To Eat the Frog or the Elephant? Nay, Eat the Candy!

In productivity hacks, two common metaphors are use – Eat the frog and Eat the Elephant. To be honest, I prefer to Eat the Candy!

Made popular by Brian Tracy in his book, ‘Eat the Frog’ – it talks about doing the most ugliest, dirtiest, intimidating task first thing in the morning. If you get to do that, Mr.Tracy suggests, the rest of the day would be a breeze.

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

– Mark Twain

While on the other side of the room is the ‘elephant’.

You ask “What is an elephant?” Elephant is a big, humongous project. I like how David Allen differentiates a task from a project. Any work that requires more than 2 steps to accomplish is a project. Most of us sometimes do get confused and fail to recognize that most of the work comes to us is a project – an ‘elephant’ if I may call.

And now – “How do you eat the elephant?”, you ask again.

“One bite at a time!”

It means – chunking – breaking a big project into manageable and actionable list of tasks. Then go ahead crossing off one task after the other.

However I found the problem is not usually the intimidation or the hugeness of a task or a project that stops us. In fact, just like many of you, I prefer procrastinating something I don’t like.

The problem, I think, is with momentum. Be careful and mind it – I did not say ‘motivation’. It is momentum!

You see, eating a frog or an elephant, well not tasteful, all the more so disgusting. They are simply tough. So then, I have to come to deduce that the easiest to eat is to follow the easiest way! Literally, it means have your dessert first before you start your meal. It is like eating the candy or chocolate first.

So, I suggest to you to conquer the most interesting, most looking-forward task that you can think of the first thing in the morning. It creates such a feeling of success that no ugly frog or elephant can give. It is just eating a giant piece of a cake. I prefer to prioritize that.

My idea of eating the cake (or candy or chocolate or whatever) got validated when Mark Forster’s Final Version-Perfected time management system. The idea behind is to create a perception of choice and follow a proven scientific way of selecting a task using ‘Colley’s Rule’. And this choice, one makes it based not on importance, urgency, but on psychological readiness. [Update: However, recently I am sensing that using Colley’s rule, there is quite an amount of decision fatigue that happens when processing through my to-do list. So, many a times I simply revert back to Mark’s Autofocus System way of processing my to-do lists]

This readiness is my hunger for candy. Sometimes, I do get hunger to eat the candy, but sometimes I do get the hunger to eat my lettuce as well. When I am psychologically ready, I take on lettuce, otherwise I start with the candy. In some way, it is similar to Jon, blogger at Living for Improvement suggests – Eating the Frog Second.

Of course, there is always another trick. If you are lucky like to delegate the tasks to others. Play it to your strength. I am somebody good in starting things and have trouble fine tuning  and following up. I have my executives who are so good in doing exactly that – proof reading, editing, formatting, follow ups and etc. Though I am good in tracking, I simply hate it.

So there you  have – it is your choice.

You can prefer to eat the frog and eat the elephant or like me you can eat the candy instead.

The frogs and the elephants – let your teammates splurge. There are those who like to eat the frogs and elephants – remember your frog or elephant could be someone else’s candy.


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