Perfect for you if:
- You wish you had more time to spend with your family and friends.
- You’re procrastinating on something important and you know it.
- You feel overwhelmed at work or stuck in your career.
I’m a huge fan of Brian Tracy. His advice on productivity goes deep on “What” and “How”. His writing is motivational and accessible. His messages are clear and consistent.
In fact, neither his message nor his wording have changed a great deal in the 10 years since I first read his book “Goals!”. But not much needs to. His empowering formulas for personal and professional productivity are simple, practical and effective.
That said, I’m not sure about the structure of this version of those tips. There’s a good deal of repetition. Many points seem to fit within a single theme or add detail to each other. The “21 Great Ways” ends up feeling more catchy than practical. As a result, I’ve restructured the content into a simple six-step plan below.
Nevertheless, Brian’s original does chant a powerfully motivational mantra of planning, prioritisation and action. I am indebted to him for giving me some solid advice on productivity and sales 10 years ago at a point in my life when I needed it most.
It will definitely change the way you work.
It might just change your life.
Personal productivity is about taking back control of your time.
- There will always be too much to do.
- Lack of time is actually lack of priorities.
- The key to reclaiming time is proper time management.
Taking control of your time lets you focus on what counts: your relationships with others.
- The majority of your happiness is defined by your relationships.
- The goal of time management is ultimately to improve those relationships.
- Quantity of time is what matters at home.
- Quality of time is what matters at work.
- Decide on your Goals.
- Plan your Goals.
- Plan your Time.
- Set Yourself Up for Success
- Work Single-Mindedly on Your Most Important Task.
- Repeat the Process Regularly.
1. Decide on your Goals.
Visualise clearly what you would like each area of life to look like in 5, 10 and 15 years.
- Business / Career
- Family / Relationship
- Professional Development
- Social / Community
Now, take 30 seconds for each area (+ Problems / Concerns) to write your top 3 current goals:
- 30 seconds is as good as 3 hours.
- Write as if you had already accomplished each goal.
- On paper.
- In the present tense.
- With a positive voice.
- In the first person.
Identify the goal in each area that will have the greatest positive impact on your life.
Tips for Professional Development.
- Identify the 5 – 7 results areas for which you are currently entirely responsible.
Discuss and syndicate these with your boss, colleagues and direct reports.
- Grade yourself (1 – 10) in each of those areas.
- Make your weakest skill the focus of your professional development.
This major cause of procrastination sets the height at which you can use all your other skills.
Example results areas:
- Building rapport and trust
- Identifying needs
- Presenting persuasively
- Answering objections
- Getting resales and referrals
2. Plan your Goals.
Efficiency is doing the thing right. Effectiveness is doing the right thing.
Write a list of everything you’ll need to achieve for each of your most impactful goals.
- Next actions.
- Limiting factors.
- Personal capabilities.
- Other people.
- Ask yourself why the goal isn’t already complete.
- Start with the end in mind and work backwards.
Prioritise with Pareto’s 80/20 principle.
- What 20% of the tasks will contribute 80% of the results?
- Solving which 20% of the barriers will unlock 80% of the progress?
Prioritise the list with the ABCDE technique.
- A – Must: Major consequences for the goal if (not) completed.
Prioritise among A tasks – A1, A2, A3 etc…
- B – Should: Some consequences.
- C – Nice: No consequences.
- D – Delegate: Anything not “only you”.
- E – Eliminate: Anything no longer important.
Organise the list into a plan.
- By priority.
- By sequence.
- Set a main deadline.
- Set sub-deadlines if necessary.
- Make the deadlines aggressive. (What if you only had one day?)
Creates urgency. Triggers eustress. Defuses Parkinson’s law.
- Add +20% to your timeline when communicating your plan with others to account for unexpected delays/diversions.
Tips for Business / Career.
- Write a list of every activity you do in a week / month.
- Identify which one activity contributes the most value.
- Now work out the second and third most value contributing activities.
- These activities are your priority. Resolve to downsize, delegate or eliminate everything else.
- Syndicate this focus and plan with your boss, co-workers and direct reports.
3. Plan your Time.
Plan in advance and work from lists.
- Write everything down.
- Add every new thing to the list before acting.
- Move items from a master list > monthly > weekly > daily lists.
- Do this before the start of each period.
Prioritise your lists:
- With the 80/20 principle.
- With the ABCDE technique.
4. Set Yourself Up for Success.
Create the time, space, energy and capabilities to work on your most important tasks.
