How Do You Eat an Elephant? One Bite at a Time.

photo by africa /

Several years ago I had an experience that taught me that no matter what I am faced with, if I can just break down my projects into bite size pieces, I can truly accomplish just about anything. I was in charge of preparing lunch for a youth conference with over 1500 teenage attendees. Definitely a daunting assignment! When this task was assigned to me I thought, “Oh please, can’t someone else be in charge of this?” But there was no getting out of it. So I began by itemizing the details of each lunch (ie: fruit, chips, drink, bread, lunch meat, cheese, lettuce, etc) and I divided up the assignments amongst the other volunteers who would be helping. I delegated each item that needed to be purchased to several people, so that it would not be overwhelming for any one person. I can’t imagine how I could have possibly handled all of these items myself (1500 apples?). I even timed myself to see how long it would take one person to make one sandwich so I could figure out how many people we needed to make 1500 sandwiches in the two hours we had to prepare the lunches. By breaking this one big assignment into several little assignments and then delegating it out, the project became a manageable task.  Amazingly, everything came together exactly as planned, and in the end we did it on time and within our budget. Of course I did not do it alone. A big part of my plan for this task was delegation. It was important to bring many people together to complete the assignment.

That seemingly overwhelming task taught me that whenever I have big projects, or even little projects, all I need to do is break the project down into bite size pieces, just like eating an elephant. I have learned to take on big projects by giving myself a due date for whatever task I need to finish, and then figuring out what I need to accomplish each day and each week in order to complete the project on time. Even for projects as simple as deep cleaning the house–this project might not have a deadline, but I can give it a due date and work out a plan of action with little baby steps each day and each week.

Being the room mom in my children’s classes seemed like another overwhelming assignment. But, when I looked at all that was expected of me and then broke it down into smaller assignments, it was manageable. (Especially because breaking down those assignments also meant delegating some tasks to other parents.) Sometimes there are school volunteer assignments that you might shy away from because you feel that it would be overwhelming or you just don’t know where to begin. If it is something you truly want to do or help with, don’t be afraid to tackle that seemingly monumental task. You can accomplish amazing things!

As a mom it is hard to do anything at the last minute. Something always throws a wrench into our day. Does that mean we always have to shy away from doing things we really want to do?  No, it means we have to plan how we can accomplish what it is we want to add into our lives. If you want to finish a college degree, run a marathon, become a better cook, the list goes on, all you need is a plan.

Each challenge that I have faced, I have faced with a plan and it made all the difference. Each time I created a plan and accomplished what I set out to do, I gained even more confidence to accomplish even greater things. I believe that each of us is capable of far more than we give ourselves credit for. I believe that we  can accomplish great things if we plan to do things “one bite at a time.”

QUESTION:  What are some things that you are wanting to do but have not started yet because it seems like too much to do?

CHALLENGE:  Break down this big assignment or task into doable smaller tasks and assign each task a due date over the next few weeks or months or even this year if it takes that long.


  1. says

    This article is a great reminder for me. Sometimes I shy away from things because they feel overwhelming just thinking about them. But I’m taking your advice to heart. One step at a time, I can even do overwhelming things.

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