One Bite At a Time


Supporting a high-schooler through end-of-the-year projects is much like eating an elephant.  It must be undertaken one bite at a time.

To stand at the beginning of this last month of school and view the workload as a whole was daunting.  When one paper after another was sent home adding one more project to the mix, when the emails were slipping into the inbox every morning with reminders and schedules, when you’ve pushed and existed in a semi-sleep-deprived state for so long, it all becomes too large to view as one month’s work.  It must be broken down incrementally into manageable bites.

As with any major undertaking in life, to look from start to finish induces panic.  To say this must be done by the end of the month and that’s happening next year, and I have this hurdle coming up before then... is to set yourself up for a fail right out the gate.

In fact, with my personality, I’d be tempted to quit before I ever make it to the gate.  It’s too much, too large, too overwhelming.

However, I do like lists.  One large overview list is great for planning purposes, but if I focus too long on that list, I get discouraged.  I begin feeling the hives of stress creep up my neck until I’m panic-ridden into complete inactivity, frozen by an overload on my processor.  Too much data.

So I take that master list and break those tasks down into a weekly projection, then cut that down into daily goals, and I begin to get somewhere.  Boil that day’s list down even further, prioritize each item on it, and progress begins to happen.  It becomes doable.  I can work with increments.

For my high-schooler and me, this has been our strategy to finish strong this year: one bite at a time.

When the hours of homework pile up and we are gazing at the 2-ton carcass of elephant left to eat, we have the master checklist handy, with the completed tasks marked as done.  And we remind each other, one thing at a time.

Forget the overview.  Focus on the now, on the next task.  You can’t change tomorrow or next week or next year until you deal with today.

This is true in high school and true in every other area of life.  While our kids are learning dates and facts and mathematical formulas, this may well be one of the most critical, useful, and longest lasting lessons:

Take it one bite at a time.

There will always be those who, for whatever pernicious reason, try to add stress and pressure and feelings of defeat by reminding you of all you have left to do and what you have not yet accomplished.  They point out all the uphills ahead, emphasizing the difficulty and taking a sadistic pleasure in repeating the deadlines and the due dates.  Their attitude is one of doubt and undermines success and is highly contagious.  Don’t let them trip you up in it.

Don’t rush.  Don’t panic.  Don’t allow others to impose their stress onto you by heaping the whole elephant onto your shoulders.  Don’t allow them to freak you out with their projections of too much to do and too little time to execute.  Don’t be intimidated by the heavy load ahead.

Focus on today, on what you can do this minute… and chew.



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