in the morning as it will clutter your mind and distract you from the things you need to focus on. Start your day off with clarity and space.

Prepare the night before

Whatever your frog is, ensure you have all the equipment ready the night before so there’s minimum fuss the next day. Let’s say, for instance, your frog is applying for a working visa — which can be an excruciating but necessary process — have your passport, credit card, and all the documentation laid out on your kitchen table so that you are organized and set to go right after breakfast (or during, which is even better!). The fewer things you have to worry about when you wake up, the more likely you are to actually get to it.

Practice makes perfect

Your mind is like a muscle, which means you can train it to do things. Just like procrastination itself, stopping it is all about habit. Once you get into the routine of eating that frog first thing, it will come naturally to you. And once you realize just how satisfying crossing off that big task on your list is, it’ll give you great motivation.

Arm yourself with productivity tools

The more assistance you have with a task, the better your chances are of yielding the motivation you need. Whether it’s something to simply remind you of important dates, or you’re looking to digitalize your to-do list, using a project management tool like Zenkit can get you one step closer to eating that frog!

Final Thoughts

Try your luck with one of the tips above, and see how you go. If you have any other tricks on how to ‘eat that frog’ then please do share in the comments section!

Remember, getting out of the habit of procrastinating won’t happen instantly, it is something that we have to stick to in order to reap the rewards. It is also something that won’t happen on its own, it’s a process that requires you to take the first hop🐸


Dinnie and the Zenkit Team