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Time Management: Eat That Frog!

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Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.

– Mark Twain

Brian Tracy’s 5 minute YouTube video discusses a time management strategy that has changed many people’s lives (including mine!). This strategy involves organising your tasks by priority. It discusses time management in the context of the workplace, but the strategy is applicable to HPAT and high school/university study too. This blog summarises the key points. 

This strategy is called ‘Eat that frog!’ and means tackling your biggest, most important task first. This idea comes from a story by Mark Twain. As Mark Twain said, if the first thing you do in the morning is to eat a live frog, you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing that’s probably the worst thing you will do all day long. 

Your frog is your biggest, ugliest task. This is the task that you are most likely to procrastinate on, but it is also the task that, when completed, is likely to have the greatest positive impact on your life at the moment. Examples of frogs may be completing a full length HPAT trial exam under timed conditions, making a HPAT study timetable or finishing an assignment in a subject you dislike. So do your worst first!

You should start by making a list of all things that you have to do. This should preferably be made the night before or first thing in the morning. Writing it down means you don’t need to worry that you’ll forget the important things. Never start tackling your tasks without a list – think on paper! Then go through the list and use the letters ‘ABCDE’ to prioritise each task:

  • A: This is a task that you must do. It has serious consequences if you don’t do it. These are the frogs in your life, and you have to eat them first. Examples of ‘A’ tasks include submitting an assignment before its due date or registering to sit HPAT. If you have multiple A tasks, label them A1, A2, A3 etc. Start on your A1 task first.
  • B: This is a task that you should do, but there are only mild consequences if you do not do it. These are the tadpoles.  Never do a B task if you have an A task left undone. Don’t be distracted by a tadpole when there is a frog waiting to be eaten!  An example would be checking your email.
  • C: This is a task that is nice to do but there are no consequences at all if you don’t do it. Interestingly, most people spend 50% of their time on C tasks. 
  • D: This is a task you can (and should) delegate to someone else, so you can free up time for an A task that only you can do. For example, consider enlisting the help of your parents for researching university admissions applications and key dates. 
  • E: This is a task that you can eliminate altogether and it won’t make any difference. Often you will continue to do it out of habit or because you enjoy it. It may have been important at one time but it’s no longer important to you or anyone else.  But time spent on this takes away from doing A tasks – tasks that make a big difference to your life.

Obviously, arranging your day like this isn’t easy – it takes discipline. It is probably much more enjoyable to do a task in categories B, C, D and E. However, you should immediately start with A tasks and stay with them until they are done, using your willpower and mental strength. Eat the whole frog and don’t stop till it’s finished completely!  Using this method can double your productivity and therefore dramatically improve your school, university and HPAT results. Give it a go!

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