Eliminate anything that fails the test of “Zero Based Thinking”.
“If I were not doing this already, knowing what I now know, would I start doing it again today?”
Create large chunks of time.
- Block out large chunks of you calendar for uninterrupted work.
- Wake up early and work from home.
Prepare everything you need in advance.
- Clear everything away not related to the task at hand.
- Gather everything you need for the task within physical reach.
- Set up your work area so it is conducive to working long periods. Make it:
- Comfortable (especially chair)
Work all the time you work.
Every wasted minute is one not spent with friends/family or on a more important task.
- Eliminate / delegate 80% of email.
- Prepare canned responses to FAQs.
- Train and delegate your email triage.
- Batch your emailing as infrequently as possible.
- Turn off all electronics for at least:
- One hour each AM and PM.
- One full day per week.
Everyone who is good at something was once bad at it.
You can learn anything by simply learning to replicate what someone else has done.
- Read for one hour every day in your field.
- Listen to audiobooks whilst you drive / travel.
- Attend as many seminars and trainings as you can.
Maximise your energy.
- Eat as if you were a pro athlete.
- Breakfast: High protein, low fat, low carbohydrate.
- Lunch: Salad with white meat (chicken / fish).
- Avoid sugar, white flour and salt.
- Say no to pastries, deserts, soft drinks and candy bars.
- Exercise regularly:
- At least 200 mins per week (~30 mins per day).
- Schedule sessions in like business meetings.
- Get enough rest:
- Working >8h a day provides diminishing returns.
- Get to sleep by 10 P.M.
- Take at least one full day off per week.
- Take regular vacations.
Become an optimist:
It’s not what happens to you but the way you interpret them that determines how you feel.
- Look for the good in every situation.
- Seek the valuable lesson in every setback or difficulty.
- Look for solutions to every problem (solution orientation).
- Look forward rather than backwards (goal orientation).
- Refuse to criticise, complain or condemn.
5. Work Single-Mindedly on your Most Important Task.
Eat that Frog! Each day, work on your hardest and most important task:
- Before anything else.
- Single-mindedly (no multi-tasking) until it is complete.
Switching has a high cost of momentum and energy.
Overcome procrastination and generate momentum.
- Lack of Planning: Break the goal down into smaller steps.
- Lack of Skill: Expand your capabilities.
- Lack of Will:
- Do just one item on your list. Do anything!
- Shift to a process goal (do just 10 minutes).
- Practise discipline.
Don’t be afraid to fail.
- “There is no such thing as failure only feedback”.
- Test, experiment, make it a game, have fun!
6. Repeat the Process Regularly.
- Constantly review the activities you are engaged in.
- Constantly identify whether these are the most important things you could be working on.
- Develop a fast tempo and a sense of urgency.
- Work all the time you work.
Practice asking yourself constantly how to maximise your effectiveness.
- What can I start?
- What can I stop?
- What can I do more of?
- What can I do less of?
Never forget that all of this is a means an end: spending more time with the people you love.
“Goals!”, Brian Tracy – A superb book that covers “Eat That Frog!” and more in twice as many pages. I can’t recommend this book enough, especially if you’re at the start of your career. Provides the kind of solid, practical advice that it’s amazing we don’t all receive as part of a basic education.
“Getting Things Done”, David Allen – A classic on efficiency and effectiveness. I’ve been using some variation of David Allen’s system for as long as I can remember. It transformed me from an energetic, chaotic mess into the kind of person people trust to never drop the ball. If you’ve ever wished you could do 4 times as much and still feel at peace when you get home, this book is for you.
“The Four Hour Work Week”, Tim Ferriss – The textbook on simplification and automation. I’ve found Brian has a tendency to add more things than he takes away. Tim’s tips on automating the unimportant, time consuming components of life will close that gap.
“Think And Grow Rich”, Napoleon Hill – A wonderful and practical dose of philosophy. The “Rich” of this book is much broader than simple financial reward. A perfect complement of “Why” and “What” to Brian’s strong hand of “What” and “How”.
“Deep Work”, Cal Newport – Perhaps one of the best tips and goals of Brian’s writing is to create long periods of uninterrupted work. Cal paints a compelling case for “Deep Work” in this excellent book. A great read for anyone lost in the shallows.
TANQ entries for “Eat That Frog!”
TANQ is WhyWhatHow’s growing central library of thoughts, anecdotes, notes, and quotes.
