Why is it that lots of metaphors include an elephant;

  • how do you eat an elephant?
  • the elephant in the room
  • white elephants
  • an elephant never forgets
  • seeing pink elephants

I could go on….

The metaphor we concern ourselves with in this post is, the eating of an elephant, to which the answer is of course, one bite at a time. No, this is not a reference to the murky world of the ivory trade or an ‘I’m a celebrity bush tucker trial’, it’s the metaphorical image of getting things done one bit at a time.

To Do Lists

Although there are many many people who write to do lists, with some going so far as to fill up every little bit of white space in their daily schedule, why is it that so many times conventional ‘To do lists’ fail?

For people who make a list, morning comes and they begin by checking emails, making the coffee, making a few phone calls, checking emails again and then it’s lunch by which time they may have crossed off one small thing on the list. The day proceeds with a couple more things being crossed off the list, a few pats on the back and a fair bit of excuse making for why the rest of the list seems untouched.

At the end of the day though, staring back at you from the list is the HARDEST job on the to do list. By this time though you are tired, frazzled and your motivational energy levels are floundering around somewhere in sub zero. All of a sudden, that small hill you had to climb in the morning has grown into Everest, and you have no climbing equipment left. The Big Job gets carried over to the next day with an air of either ;

  • I wasn’t in the right frame of mind today
  • I didn’t have enough free time
  • I had lots of other jobs that needed doing first
  • I had a headache
  • I think I have a cold coming on
  • etc etc etc

you get the picture!!

So what’s the answer?

As with the differing methods surrounding goal setting, there seem to be differing opinions of ‘how to tackle to do lists’. I believe, and agree with (among others) Mark twain, who most famously said “If it’s your job to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning. And if it’s your job to eat two frogs, it’s best to eat the biggest one first.”-https://twitter.com/noisli

First thing in the morning your time energy motivational resource is at it’s peak, proving it to be the optimal time to strike. It’s a tempting thought to begin with the smaller easy tasks that could build momentum in preparation for the ‘big one’, but this inevitably doesn’t happen! The day progresses with an ever increasing hovering cloud of stress and anxiety over the ‘job’ that is set to challenge your comfort zone. Start eating the elephant in the morning- biggest bit first!

Don’t try to cram in too much or you will feel overwhelmed. Schedule in breaks for lunch, coffee, a walk or exercise. It’s just as important to be ‘off task’ as it is to be on.


Reward yourself throughout the day as you tick off each completed job. By doing this it will keep your motivational levels up and keep you focused on the list. By promising yourself a treat if you complete a number of specific tasks you will have a goal to work towards, and as long as you have scheduled your list sensibly, it will be a goal you can achieve.

These daily goals are different to our MASSIVE goals, but by learning to motivate yourself, keep your focus, hit those BIG tasks first and schedule your time sensibly these daily to do lists will all contribute towards achieving that ultimate goal.

For more information about ‘Eating an elephant and other goal setting ideas see other videos on my websitedavidhyner.com.

Images by Pexels, John.schultz