How prioritization can lead to better time management

Have you heard of the phrase “eat that frog”? It’s from a quote by Mark Twain that encourages you to do the hardest thing first. As I was reading the book Eat That Frog by Brian Tracy, he discusses the importance of time management and gives you 21 lessons for how to better manage your time through prioritizing your most important tasks.

Photo by Geoffrey Baumbach on Unsplash

Main impacts

These are the key points that stood out to me:

  1. Always prioritize your most important tasks
  2. You can always improve
  3. Remember why you want better time management

Keep reading to find out more about each one.

Always work on your most important tasks

First and foremost, you need to learn how to plan and prioritize. Planning provides clarity so that you save time by deciding what to do beforehand. Prioritizing your tasks helps you do the most important work and use your time most effectively.

Eat that frog

The phrase “eat that frog” comes from this quote by Mark Twain:

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

Mark Twain

This means you should always do the hardest thing first, then everything else will be easier. This all comes down to prioritizing what’s important, so you can eat that frog.

This attitude of doing the most important work first can apply to any area of your life. No matter if you’re at work, at home, in personal relationships, etc. You should always focus on the most important activities and do them first.

Prioritize the top 20%

The Pareto principle, or the 80/20 rule, basically says that 20% (of anything) is the most important, and the remaining 80% is usually superfluous. This goes for emails, tasks (80% = busy work), and most things that fill your time. The key is to determine which tasks fall into each category so that you can focus on the most important — the 20%.

If needed, discuss with your manager on how to remove the unnecessary work – through delegation, deletion, etc. Often times there are three tasks that define your role in a company. These tasks are the ones where you provide the most benefit to your organization and are the ones you should prioritize (your 20%).

Focusing on the most important tasks will ensure you are contributing the most and improving the fastest. It will also make you stand out. So many people get caught up in busy work (emails, meetings, paperwork, etc.), but if you’re always focusing on the most important tasks, you’ll be so much more productive and beneficial to those around you. In any role you need to make sure you focus on how much you are contributing (not just how busy you are), which usually comes from those key tasks.

Finishing important tasks also gives you a huge sense of accomplishment,. The more you accomplish, the more you want to do. It can be addictive, but in a good way, as it encourages you to keep working on the most important tasks.

You can always improve

You can always improve your skills. That’s exactly what business or work skills are, skills, things you can learn or improve on. Don’t worry about having natural talent, any skill will develop through consistent practice.

To improve your skills, make time for learning. Set aside time each day or week to learn something that will help you improve your skills or to learn about your area of business.

You can learn through reading (or audiobooks), podcasts, youtube videos, documentaries, blogs, etc. Find the experts in the field you’re interested in and learn from them. They will likely tell you what’s important and how to do your job better. Feel free to take their guidance with a grain of salt, you are unique and times change quickly, but chances are you’ll learn the best information from experts in your field.

Focus on two areas, skills that you already excel at (your strengths) and those that are most beneficial for what you want to achieve. You want to continue to hone your skills to become the best at what you do, by making your best even better. Then you also want to make sure that you have the skills necessary to succeed.

Additionally, you can always improve your time management skills, which this book is hoping to help you with. The goal is to take the lessons from the book and make them habits. The more that you internalize the lessons, the more easily you’ll apply them in everything you do.

Remember why you want better time management

I thought this was one of the most refreshing parts of this book. A lot of this book read like most time management advice, to prioritize and plan your time.

But I appreciate that this book made sure to mention that you can’t do everything and that’s not the point of time management. The goal of better time management is to spend time with those you love and doing things that bring you joy. You want to better manage your time so that you have time for things outside of work.

The purpose of better time management is to do better quality work at work to have a greater quantity of time at home. The whole goal is to have a higher quality of life, not to do everything.

The best way to improve your quality of life is to focus on balancing work and home life. Ideally you should be only doing work at work, focusing on producing quality results, and then coming home free of distractions. Just remember, the time wasted at work can often cut into your free time when it turns into working late or bringing work home.

I think this is a reminder that should come with ANY self-help or productivity book. The goal is not to do everything. The reality is that you can’t do everything. There’s always more work to do and your to do list is never ending, but that’s why you need to prioritize and focus on the most important parts. The goal is to use your time better so that you are free to do what’s most important to you.

Final thoughts

I thought this was a short, useful book, with lots of advice for better time management. I think if you’ve spent much time in the productivity self-help area, then most of it won’t be that new to you. A lot of the lessons were ideas that I’ve heard in multiple areas. But to be fair the book is from 2007 and pre-dates all the youtube videos I’ve watched.

I found it a nice summary of time management best practices. Each short chapter focuses on one lesson, with activities or tips to help implement the lesson. The book touches on a lot of different time management tips with a brief overview of each. I could see it being a useful book either as an introduction to time management or as a summary of the key ideas.

I was grateful that the book highlighted that time management is there to improve your quality of life, not to try and do everything. Doing the most important tasks ensures that you are accomplishing activities that will provide the most benefits. There’s always more work to do, but with some focus and prioritization the necessary items will get done and you will have time for yourself and your loved ones.