Eat That Frog!

As Mark Twain said, “If it’s your job to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning.”

An ancient story claims that if the first thing you do when you wake up every morning is eat a live frog, nothing worse can happen to you for the rest of the day.

Mark Twain reportedly said: “If it's your job to eat a frog, it's best to do it first thing in the morning. And if it's your job to eat two frogs, it's best to eat the biggest one first.”

Brian Tracy, the best-selling author and professional development guru, explains that your “frog” should be the most difficult task on your to-do list.

Believe of or not, the frog contains a secret hormone (fittingly named APH or Anti-Procrastination Hormone), which will give you energy and momentum for the whole day.

The “frog” could mean returning a difficult phone call, organizing your desk or your office, firing a poor performer…  The difficult phone call (or email) might be to an especially emotional client whose pet has died unexpectedly, to share bad news about biopsy results, or to return an irate client’s phone call (this last one never happens to me of course. I heard that it apparently has happened to colleagues though).

In fact your frog also could be something positive and rewarding, which would have the biggest impact on your goals or your career.

Positive or negative, your “frog” is any task that is most likely to cause you to procrastinate. Interestingly, it very well might be an item you copy from one to-do list to the next, for days or weeks or sometimes months. At home, it might mean cleaning the gutters, repairing the leaky sink or cleaning the litter box.

It basically should be your most difficult, most critical or most dreaded project. It never ever helps to just sit around and stare at a phone number or an item on your to-do list for 10 minutes (or 10 days). Get it over with. The sooner you start, the sooner it will be over. It’s like removing a Band-Aid. Just do it!

It has been said that is takes 3 weeks to create a habit. So for the next 21 days, make it a habit to circle your “frog” on your daily to-do list. Eat that first, and watch the transformation in your attitude.

I strive to use this amphibian principle as often as possible. For example:

  • Making the most difficult phone call first. Interestingly, 9 times out of 10, my reaction after hanging up the phone is “Pfew, that went much better than I expected.”
  • If I need to call several clients, I always make the most delicate call first, e.g. the one whose biopsy results reveal cancer.
  • When I need to tell a sales rep that despite their heroic efforts, I’m not interested in what they have to offer, that call or that email is always first.
  • Firing an employee with a bad attitude. After observing the overwhelmingly positive reaction of the rest of the staff, the reaction is most often: “Why didn’t we fire that person earlier?”
  • Anything tax related. Enough said.

The idea is that you need to take care of these tasks anyway. The sooner you take care of them, the quicker you will feel relieved. And then you can move on with your life, and focus on some more pleasant tasks.

So lick your chops and eat that frog‏!

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Dr. Phil Zeltzman is a board-certified veterinary surgeon and author. His traveling practice takes him all over Eastern Pennsylvania and Western New Jersey. You can visit his website at, and follow him at

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