Effective Time Management: Eating that elephant
Time to blow the cobwebs off our New Year’s resolutions yet again, so I thought I’d offer a bit of help for those struggling with an important task that keeps getting shunted to the bottom of the pile because it seems impossible to achieve.
How do you eat an elephant?
One bite at a time.
That’s all very well but it’s still a big elephant and it can be difficult working out where to take the first bite.
If the logical first step in a big task is still so daunting that you’re endlessly procrastinating, then how about being illogical?
I call it eating the soft underbelly of the elephant.
Sometimes when a task is large and scary we just keep putting it off. So it isn’t really about time management because no matter how much time you have, you’ll always find something else to do. So your desk becomes unrecognizably tidy, your inbox is empty and even the paperwork is filed.
When I first set up my own business I was overwhelmed with the comms side of it. Back in the day it meant sending out a physical mailshot rather than an e-newsletter or blog feed. The task of putting together a contact list and communicating with them seemed like a massive elephant looming large at my desk each morning.
The logical first step was to design the mail out – think about my key messages, supporting imagery and all that. But even that seemed daunting – I was on my own so didn’t have anyone to bounce ideas off, which is how I like to work.
Rather than getting depressed I decided to find the ‘soft underbelly’ of this particular elephant: Something so small and insignificant that I could do it without worrying about it and yet it would take me one step closer to the end goal.
So I bought stamps.
Then I stuck them on envelopes.
With each nibble at the elephant I found another little nibble I could take and before you could say ‘pink elephants’ I’d got the thing finished and in the post.
My advice then is to look for the small doable bit of the task that appeals to you – something you’re confident you can achieve and that needs to be done at some point. Even if it’s not particularly logical to do it first, give it a go. Then take another bite and see how you feel as you nibble away and the elephant gradually becomes a mouse.