I signed up to a webinar by TodoIst as the subject of ‘Eating the Frog’ interested me. As a GTD zealot, I was keen on learning more about other methodologies. Whereas GTD is an entire system, and arguable lifestyle change, “Eat That Frog” is more a mindset.

Simply put, get the stuff you’ve been putting off done first.

Knowing myself, procrastination on stuff usually comes about because things are complex – so as a developer, I know that I need to do my complicated work first. More specifically, I like to get my design and problem solving done before firefighting what inevitably comes up from collaboration on a complex project.

Some points I took from the webinar.

Eat that frog before reading emails

If you have no boundaries, on your availability, then you’ll waste cognitive load. Other people’s priorities become yours, not what you want. I think of it like the flight safety message:

‘Put on your own mask before helping others’.

You’re all working towards the same project goals ultimately, so get yourself sorted first.

Energy levels are important, but don’t get hung up on timings

You don’t have to use energy mapping levels religiously – just like my previous article, the realties of your work calendar will see to this anyway.

Choose your frog(s) the night before

Choose your frogs the night before – I do this with OmniFocus and setting a tagged ‘daily goal’ or 3. I know if I review these and they’re still hanging over from yesterday, I’ve fallen into the trap of helping others before myself. Or perhaps I’ve just not really stuck to things that are important, and focused on the urgent.

Eat that frog - using OmniFocus
Eat that frog – implemented using a Daily Goals perspective on OmniFocus

Pick your frog(s) carefully – for long term benefits

Ideally pick something important and not urgent. Maybe something for your career (learning a tool, some koans for the new language you’re learning) vs a frog for your project? Sometimes I pick one career and one project as my frog.

If you’re picking a project ‘frog’, think about which things have the best knock on/compounding effect:

  • Maybe one that involves coaching juniors will free up the team overall in the long run.
  • Maybe something that unblocks the team such as addressing PRs? Just be careful that this doesn’t cross over into dealing with ‘other people’s priorities’?
  • Unblocking a busy tech lead?
  • Which thing has the biggest project impact for tomorrow? Maybe I do look after me and then the team – fix your mask before helping others again.

Pick your frogs according to times

This comes down to planning. In a previous article I mentioned that you need to bend around your calendar to an extent, and the webinar tended to agree. Either pick things small enough to fit into calendar blocks, or slice your frog so that you can fit it into these slot. This is where your planning from the night before comes in – what priorities do you have for tomorrow, and what slots are on the calendar? This might be the time to decline some meeting requests to fit something important in!

Filter your frogs

Use filters in your tool to make the frog visible and your priority – reduce your own cognitive load! I use filters in OmniFocus extensively, but my ‘frogs’ filter is simply an OmniFocus perspective called ‘Daily Goals’. Notice how I also have a task here specifically to set tomorrows goals?

Eat that frog using daily reminders
Making eat that frog a habit by using a daily reminder.

I hope you found this article useful. If you have any feedback and comments, I’d love to hear them in the comments section below. Thanks!

By James