Work Smart: Do Your Worst Task First (Or, Eat a Live Frog Every Morning)

The best work habit you can ever get into is very simple: Do your worst task first thing in the morning. Every given day, you've got one major to-do that's highest priority. But when you've got the whole day stretching out ahead of you, it's easy to put it off until after you get your coffee, check our email, or go to that meeting. But just like breakfast is the most important meal of the day, the first thing you accomplish at work sets the tone for the rest of the day.

Do your worst task first. By "worst" I mean "most important," and by "most important" I mean the task you're most likely to procrastinate on. The deadline you're dreading, the slides for the presentation you're terrified of giving, the research you're sure will turn up information you don't want to know. Do it, before you do anything else, before you have time to think about it too much.

Author Brian Tracy calls this "eating your frog," quoting Mark Twain. Twain famously said that if the first thing you do in the morning is eat a live frog, you can go through the rest of the day knowing the worst is behind you. Your frog is your worst task, and you should do it first thing in the morning.

First thing in the morning your mind is clear, the office is quiet, and you haven't gotten pulled into six different directions—yet. It's your one opportunity to prioritize the thing that matters to you most, before your phone starts ringing and email inbox starts dinging. By knocking out something important on your to-do list before anything else, you get both momentum and a sense of accomplishment before 10AM.

Set yourself up to eat your frog tomorrow morning last thing before you leave the office tonight. Choose your frog, and write it down on a piece of paper that you'll see when you arrive back at your desk in the morning. If you can, gather together the material you'll need to get it done and have that out, too.

Getting things done is a habit, and if you start every day by accomplishing something important, you'll get more done than 90% of the people in the office.

Gina Trapani is the author of Upgrade Your Life and founding editor of Work Smart appears every week on

Last week: How to Make Procrastination Productive

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