Eat The Frog! 3 Reasons You Should Do The Hardest Things First

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

I don't know about you, but I doubt Mark Twain is actually advocating that we eat live frogs. So what was the “frog” he was talking about?

A “Frog” is that thing that ugly, disgusting, thing on your to-do list that you want to put off until later more than anything else. It’s something that needs to get done, but you have absolutely zero motivation to do it.

We all have frogs looming on our calendars, and here are 3 reasons you need to follow Mark Twain's advice and eat it first thing in the morning.


Mark Twain may have come before the discovery that willpower is a muscle, but his suggestion shows that he knew how to use his willpower correctly. Your willpower is at its strongest in the morning (provided you’ve had a good night’s sleep and a healthy breakfast), so this is the perfect time for you to take on that thing you don’t want to do. [1]

Whether this is heading to the gym, clearing your email inbox, or having a tough conversation with someone at work, you’re going to have the most willpower if you do it first thing in the morning. The longer you put off eating your frog, the more tired your willpower muscle is going to be from tackling other challenges or resisting temptations. Plus, you’ll have the frog in the back of your mind all day!


Getting the ugly thing off of your to-do list feels great. It gives you a sense of accomplishment as you cross that ugly, dreadful thing off of your to-do list and mark a tally in the small win column.

Small wins actually have the ability to give you more willpower. Studies have shown that when we accomplish a small win, our pre-frontal cortex (the area of the brain that we use for willpower) will begin firing neurons. When it does this, it increases our focus, perseverance and ability to resist temptation. This essentially gives us “free” willpower to use on other tasks throughout the day. [2]


Doing productive work is one of the keys to happiness. [3When we talk about hating our jobs, what we’re really talking about are the frogs! We’re talking about those things that we have no motivation to get done. We’re not talking about purposeful activities that help us become better at our craft. Those are the activities that actually motivate us to do great work! [4]

By eating your frog first thing in the morning, you get to spend the rest of the day doing the work that you actually enjoy doing. The type of work that made you choose your career in the first place. By making this a habit, you will find much more satisfaction and happiness in your daily work.


We all have those tasks on our to-do lists that are ugly and we have absolutely no motivation to get done. These are known as our “Frogs”. By following Mark Twain's advice and “eating your frog” first thing in the morning, you will find that you have the most willpower to get it done.

Then when you eat it, you will benefit from achieving a small win, and be able to spend the rest of the day doing work that you enjoy. If we can all make eating frogs in the morning a habit, we will find much more happiness and satisfaction in our daily lives.


  1. Baumeister, Roy F., and John Tierney. Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength. New York: Penguin, 2011. Print.
  2. Paulus, Martin P., and Lawrence R. Frank. "Ventromedial Prefrontal Cortex Activation Is Critical for Preference Judgments." NeuroReport 14.10 (2003): 1311-315.
  3. Hsieh, Tony. Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose. New York: Business Plus, 2010.
  4. Pink, Daniel H. Drive: The Surprising Truth about What Motivates Us. New York, NY: Riverhead, 2009. Print