5 Tips For Eating an Elephant

Let’s say you’ve got a big task that has to get done. I wouldn’t say you’re dreading it, but left to your own devices, you’d rather spend your time checking email. How should you attack it? Like the line about eating an elephant, I suppose. One bite at a time.

1. Start early. With any luck you’ll also finish early and can take a mental vacation.

2. Break it into chunks. That’s the beautiful thing about books. They come in chapters. But any big project likely has different sections: a speech, the graphs, exercises for workshop participants, etc.

3. Pare down your to-do list. Often, we put big important things in the middle of a 15-item to-do list, and then feel like we’ve done something when we do all 14… except the important one. Don’t give yourself that satisfaction. If the chunks are big enough, make them your only priority for any given day. Or give yourself 2 other priorities, max.

4. Don’t start at the beginning. When writing a chapter, sometimes I realize that the end will be easy to write. No harm starting there. With any luck, the tricky parts will eventually just be filling in gaps.

5. Don’t expect perfection on the first try. This is why we start early. There will be time to think about the project, ask for feedback, and make improvements.


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