Eating an Elephant — Remedial

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

Remedial answer: Ignore the salad.

Another time management expert says to “Eat the frog for breakfast,” meaning do the thing you least like first. The advanced method is to find the biggest, ugliest frog and eat that one.

Eating frogs doesn’t work for me. The metaphor works, but not the advice.

Frogs multiply. They come in many shapes and sizes, but they’re all reasonably small. Some types of frogs keep showing up, although their size varies. Every day I have to cook and do the dishes, but sometimes there’s more baked on. Every week (or so) I have to do the bathrooms and bedding. So, it’s a good metaphor.

My problem is the eating. I don’t want to eat any frog, let alone the big ugly one. Instead I’ll procrastinate and do nothing. At the end of the day, all the frogs, and their cousins, are still there. The elephant is still there, too.

When you eat an elephant, you need to start with a part you can reach. Chances are, it’s not the nastiest part. Often it’s a bit bland (laundry) but otherwise not too bad. Add a nice sauce (music) and it’s edible. The nasty part will have to wait.

Some parts rot and get even nastier (chicken bones in the garbage). You’ll probably want to get those early, but they reach a point where they won’t get any nastier (mop the kitchen). Other parts just dry out (music practice). Some taste better with red wine (gardening in mild weather), some with milk (paperwork before I’m tired).

The most important thing about eating an elephant is not which part you eat, but that you actually eat it. As you finish one bit, you get a good look at the next. It’s probably not as bad as you thought, or can be broken down, or you realize there’s a better way to eat it. At the very least, the first bits are no longer in the way, so you don’t have to climb over them.

The important thing is to ignore the salad. As long as you’re eating that elephant, you’re making progress.

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