Preparing An Elephant Burger

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Sit down and strap up, kids. Today I’m going to teach you how to prepare and eat your very own elephant burger. That’s right. Dumbo Crammed In a Bun.

How’s that for a teaser? I’m eagerly awaiting the hate email from wildlife groups.

Ok, so we’re not really going to eat an elephant. The fines would be outrageous, and plus let’s be honest: Elephants are kind of cool.

What we are going to do is get you to accomplish more than you ever thought possible.

You’ve all heard the line about how you’d go about eating an elephant? One bite at a time, right?

Basically what that means is that if you’ve got an “impossible” task (eating an elephant) staring you in the face it doesn’t do you any good to gaze at the massive problem/carcass in front of you and try to tackle it all at once. It’s just too big, too frustrating, too much. Instead, just focus on one bite. Then another. Then another. Simple, right?

No? Well, then let’s break it down a little more.

Eat me.

Ok. So you’ve got your big task. This sonofabitch is your elephant. It could be getting your taxes done, building a new website, remodeling your kitchen, tackling that extra-dimensional pile of stuff in your storage shed, or whatever. Whatever this mountain of a task is, you’ve been pretending that it doesn’t exist because every time you look at it you get all glassy-eyed and stressed out. Sharpen that steak knife, son, because we’re going to get our justice today.

Step 1: Survey the carcass. Some people like to charge blindly into a big task because they’re afraid of really knowing how big it is. I, on the other hand, like to at least know what I’m dealing with because there’s nothing worse than getting belly-deep in the beast and realizing that you’ve been heading in the wrong direction without your flashlight and running low on barbeque sauce.

Step 2: Strategize. Now that you know what you’re dealing with you can come up with a sensible strategy. You can’t do it all at once. Period. So instead of shotgunning your action take a second and come up with a plan of attack. Because I refuse to let the elephant buffet thing go: Some things you’re going to put into a lovely stir fry with mung bean sprouts and Asian vegetables, some cuts are going to go in the smoker, some need some serious time in a slow cooker, and others can be dug right into as Pachyderm Tar Tar, which brings me to…

Step 3: Find the choicest bits and pitbull those sonsofbitches. Look, even if you don’t want anything to do with your task there’s still going to be some pieces that are better than others. When I wrote my last book there were a couple of chapters that I was looking forward to writing and a couple that I really just couldn’t get fired up for but I knew needed to be done. Looking at the whole book as a complete list of tasks was simply overwhelming. So I started writing what became Chapter 6 – Athletic Nutrition, before I wrote Chapter 3 – Dynamic Warm-ups, for example. I learned that even though I wrote out of sequence, the world didn’t collapse into ash, thunderbolts, and fire.

I found the tastiest elephant parts (I leave those up to your imagination) and went after them first because it gave me encouragement and positive feelings about the task.

Step 4: Set some milestones and rewards. It should be coming clear now that getting the Tusker from your plate to your belly is not going to be a simple, one-off type of thing. So set some milestones and rewards for yourself along the way to keep you inspired and moving.

“Ok, so I knocked down that whole leg. Time for a beer and a little shoulder rub from the Hooters waitress”. Just give yourself a little boost and a mental break before tackling the next part.

Step 5: Grind the gristly bits. Eventually you’ve got to get to the hard parts that you dodged in Step 3. It’s not all filet mignon, I’m afraid. There’s going to be some chuck in there, too. So after you’ve crushed out the easy parts of your task, take a second and look at what you’ve accomplished and what’s left. Chances are you’ve done some serious damage, should be encouraged, and now you’re committed and on a roll. So it’s time to season what’s left, do anything you can to make the task easier (like grinding what’s left into a burger so you don’t have to chew as much), and dive in. You’ve come way too far to leave the task unfinished, so let’s finish up!

Open wide!

Productivity isn’t some sort of “you have it or you don’t” innate talent like a lot of people would have you believe. Productivity is a skill. Like any other skill, it’s something that can be broken down, learned, and applied.

It’s Make It Happen Monday. Grab a fork, knife, and your Superhero bib. It’s time to eat that elephant.



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Is building the perfect training plan one of your elephants? How about NINE MONTHS of killer, professionally-designed training programs for different levels?

Comments on Preparing An Elephant Burger Leave a Comment

April 15, 2013

anna @ 7:35 pm #

This is a great article! I try to picture which of my student’s English papers are the tastiest bites. It is surprising how long I can postpone something that doesn’t require a lot of time. And turns out the papers are quite enjoyable when I first start grading. Keep the good advice coming! I think we all need some structured and well illustrated wisdom every now and then.

April 16, 2013

mom @ 2:52 pm #

ABSOLUTELY AWESOME, iSAAC! LOVE, MOM.

April 18, 2013

Matt @ 12:35 am #

THis is a great reminder of how to eat an elephant one bite at a time. We usually try to devour things all at once due to our human nature. Thanks for sharing this great post.

Robert @ 6:43 am #

This is so true, when faced with your elephant, whatever it may be yopu need to pick out the best parts. Or at least the parts that are not as aweful as the rest. That is the only way you will be able to get started. By making the whole process as less painful as possible.

Great post, really enjoyed it!

April 23, 2013

Julia @ 12:17 pm #

Most things that appear complicated at first can be broken down into more manageable steps.
Once you know the breakdown its much more easy to work out where to start and a plan that will see you through to the end whatever the project.

April 26, 2013

Kimberley @ 7:36 am #

I agree, I have always looked at the big picture, then broken it down into little ‘tasks’. That way I feel like I am making progress and having little ‘wins’ whilst still aiming for that one big goal!

Kimberley @ 7:39 am #

Yes I agree. I have always looked at the big picture and then broken it down into smaller tasks. That way I can have little ‘wins’ whilst still working towards my main goal!

April 29, 2013

Diego @ 12:37 pm #

That is such a great analogy. Whenever I am faced with a task that seems so large and almost impossible, I will think of the cute image outlining all the different parts of the elephant.

May 1, 2013

Christy @ 9:12 pm #

I seem to have an entire herd of elephants in my life instead of just one 🙂 This is such a good reminder of how to deal with obstacles that seem SO daunting. Those are good, practical steps. Thanks for the post.

May 5, 2013

Mandy @ 12:52 pm #

Great post. No task is too daunting.

May 12, 2013

Michelle @ 12:20 pm #

I had never heard the line about how to eat an elephant! The advice is very practical and the post was very humorous. Thank you for the great advice

May 16, 2013

Richard @ 7:58 am #

I once completed a self improvement program that dealt with this topic. The advice was, as you wrote above, to break a large task down into smaller tasks. However this was taken several stages further by going into mini and micro tasks. The premise was that you should be able to complete your next “micro task” in the next 10 minutes. If the task took longer than 10 minutes then you hadn’t broken it down enough.

I use this method when I’m procrastinating or when the task just seems too big.

June 3, 2013

Cheryl @ 3:50 pm #

I like this post so much. How you break down the bits and pieces is fantastic. Not all projects or ‘to do’s’ have to be completed in sequence. The world is not going to end 🙂 I always set the milestones, but sometimes fall short on rewards. Thanks for the post, it’s a real big help.

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