Eating the Elephant One Small Bite at a Time: 3 Tips to becoming less “Overwhelmed”

BlogLeadershipParenting | April 10 2013


You ever get that feeling that you are so overwhelmed with your to do list that you just shut down or escape? Or, are you a person that says yes to everything that you just keep adding line items to your life? It’s a vicious cycle but I can tell you I have found freedom and margin by “Eating the Elephant one Small Bite at a Time”. This post is for any leader, parent, business owner or creative.

One careful note: some people always add to their life by saying yes to everything because it gives them validation of being “needed” by someone or others. It’s a false identity and reality. They become overworked, burnt out and depressed because it comes up empty. They empty their creativity and effort into others and have nothing left for themselves. I am describing a sever case but if one continues in the rut it can be a hard one to recover from. The key to prevention is boundaries, saying no and time for yourself. This post is about a couple techniques I use. I just wanted to paint the most extreme.

Recently I just back from events in Florida. I spent about 3 months in preparation for these events. However, during those three months I had a workload that was triple the amount of work of the events. Basically, I created, managed and planned 6-8 months of work into 3 months. Was I overwhelmed? I could have been. Did I say “yes” to too many deals and “paint myself into a corner”? No. Things just all came together at the same time. Add to it the fact that there were additional projects that landed beyond our control.

It would have been really easy to be overwhelmed. As I charted the course of these weeks I used my Evernote to manage my work flow, ideas, blog posts, paintings, family stuff, as well as other life to-do’s.

Here are my three go to thoughts that I think about and tell myself when I’m in the thick of mountain of responsibility:

This is temporary – I can pretty much bear anything knowing that it is temporary. I might be frustrated with myself for being in this position but it’s a great indicator to let myself know what not to do in the future.

Eat The Elephant one Small Bite at a Time– Chip away at the projects little bites at a time. I normally will put the kids down and even though I’ve already put in a 11 hour day and are totally tired, Chantel will say, “Ok, go out to the studio and just paint for an hour”. That practice will give me another 7 hours a week. However, it’s usually adds up to 14-20 hours because I always paint longer. Our minds our powerful, they will talk us out of everything. Just showing up is the main challenge. Just like going to work out. Working out isn’t tough, it’s getting there that is. Set small rewards for spurts of concentrated times of effort: a nap, a cup of coffee, a chapter of a book, a bath, a walk, solitude. Be careful: social media, email and text can rob the reward. It also often burns countless minutes of productive time of productions and replenishment. Stick to your commitment and reward. Allocate emails and social for specific time and don’t get into the vortex of “keeping up”. You set the tone and pace. Pace and tone don’t set you.

Remember your “Why”– It can become really easy to get so wrapped up in the task of “doing” your craft that you can forget the “why” you are doing it. For me, when I remember my mission of using my gift to connect with others and to spread Gods love through it all it changes my perspective and motivation. Clarify and remember “why” you are working through the challenge ad doing all of this.

You can choose to breakdown or breakthrough. Eat the elephant one small bite at a time and be careful to remember these seasons of eating the elephant. The goal? To live with smaller elephants. Oh, and to stop feeding them chocolate cake and beer.

Have you ever felt this way before? How do you manage the multitude of responsibilities without getting overwhelmed?

Please leave a comment below and PLEASE tweet, or post or email this to others. There are many people that can benefit from our dialog and community. I’m super glad we can walk this through this journey together! You’re not alone!