How do you eat an elephant?

Q: How do you eat an elephant?
A: One bite at a time.

Life is big. Like, really big.

And a lot of the stuff we do in life – or that we want to do in life – is also big, or at least big to us, which is what counts, and the moral of the story is supposed to be that if you get started and then stick with something diligently, you’ll get to the end of it. This is a fairly reasonable rule of thumb, although of course not absolutely true in all circumstances.

My take on it:
Q: How do you eat an elephant?
A: Use the following list for guidance …

1. Make sure you’ve got the right elephant(s).

  • Do you really want to write a novel? Or did you just say that when you were 16, and whenever nostalgia kicks in you think of it – but it’s not actually a current goal … if you’re going to put all this time and energy into it, make sure it’s something you actually, really, honestly want to do. There’s no shame in admitting that although you’ve always said you want to be a painter, actually now that you think it through – you don’t.
  • Is it really an elephant? Not every big project is … I have a blanket I’m knitting (one square at a time – about 28 x 28cm per square, 6 squares so far). It’s going to be an enormous project by the time it’s finished … but it’s not a huge project that I need to break down into smaller bits and be very diligent about. It’s actually something to give me a knitting project when I don’t have any other knitting projects going, something I can take on the train, to fill idle moments.
  • You can have several elephants at once … although this might not be totally recommended. But if you want to lose weight and write a novel, there’s no reason why you should wait on one of them until the other one’s achieved.

2. Don’t do it with your bare hands.

Elephant-eating is bound to require tools. Work out what they are, and find them. Whatever it is you want to do, someone has probably done something relevant before you – there will be something out there that you can use to help you.

3. Invite some friends round.

Eating a whole elephant on your own is probably a pretty lonely experience. Let some people in on it – they might be able to help, or at least keep you company.

4. Feel free to take a break from the elephant now and again.

A diet of just one thing – no matter how much you want it – is bound to get boring and eventually unbalanced. Give your brain a rest every now and then – do something else, take a break! Reward yourself for getting as far as you have. Yeah, you need to get back to that elephant eventually, but hey … go eat some carrots.

Alternatively: Bake some cookies, and assemble them into the shape of an elephant. Eat. Job done!

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2 Responses to How do you eat an elephant?

  1. Jade says:

    Great post. I am struggling with my planning at the moment – my ‘to-do’ list turns into “everything I need to do this month” and then I indimidate myself into procrastinating horribly. I have just made a new schedule to – hopefully – aim for a few “bites” a day, and thus actually get more done!

  2. Thanks 🙂 I tried not to make it too cliched. Good luck with the new schedule! Huge lists can be daunting and then yeah, the procrastination sets in … a strategy I used when needing to get a lot of things done went like this: in the evening, write a to-do list for the next day. Then reread it and cut it down to 2/3 of that (first time round, I tend to write my lists as “what I could do in one day if I was feeling fabulous and super-efficient and working really hard ALL DAY” which of course doesn’t happen). Then the following day, get up and do that stuff … rinse and repeat.

    Although actually at the moment I feel like I have the opposite problem – I don’t have quite enough things to do (or at least lots of them aren’t urgent), so I end up wasting time. I need to write more lists … off to write one for tomorrow 🙂

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