We all know the old adage, “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.” It’s cute. I usually think of it as an encouragement when confronted with a daunting task. Now, I see it as wisdom with broader implications.
One is the smallest whole number. It represents singularity. It connotes focus. One of my favorite books, The One Thing, by Gary Keller, recommends the clarity of identifying the one most important thing that we need to do to move forward. This thought has been helpful to me on more occasions than I can count.
The truth is that I often try to eat my elephants using both hands and both feet at the same time. Why am I surprised that eating that way doesn’t work very well?
In my better moments, I harness the Power of One to my advantage. Doing this makes my life more effective, purposeful, and much less frenetic. Here are a few ways that I do this that might be worth trying:
· I work to have one clear top priority for each day. I list that priority specifically as the most important thing I need to do that day. I also do that every week, and have a One Thing goal each year. Clarifying priority helps me stay clear about what I need to do.
· I avoid multi-tasking as much as possible. I leave multi-tasking for when one of the tasks is background, like watching TV. I still struggle with this. I am tempted toward distraction all the time. But “one at a time” always works better.
· I try to “time block” my days. In my calendar, I “block” portions of the days for activities I need to do, like writing blogs or editing podcasts. Time blocking makes the day more effortless as I just execute a plan. It also helps me have more of a sense of freedom with times that are not blocked.
One is a simple number. I need simple. It seems like everything around me is spiraling toward complexity and chaos. Much of that chaos is out of my control. So, if I strive for simplicity in the few places I have control, I am much happier and effective.
Are you trying to eat your elephant with both hands at the same time? Why not slow down and enjoy the meal?