You have heard the phrase and possibly you’ve read the book. There is a simple concept at the heart of this idea.
The expression “eating the frog” is based on a Mark Twain quote: “If it is your job to eat a frog, then you should do that first thing in the morning. If it is your job to eat two frogs, then you should eat the biggest, ugliest one first.”
It is clear from this that we should take on the largest and most challenging project first as this is what we should do if we want to succeed.
By doing that, you ensure that you have provided the maximum value each day and do the hardest work while you have the most energy and resolve.
The energy and resolve we have to accomplish our goals are limited resources that we must replenish on a daily basis.
This is why willpower often fails when a person is attempting to reach a goal. I often tell my clients that rituals and agendas hold the key to high performance, and ‘eating the frog’ early reserves your energy and resolve to accomplish the required rituals and agendas.
Let’s dig a little deeper. In addition to being a performance psychologist, Jim Loehr is an author as well. Tony Schwartz is an American journalist and author of business books.
Together, they co-authored The Power of Full Engagement: Managing Energy, Not Time, Is the Key to High Performance and Personal Renewal in 2003. There is no better book to explain the concept of energy management than this one.
In The Power of Full Engagement, Schwartz and Loehr make the argument that people need to match their energy to a task in order to excel. To them, managing time isn’t nearly as important as managing how you invest your energy:
“Every one of our thoughts, emotions, and behaviors has an energy consequence. The ultimate measure of our lives is not how much time we spend on the planet, but rather how much energy we invest in the time that we have.”
In the book, they discuss four key management principles that help people drive performance. What they say is as follows:
1. For full engagement, we need to draw on physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual energy.
2. Since energy capacity diminishes with both overuse and underuse, we should balance energy expenditure with renewal.
3. We must push beyond our limits in the same way elite athletes do in order to build capacity.
4. Specific routines for managing energy called ‘positive energy rituals’ are important for engagement and performance.
Time vs. energy: which resource do you prioritize?
The traditional way to manage your time is to divide tasks that you need to complete and assign a specific amount of time to get the work done. For example, you give yourself the goal of completing three reports in two hours.
But what this method doesn’t consider is your energy. 52% of employees feel burnt out, and the obsession over time management could be partly to blame for this burnout.
Energy works differently than time, which has a finite amount.
It is true that energy is a renewable resource, but only to a certain extent. Scheduling every minute of free time to increase productivity may seem like a good use of time, but it doesn’t account for the need to replenish energy.
The energy required for certain tasks varies as well. High-energy tasks and multitasking can’t be done productively when your energy is already eaten up by a surplus of things scheduled in your day.
Even with ample time to complete the required tasks, a lack of energy can lead to a dip in productivity.
How do you schedule your day and your necessary tasks? It is crucial that you spend the appropriate amount of energy to accomplish your goals, yet the scheduling of that time is crucially important.