The frog, the ninja and you – time and productivity

By Elisabeth Goodman, 23rd January, 2018

Drawing inspired by Brian Tracy’s “Eat that Frog” – illustration by Isabelle Spain

I would not endorse eating this frog, but it’s a powerful metaphor adopted by Brian Tracy in “Eat that Frog!” for tackling the most difficult and least attractive tasks first, and for just getting on with it.

The “21 great ways to stop procrastinating and get more done in less time” suggested by the subtitle of his book certainly stand up to scrutiny.

We’ve been referencing Graham Alcott’s “Productivity Ninja” in RiverRhee’s Introduction to Management, and also Time and Meeting Management courses, and have our own illustration for that too.  (See also an earlier blog: There will never be enough time!)

The Productivity Ninja, based on Graham Alcott

Brian Tracy’s list of 21 rules adds a little something extra to Graham Alcott’s list and also to information we’ve gleaned from some of our other sources.

So, in this blog, I’ve picked out a sub-set of Brian Tracy’s list that particularly resonates for me, either because the items are different from or because they reinforce some of the messages we have been using so far.

1. Get clarity on what is expected of you – your unique contribution

I like this as a starting point for planning how we use our time at work.  What is it that we have to offer that perhaps no-one else does?

Having a conversation with our boss about this, or with ourselves if we are self-employed, provides clarity on expectations and also, in essence, our own personal mission or purpose at work.

It lays the foundation for the next topic, and also resonates for me with one of Stephen R. Covey’s “habits” of “begin with the end in mind”.

2. Prioritise your top 3 goals

Whether at work, at home, in the community, or in our own personal fitness / health programmes, Brian Tracy suggests that 10% of what we do creates the 90% of value that we contribute in each of these spheres.

If we focus on that top 10% that will deliver our personal mission we will be more productive.

3. Do this long-term, weekly, daily

I’m not too keen on keeping long lists of tasks.  They’re fine as a starting point but are then more effective if triaged into your diary or calendar.  That’s also what Graham Alcott advocates.

However, you do need to begin with a list, and reviewing / updating what you are planning to do weekly and daily will also help you to keep on top of everything.

And of course this applies to projects as well as individual tasks.  Break the projects into tasks and schedule those too.

4. De-prioritise everything else

We use The Mind Gyms’ “5 Ds”….

The 5 Ds for managing time – adapted from The Mind Gym’s “Give me Time”

…. and they are not dissimilar from Brian Tracy’s ABCDE list.  He uses the word “posteriorise” to emphasise the importance of differentiating between what should be done now, and what should be done later…

(Stephen R. Covey’s “Urgent and Important” matrix is invaluable in this space too)

5. Create gaps in your schedule for getting things done

This is at the heart of every guide to making the most of your time and being at your most productive.  Carving out chunks of time when we will not be disturbed by other people or by other tasks  will enable us to “get into the flow” or “in the zone” and so produce our best work.

We advocate scheduling these chunks of time into your calendar, and protecting them as you would protect attending an important meeting.

6. Don’t make technology your master

Again, we know this.  Turn off e-mail, turn off your phone, turn off any other messaging system.  Access this technology in a way that won’t interrupt your productive work.  Find other ways to manage those “urgent” or “priority” communications.  Figures for how long it typically takes for us to refocus on a task once we’ve been interrupted range around the 20 minute mark..

7. Make technology your slave

We and Graham Allcott are unanimous on this too.  There are lots of tools out there to help us manage our time and tasks – use them!  Brian Tracy also suggests using social media to publicly declare what we are committing to achieve – and thereby reinforce that commitment.

8. Develop your knowledge and skills

This has an echo of Stephen R. Covey’s “sharpen the saw”.  Brian Tracy suggests that we identify what capabilities we need to deliver on our top goals, and make sure we are continuously learning to so as to better support those goals.  This will also better equip us for removing any constraints to achieving our goals.

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9. Just start…

The Mind Gym’s “Give me time” has a whole chapter on procrastination. It’s a big topic! Just starting a task, a chunk at a time, will often help to overcome our self-imposed barriers.  Brian Tracy uses analogies of tackling all the tasks involved sequentially: “a salami slice” at a time.  Alternatively, he suggests doing so randomly, simply “a swiss cheese punch” at a time.

He also stresses that working in this way, getting things done, brings its own rewards. We feel good about what we have achieved: our self-esteem, our confidence increase, along with the results.

10. Balance work and life all of the time!

This was a wonderful message to read in a book of this type.  We should not expect to work longer hours, in the evenings, at the week-ends, in order to be successful at work.

Instead your goal, whether by the frog, ninja or your own method, should be to work as efficiently and effectively as possible, so as to free up valuable time for your other priorities outside of work…


About the author. Elisabeth Goodman is the Owner and Principal Consultant at RiverRhee Consulting., a consultancy that specialises in “creating exceptional managers and teams”, with a focus on the Life Sciences. (We support our clients through courses, workshops and personal one-to-one coaching.)  Elisabeth founded RiverRhee Consulting in 2009, and prior to that had 25+ years’ experience in the Pharmaceutical Industry in line management and internal training and consultancy roles supporting Information Management and other business teams on a global basis.  RiverRhee is a support supplier for One Nucleus and a CPD provider for CILIP (Chartered Institute for Library and Information Professionals). Elisabeth is accredited in Change Management, in Lean Sigma, in Belbin Team Roles, MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) and is an NLP (NeuroLinguistic Programming) Practitioner. She is a member of CILIP and of APM (Association for Project Management) in which she was a founding member of the Enabling Change SIG.