Every Sunday, The Simple Dollar reviews a personal finance or other book of interest. Also available is a complete list of the hundreds of book reviews that have appeared on The Simple Dollar over the years.
A few months ago, I reviewed Brian Tracy’s book Goals!, which was a solid primer on setting specific goals for yourself. If goals are a focus point for you, I highly encourage you to take a peek at my review.
Since then, I’ve looked at several of Brian Tracy’s books. Some of them seem good, while others seem like rehashes. The best ones focus specifically on a problem or challenge that productive people face.
Eat That Frog! falls into that category.
Here, Tracy tackles procrastination. Eat That Frog! is a fairly short book divided into a number of short essays on how to overcome procrastination. I selected six of the most compelling to discuss below.
Apply the 80/20 Rule to Everything
The 80/20 rule, also known as the Pareto principle, simply says that 20% of the time you invest in something will produce 80% of the results. For example, I absolutely find it true that 80% of the content I actually write is done in 20% of the time I often spend on writing.
One big key to avoiding procrastination is to learn to recognize and harness that 20%. When you’re productive, ride that train until you stop being productive, and do this regardless of when the project is due. It’s far better to spend an hour now when your mind is in gear and you’re able to really knock out some work than to spend four hours later where it takes all you’ve got to squeeze out just a little result.
Use the ABCDE Method Continuously
The “ABCDE method” refers to simply grouping your tasks to be done by priority in addition to by due date. A tasks are of the highest priority, whereas E tasks are ones that you can basically drop because they’re unimportant.
If you prioritize your to-do list as well as look at it by due date, then it will become clear exactly what you should be working on – the A-1 task. Focus on that, and only that, until it’s complete.
Upgrade Your Key Skills
I essentially discussed this idea in my post this morning. If you put regular time into building up your key skills, then large projects that utilize those skills seem less frightening and much more manageable. If you can type at ninety words per minute rather than twenty, putting together that report is much easier.
Since many of the tasks we face come down to execution of our basic skills in some combination, the sharper our basic skills, the easier any project we face becomes and the less likely we are to procrastinate about it.
Get Out of the Technological Time Sinks
Cell phones. Web browsers. Twitter clients. Facebook. All of these things are giant technological time sinks. They’re constantly available, making it incredibly easy to just send a text or check a website or send a Facebook update or tweet something. Boom – concentration broken.
The solution is to turn all of these things off. Turn off the internet connection. Turn the cell phone completely off. Deny yourself the ability to easily access these services until the task you need to complete is finsihed.
Slice and Dice the Task
If the task before you seems monumental, it’s easy to put it off until later rather than facing it. Instead of dwelling on that monumental nature, though, consider breaking that task down into smaller pieces until each piece seems manageable and comfortable.
In fact, such a breakdown of a project can be a very useful first task to approach. If you’re thinking about a project but don’t want to work on it because it seems overwhelming, instead just spend some time breaking that project down into smaller pieces.
Single Handle Every Task
One key way to avoid procrastination, particularly of smaller tasks, is to “single handle” them. In other words, when you first pick up a smaller project, don’t put it down until it’s completely finished. Don’t even give yourself a chance to divide the project’s time and thus procrastinate on the second half of it.
This was my worst procrastination tactic in college. I’d do half of my calculus homework, then drop the other half, only to find myself doing it in a panic at 7 in the morning while in the dining hall for breakfast.
Is Eat That Frog! Worth Reading?
If you find procrastination to be a consistent problem in your life, Eat That Frog! offers a concise and valuable collection of tactics to try. The reasons for each person’s procrastination are different, so it’s good that Tracy’s tactics are fairly diverse and attack many different avenues of procrastination.
As with any book like this, though, the value of the book relates directly to how much you put into it. If you just read it and toss it aside without applying anything, you might as well read a page-turning novel.