Thanks to Bina Jangda of TCM Review for contributing this article!

Mark Twain said if it’s your job to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning. And if it’s your job to eat two frogs, it’s best to eat the biggest one first. 

Maybe you are thinking what frogs have to do with preparing for your board exams. Well, sometimes just clearing space in your day to study for your exam can feel like eating a giant, green bullfrog. You know you’ve got to do it. But there are so many other things to get done first like cleaning behind the fridge or organizing your sock drawer or adding tabs to Maciocia’s Foundations of Chinese Medicineall 1319 pages. 

In the last 6 months of acupuncture school, keeping your motivation high can be challenging. When your Spleen Qi is perpetually sinking, unable to produce Post Heaven Qi, Essence or Blood, and your Liver seems forever stagnated, you can lack the motivation it takes to even begin to study for your licensing exam. So…

If you struggle with procrastination;
If you feel you are getting a lot of study time in, but the big important topics never seem to be completed;
If you have a difficult time sticking to your study plan;
If you can’t decide what to work on when you sit down to study; or
All of the above…

…then it’s time to learn the fine art of Eating the Frog. 

A frog a day might not keep the doctor away, but it sure can help you prepare for and pass your board exams. But why stop there? This healthy new habit will probably also help you set up a rock star clinic or achieve any other important goal.

How to Eat the Frog:

Eating the Frog is a simple 3 step process that has nothing to do with deep fryer or seasoning. It’s a simple productivity hack created by Brian Tracy in his book Eat That Frog!: 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time

Step 1: Identify your Frog.  The frog is always the hardest but most important task of the day. If you are like me, you probably have a small pond worth of frogs and that’s okay. Pick just one!  The method sets you up to eat a frog a day. That’s 365 frogs in a year. There’s plenty of time to work through your list. Your frog is always the thing you like to do the least (Zang Fu Patterns) or one that has the highest impact (e.g. completing your licensing exam application and submitting it with payment to the CAB/NCCAOM). Generally, it’s the one thing that requires the most time and energy.  

Some guidelines for selecting the best frog every single time:

  • Pick something that you can complete in 1-3 hours. 
  • Break it down into smaller steps if needed. 
  • Don’t plan ahead. This might sound counterintuitive. You don’t want the next 6 months of frogs planned out on a calendar. Identifying the perfect Frog for the day is really about finding the thing you feel least motivated to do. How you feel about the tasks on your list changes from day to day depending on your energy levels. Preplanning your frogs will set you up for getting behind quickly. It’s human nature to overestimate what you can get done in a day and underestimate what you can get done in a year. 
  • Over-planning can leave us feeling bad when we can’t get everything we want to get done, done. Instead, we look for low hanging fruit, like making flashcards, reworking your study plan or skimming through a TCM Review video to get a sense of accomplishment. I’m not saying that watching my videos are not helping you prepare for your exam. I am saying that watching the videos is just the preliminary steps in preparing for your exam. What is key is the deep work: learning the material and integrating what you learn into your board exam knowledge bank. 

While you don’t want to preplan your frogs out for a month or even a week, you can plan your frog the night before. This is close enough to plan accurately but not so far out that you find yourself building up mental resistance to doing the task. 

Somedays you’ll find that you have two frogs to eat. On those days, eat the biggest frog first.

The beauty of this technique is that you get to start fresh every morning.  It lets you tackle your frogs one day at a time.

Step 2: Once you identify the Frog, eat it! 

Do this most important task first thing in the morning or immediately at the beginning of your study session. Don’t let yourself put it off until later.  

Eating the Frog takes advantage of your most focused time. Focus and willpower are typically highest when we first sit down to study.  Eating the Frog means you are working with your natural body energy. You tackle the hardest, most mentally taxing job first. 

This method will guide you through some of those big, challenging topics for your licensing exam. It will train you to build motivation for, and engagement with, studying. You’ll step into a virtuous cycle of getting things done. And that will spill over into how you feel about the licensing exam, and your ability to pass the exam. When you experience a win at the beginning of your study session, it will help you build momentum and positive emotions that will carry you through the rest of your study session. This approach sets you up for a win at the beginning of your study session (with a rewarding hit of dopamine) and further propel you forward for eating another frog the next day. 

Step 3: Repeat every day. 

The benefit of Eating the Frog is to set up deep work habits. Deep work habits set you up for a win every day. These are tasks like learning the point prescriptions or memorizing the single point functions or re-organizing the channel pathways by body area. It’s the studying and integration of the material you need to know to pass the exam. 

One more tip about working with this technique. Setting up your daily Frog is easy, but it takes willpower to put the practice into place. So if you find your willpower is lacking, grab some Kidney tonics, needle KD3, BL23 and Bl52, bolster up your spleen and get it done. You’ll thank yourself for your perseverance when you are proudly displaying your license on the wall of your brand new clinic. 

Student Resources Why “Eating A Frog” Every Day Is the Best Way to Pass Your Licensing Exams