Book Review: Eat That Frog – Brian Tracy

by @edent | # #

This is a terribly written book – albeit one with an important message. Eat That Frog is about how to avoid procrastinating. But rather than approach it from a scientific or methodological point of view, Tracy just gives some basic tools for arranging your work day.

There are no citations in this book – something the author is strangely proud of.

I do not dwell on the various psychological or emotional explanations for procrastination or poor time management. There are no lengthy departures into theory or research.

Because there’s no examination of why people procrastinate – there’s very little practical help to tackle the root causes. The book is rather hard to take seriously because it is filled with unsourced claims like:

After an Internet interruption, it takes about seventeen minutes for you to shift your total attention back to your task and continue working.

and

Only about 2 percent of people can work entirely without supervision.

Are those true? Who knows?! There are only half-a-dozen footnotes in the whole book. Directing readers to such diverse sources as a Wall Street Journal article and “ScienceDaily.com”.

It seems that everyone he quotes is a white man. Actually, that’s not quite true – because many of his quotes are misattributed. If the author can’t be bothered to investigate the source of a quote, it makes me question whether anything in the book is accurate.

He also sneaks in fair bit of right-wing American discourse (par for the course from a member of The Heritage Foundation). He seems to reject the idea that your environment or society can have any impact on your mental state, or what causes you to procrastinate. He also quotes approvingly from Edward Bandield – whose report “The Unheavenly City” is widely regarded to be ignorant of the realities of racism.

The quote Tracy uses is in support of the notion that a “long time perspective” is more important to success than background, education, race, intelligence, or connections. This is drawn from Banfield’s report which makes startling claims that racism and poverty has less impact than a positive mental attitude.

Other reviewers have noted that Tracy speaks approvingly of the leader of the KKK and that his books display a dubious morality.

It is really hard to cut through the crap (just give up some of your golf games!!) to find anything of use in the book. Especially when some of the advice is just unrealistic for some people:

Get up a little earlier in the morning and read for thirty to sixty minutes

and

By putting the pressure on yourself, you will accomplish more tasks better and faster than ever. … You will feel terrific about yourself.

Yes, because adding pressure to yourself never results in psychological harm. Of course, if you do find all of his “advice” difficult – here’s what he suggests you should do:

Refuse to complain about your problems. Keep them to yourself.

Can you say “Toxic Masculinity”?!

And yet… At the core are some good ideas. Make lists of what you have to do, tackle the hard things first, delegate the unimportant stuff, have honest conversations with your boss and life-partner.

The programme that he sets out is pretty reasonable. Albeit one which is devoid of any practical tips to removing impediments. It also assumes that you have someone to delegate to, and that you have a stable environment to work in. Oh, and remember – if you fail it is all down to you and nothing to do with the barriers society puts in place.

It reeks of the sort of corny hucksterism you’d expect from a book called “10 Tips to double your salary – number 7 will SHOCK you!”

If you can filter through the dross, the basic tips are quite good. But because there’s no actual research to see if they actually work, it is best taken with a pinch of salt.

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