How do you eat an elephant


I'm pleased to announce that eating elephant is vegan-friendly, gluten free, dairy and nut-free, will satisfy raw food eaters, is not genetically modified and is dolphin-friendly. In fact no animals are harmed at all. That's because I'm speaking figuratively of course. You didn't think I was being literal did you? Shame on you.

The phrase refers to the method of approaching seemingly insurmountable tasks bit by bit or bite by bite if you're actually eating an elephant.

In business this could be the challenge of a single work day, in relation to a staffing issue or concern, a project or a very complex set of issues. In ones' personal life it could be a death in the family, depression, planning a party or wedding, in fact, any situation or task that calls for planning, organization, decision-making and effort towards an ultimate goal.

So, how do you eat an elephant?

Well, elephants are big. Except of course when they are born in which case they are not as big as they will be later on. They are still bigger than other things that are not born as big as elephants are though. You get the concept, I'm sure. So unless one has a very large mouth the only way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time. Let's investigate.

I work in the property industry as a business development manager. My office has some 50 staff in it and a lot of salespeople, some of whom are quite successful and others not so much. You see, I don't subscribe to the time makes you better ethos. Acquiring new and relevant skills, honing them and focusing on dollar-productive activities make you better. (Hard work, prioritization, passion for the work, relationship-building and study as well of course.)

I had a lengthy conversation with one of the newer salespeople yesterday who was downhearted about his results and was floundering somewhat. He explained he was prospecting in many areas and still not gaining traction. Right away I could see that he was trying to do too much, was spreading himself too thinly and therefore affecting his results with his scattered approach. Nothing got done effectively, thoroughly and with focus. He was trying to eat the elephant in one bite. This creates stress, not the good kind either and can severely effect performance and self-esteem.

I suggested he create a matrix on Excel listing every possible prospecting activity he could think of and rate them for: Cost, time/effort-input, expected result, time frame of result (I.e. 2-3, 6-12, 12-18 month returns) etc. There were other parameters as well. This would highlight what was the most effective methods, what the return of his efforts would be (projected) and where his time and resources would be better spent. He liked the idea and I'm going to review his results this morning and hopefully see some benefit in the months ahead.

Having this knowledge will allow him to lay out a strategic plan with a specific time-frame and goals with measurable parameters. It will allow him to approach the tasks with an operational tempo commensurate with the expected outcome and to invest in the most profitable areas of prospecting.

Of course, this process is much deeper than my post indicates however many people can achieve a high degree of productivity and clarity by looking at the tasks in their day in a similar way. Move the big rocks first, (the big obstacles in your day), and apply focussed energy and effort into the areas that will gain the greatest results. Simply stand back from the task, break it down to the activities required to complete it, the end-goals or desired result and then start eating that elephant!


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