“No matter how many personal productivity techniques you master, there will always be more to do than you can ever accomplish in the time you have available to you, no matter how much it is.”
“I had fallen into the mental trap of assuming that people who were doing better than me were actually better than me. What I learned was that this was not necessarily true. They were just doing things differently, and what they had learned to do, within reason, I could learn as well.”
“The ability to concentrate single-mindedly on your most important task, to do it well and to finish it completely, is the key to great success, achievement, respect, status, and happiness in life.”
“The first rule of frog eating is this: If you have to eat two frogs, eat the ugliest one first.
The second rule of frog eating is this: If you have to eat a live frog at all, it doesn’t pay to sit and look at it for very long.”
“Your success in life and work will be determined by the kinds of habits that you develop over time. The habit of setting priorities, overcoming procrastination, and getting on with your most important task is a mental and physical skill.”
“All improvements in your outer life begin with improvements on the inside, in your mental pictures.”
“There is one quality that one must possess to win, and that is definiteness of purpose, the knowledge of what one wants and a burning desire to achieve it.”
“One of the very worst uses of time is to do something very well that need not be done at all.”
“Before you begin scrambling up the ladder of success, make sure that it is leaning against the right building.”
“Planning is bringing the future into the present so that you can do something about it now.”
“We always have time enough, if we will but use it aright.”
“Every great man has become great, every successful man has succeeded, in proportion as he has confined his powers to one particular channel.”
“Losers try to escape from their fears and drudgery with activities that are tension relieving. Winners are motivated by their desires toward activities that are goal-achieving.”
“Motivation requires motive.”
“There is never enough time to do everything, but there is always enough time to do the most important thing.”
“You can use three questions on a regular basis to keep yourself focussed on completing your most important tasks on schedule.
The first question is, ‘What are my highest value activities?’
The second question is, ‘What can I and only I do that if done well will make a real difference?’
The third question is, ‘What is the most valuable use of my time right now?'”
“Things that matter most must never be at the mercy of things that matter least.”
“Only engage, and the mind grows heated. Begin it, and the work will be completed.”
“The first law of success is concentration – to bend all the energies to one point, and to go directly to that point, looking neither to the right nor to the left.”
“Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.”
“Fully 85 percent of your happiness in life will come from happy relationships with other people, especially those closest to you, as well as the members of your family. The critical determinant of the quality of your relationships is the amount of time that you spend face-to-face with the people you love, and who love you in return.”
“It is the quality of time at work that counts and the quantity of time at home that matters.”
“Get it 80 percent right and then correct it later. Run it up the flagpole and see if anyone salutes. Don’t expect perfection the first time or even the first few times. Be prepared to fail over and over before you get it right.”
“Do the thing you fear and the death of fear is certain.”
“You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”
“Persons with comparatively moderate powers will accomplish much, if they apply themselves wholly and indefatigably to one thing at a time.”
“A journey of a thousand leagues begins with a single step.”
“Any time you stop striving to get better, you’re bound to get worse.”
“Concentrate all your thoughts on the task at hand. The sun’s rays do not burn until brought to a focus.”
“The first requisite for success is the ability to apply your physical and mental energies to one problem incessantly without growing weary.”
“Feed yourself as you would feed a world-class athlete before a competition because, in many respects, that’s what you are before starting work each day.”
“It is in the compelling zest of high adventure and of victory, and of creative action that man finds his supreme joys.”
“It is not what happens to you but the way that you interpret things that are happening to you that determines how you feel.”
“It turns out that optimists have four special behaviors, all learned through practice and repetition.
First, optimists look for the good in every situation.
Second, optimists always seek the valuable lesson in every setback or difficulty.
Third, optimists always look for the solution to every problem.
Fourth, optimists think and talk continually about their goals.”
“There is more to life than just increasing its speed.”
“I have several friends who have become best-selling authors by simply resolving to write one page or even one paragraph per day until the book was completed.”
“One of the best work habits of all if to get up early and work at home in the morning for several hours. You can get three times as much work done at home without interruptions as you ever could in a busy office where you are surrounded by people and bombarded by phone calls.”
“Do not wait; the time will never be ‘just right.’ Start where you stand and work with whatever tools you may have at our command, and better tools will be found as you go along.”
“And herein lies the secret of true power. Learn, by constant practice, how to husband your resources, and concentrate them at any given moment, upon a given point.”
Discipline is “the ability to make yourself do what you should do, when you should do it, whether you feel like it or not.”