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Some thoughts on "Eat that frog!" by Brian Tracy


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I just finishing very quickly going over Eat That Frog!: 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time by Brian Tracy, which has been in my candidates library for a while. It came to the front of my list as a result of some questions that came during discussion in a recent workshop.

I won't go into detail on the book - you can find a nice summary the main points at Amit Chakradeo's blog, and more extensive notes (including Tracy's rules) here. Instead I'll look at it from the perspective of how it compares as a system for self-management. I'll first pull out what I thought the best anti-procrastination ideas were, then address how it fits in with my view of personal productivity.

Best ideas

The ideas that had the most impact for me were:

(You may also enjoy my article Use the STING method to stop procrastinating.)

As a personal productivity system

In spite of such a great list, I have some issues with the book as a complete system. Tracy starts out with some solid points that initially had me nodding my head:

There is never enough time to do everything you have to do. You are literally swamped with work and personal responsibilities, projects, stacks of magazines to read, and piles of books you intend to get to one of these days as soon as you get caught up.

You can get control of your time and your life only by changing the way you think, work, and deal with the never ending river of responsibilities that flows over you each day. You can get control of your tasks and activities only to the degree that you stop doing some things and start spending more time on the few activities that can really make a difference in your life.

Given my influences, it won't come as a surprise when I ask whether procrastination is really the problem most people should focus on first - for those of us who don't have a system to address the overflow of commitments, communications, and information flooding our lives, focusing on tips like those above is premature. The proverb Learn to walk before you run comes to mind.

Specifically, I found the book makes some significant assumptions and omissions:

  • It completely skips something that's a huge block to effective focus: The mind's reduced ability to focus if not empty.
  • It doesn't address the crucial need for centralized action reminders.
  • It omits dealing with power of stuff to distract, and the large waste of time searching for information can cause.
  • Similarly, the book doesn't account for the power of lower-level things to grab attention, precluding thought at important higher levels. Put another way, it's hard to determine higher-level goals/objectives when drowning; ditto for "determining key result areas," and "leveraging special talents."
  • Regarding skipping "lower value tasks," I like the perspective that there are really only two kinds of tasks: ones you're committed to doing, and other. Importantly, all of the former are higher value tasks, for some aspect of your life. And as Allen points out, skipping tasks that are lower value now can create a crisis.
  • The book is all about choosing action, but you can't apply choose well without having a complete action choice inventory (AKA "next actions" in GTD).
  • Finally, prioritization needs to be more flexible than the traditional ABC scheme, given the pace and demands of modern life.

That said, I have a lot of respect for Tracy, who is full of great ideas. For example, one of my favorites (which my readers enjoyed - see this post) is from Time Power, which he calls his Guaranteed Formula For Getting Rich:

Invest as much in your mind each year as you do in your car." "The average driver spends $600 per month on his car... In the first year of practicing this formula, you income will increase 25 percent to 50 percent, or more, and your entire career will take off.

I've been trying it so far and my income has dropped (OK, I went 1/2 time at programming, so give it time), but I'm still game. Cheers!

Reader Comments (9)

I saw Brian Tracy speak in Minneapolis within the last couple weeks. It was one of those seminars where the afternoon session is free, and then they try to hook people in to signing up for the evening seminar for 100 dollars. He was very big in to pumping the audience up and doing the whole THINK BIG, THINK RICH thing... I recognized it instantly after having been to a LEARNING ANNEX seminar earlier this year... the BT seminar was uplifting but lacked some serious content!


October 24, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

Thanks for the story, Erik. I don't know much about seminars like this, and I'd not heard of LEARNING ANNEX before. Please, if you'd recommend any let me know.

Thanks for reading!

October 24, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterMatthew Cornell


Your blog is great, too great even. How do you want me to stop proscratinating when I've got too much surfing to do!
Seriously though, I have a full-time job language training (preparation and travelling time on top), a book contract with tight deadlines, a seven week old son(sleepless nights included) and four year old daughter, a website and blog to keep updated and very little time for anything like a social life!
I try to read in bed, but at the moment I manage about three lines before I fall asleep.
Any advice for this overloaded parent?

October 25, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterJonathan Lewis

Hi Jonathan. Thanks for the support.

Wow - you've a lot going on! Are you asking about reading in particular? If so, the best practice I recommend is to break reading into three categories: Critical (which goes into your action system - calendar or NAs), FYI (which goes into your Read/Review folder), and Someday/Maybe (which goes into your Someday/Maybe folder). Two links that might help:

[ Read and Review... | http://www.davidco.com/forum/showpost.php?p=24981&postcount=9 ] and [ some GTD reading resources | http://www.davidco.com/forum/showpost.php?p=36119&postcount=17 ]

Of course, even the best-structured system won't help if you don't have time to get to it. In that case, you might consider either cutting back on something else, or blocking out time explicitly for reading.

Hope that helps! Please write if you were asking about something else.

October 25, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterMatthew Cornell

So, over six months further in, has the income picked back up? :)

June 27, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterJamin

Actually, Jamin, it's *decreased* by about 90%, but I still have hope!

June 27, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterMatthew Cornell

But you sound happy and are still eating, so that's good :)

June 28, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterJamin Ellis
wow, really nice summary. found this post by accident. i listened to the audiobook some days ago. so much interesting links to check out, thanks for researching them all. i especially like the list of things the book does wrong since nothing is perfect.
January 7, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterSteffen
Thanks, Steffen!
January 9, 2014 | Registered CommenterMatthew Cornell

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