How do you eat an elephant?

Posted on May 20, 2011. Filed under: Uncategorized |

I have one thing holding my life together now, one thing that keeps me sane and lets me know that I am actually making progress despite the huge amount I’m about to get through. The other day a family member moved that thing and for a moment I panicked.

I almost felt the same panic in the taxi from Helsinki to the airport this week. The entire car was filled with the smell of a too warm taxi driver and I wished I had taken another taxi. But he was nice and happy, especially when we drove past a BMW that had hoisted a small Finnish flag on the car.

“Very Patriotic.” I mumbled. “Yes, or maybe they are celebrating something.” Says the driver with the clear emphasis on something, while he laughs loudly. ” I have no idea what you’re talking about.” I replicate rapidly and think of the hints I received all day. At lunch, I had to go through history from the 2003 World Championships and 2006 Olympics to defend our ice hockey-honor, that was damaged during the World Cup final this weekend.

The last participant that day tried to defend herself when I asked why she did not use action plans or checklists. We reviewed her pre-study and noted that her goals for the training was to improve getting started on larger and longer tasks and stop getting stuck with working on the quick and easy tasks. She had created a prioritized to-do list and that’s where I spotted the huge elephants.

“How do you eat an elephant? I asked her. “Excuse me!” She looked at me as if I lost it. “Ah, she smiled, you mean I would divide it into smaller pieces.” Exactly, and you have five elephants on your to-do list. They need to become affordable small tasks that you can easily take a bite of during the week. You will immediately see what you have done and what you have left to do and it’s easier to pick up the task even if you are interrupted.”

The woman fixes the buttons on her navy blue jacket and begins to eagerly fill in the template that I have given her. Impatient to get all the pieces of puzzle out of her head.

I understand her so well and when I land in Stockholm, I am eager to get back to my own moving project and the worn-out action plan on the refrigerator door. To my horror, I see that my lifeline is not hanging in its place .

Moving is a hassle, but one advantage is the clearing out. Our children have a routine for marking the boxes with Save, Sell, Dispose. My son Eric is an expert in filling the sales boxes in his room and I hear him adding up the amount of money he will earn and how that will affect his bank account (He is 10! Future within Finance?)

In my daughter’s room I find the opposite. A huge amount of saved items and frustrated, she has filled half the sales-box, but she keeps picking the items from there to her Save-boxes. It is all very neatly lined up and almost in color scheme. Completely different from the sudden mess in her brothers cartons.

In Eric’s hands I find the Action Plan. Pooh! “Mom, can I sell socks that are too small?” “No, we are not selling old socks!” I mumble and put a check mark on my points. The books are packed, check, grandma’s old sherry glasses are packed, check. I’ve called the electric company, telephone company and notified the change of address, check, check, check.

Oh, magic, energy flows back into the veins, when I see that we have made substantial progress in the great flood. Happier, I send off praise to the kids and hurry down to the next thing on the list, the closet in the hallway. The fine, white one, with many cabinets and drawers. If only my visitors had known how much I fed it with. Part of me wonder why?

Why have I not a regular Sunday cleaned it? 2 / 3 would have been removed immediately and I would not have been terrified that someone would open it and expose me. I had estimated it would take two hours to clear it, it took half an hour. Check! I started preparing dinner.

Satisfied and happy, I realize that the spaghetti is boiling for 7 minutes which gives me time to clean the coffee cabinet. My simultaneous capacity is at its peak. Check, Checkmate.

When evening comes, we all go to bed very content. Happy and amazed that the moving project can be such fun. But I am absolutely convinced that if I did not check off the milestones, my head had just been filled with everything I have not done yet. Sour I would have stayed in my couch and claimed that I just have to watch this television program instead. The energy had flowed out of me and the threshold to take hold of the project had made me tearful. Procrastinator’s hell had taken a hold on me and the paradise of energy and satisfaction with completed milestones had been far away.

Ready to fall asleep I was just to put my book on the bedside table, when I suddenly began to clean up there too, check, one last check and then good night. OK, paradise or paradise, maybe a bit of a fool’s paradise then.

But soon, I have eaten my elephant and can start on the dessert …

A relaxing weekend, I wish you

 Petra Brask, on the move

“The winner always has a plan of action, the loser has an excuse.”
Gunde Svan, legendary Swedish cross-country skier


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