July 01, 2019 Chair's Column

Eating a Frog a Day Can Keep the Procrastination Away

Alexandria McCombs

The complex joint venture arrangement. The tedious contract. The multi-state legal survey. The regulatory conundrum. The difficult client call. The monthly Chair’s Column. These are dreaded tasks that we may procrastinate despite the languid taunts in our minds reminiscent of Dali’s “Persistence of Memory.” It is a futile undertaking. The longer we put off these priorities, the greater the distraction and detachment from our sense of purpose.

I justified my own procrastination with a well-known strategy for taking standardized tests: start with the easy questions first to build up confidence and then save time to tackle the tough ones at the end. The strategy may have worked in the compressed exam environment, but it’s ineffective for long-term project management. Notable speaker and author Brian Tracy recommends a different approach. In “Eat That Frog!” he attributes the amphibious metaphor of tackling your most daunting tasks first to Mark Twain, who is credited with saying:

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.

Tracy advises us to prioritize our frogs—or tasks—according to an ABCDE order. An “A” frog represents a significant task such as a Board report, business development opportunity, preparation for a strategic meeting, or other similar event or project. This frog is paramount, non-negotiable and carries significant repercussions at work if neglected.  A “B” frog may include a useful client lunch or follow-up with a colleague. Although it remains important, it is not as urgent as the A frog. The general rule is not to have B leapfrog A. A “C” frog—in Tracy’s view—is a desirable tadpole that is nice to have but has no professional consequence, unlike your A and B frogs. In fact, Tracy estimates that nearly 50 percent of our professional time is consumed by these personal tadpoles even before the A and B frogs are eaten. Picking up dry cleaning or calling a friend are examples of C tadpoles. A “D” frog represents tasks that can be delegated. Optimal delegation can free up precious time so that we can focus on the A and B frogs. Finally, an “E” frog is a task that can be eliminated completely. It has no professional or personal impact, so your time and energy can be invested elsewhere.

This column was my Sunday afternoon frog. I am making progress because it could have been my late Sunday night frog. Now the upcoming Board report doesn’t seem like a gargantuan toad. I like the logic behind Tracy’s ABCDE methodology and will implement it first thing in the morning after I make my bed. Now, I’ll save that frog for another column.