How to Eat an Elephant

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Amy heaved a sigh when I suggested some homework for her. The goal was to organize the mailing area of the office. She looked over at it and I could see that she was thinking, “never gonna find time for that!”

It was true that she would never find half a day to overhaul that spot.

That’s not what I had in mind, though.

I told her that we’d break it down into small steps that she could fit into her schedule over the next week or so. We made a list of all the little things that had to be done to create a well-functioning mail center.

Each step would take between five minutes and 20 minutes; amounts of time she could schedule pretty easily.

Keys to making it work:

  • Give yourself time to complete each task so you don’t leave stuff lying around
  • Get into a mental state to make decisions. Be ruthless even
  • Let yourself stop when the task is done and get back to work

What are your tricks for getting through a big project? Let me know in the comments!

6 thoughts on “How to Eat an Elephant

  1. This reminds me of the “commercial cleaning” my cousin does – she jumps up during a commercial when she’s watching TV and tackles a small task.

  2. This reminds me of the “commercial cleaning” my cousin does – she jumps up during a commercial when she’s watching TV and tackles a small task.

  3. It is the small project that I find anoying. My approach to eating an elephant is to first write down what has to be done, duration, and the goals and objectives. Easy, I think, because I know I have to eat an elephant. Seems like a huge task, but not so. I like to first set up a planning committee and get inputs from the group. I then delegate who will take care of each activity and then we keep assessing and change if needs be. I always meet deadline. I also leave room for what if a part is unmanageble due to unforseen circumstances.

  4. Sheila,
    For a big project, listing tasks and having a timeline definitely makes it more do-able. And building in contingency time is very important. What is it that annoys you about smaller projects?

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