Eating Elephants

How do you eat an elephant?

One bite at a time.

My Big Projects

I started working on my third book. It requires a significant amount of research (and some writing). Every week I read, and every week I write. Sometimes a little, sometimes a lot. But no week goes by without at least some progress. I could even measure it, if I wanted. (But I know I’m moving forward, so I don’t bother.)

I am also cleaning up my contact lists on Gmail, Twitter, Facebook, and other websites. It’s a huge task. I have 4,000 “contacts” in Gmail alone. But every week I set aside 30 minutes, and I clean up a small portion. (You might have noticed, when you received a Twitter or LinkedIn notification from me. Count yourself lucky. It means you’re still in.)

I am also browsing for music by my favorite artists on Spotify. And I’m browsing for unknown artists within the same genres. I’m slowly but steadily turning my findings into big playlists. I do this while working, and every week I waste at least one hour of my precious time on it. But I like doing it. And it’s nice to delete Gmail contacts to the rhythm of a beat.

There’s also my giant project of finding (and owning, and reading) copies of the best fantasy and science fiction books on the planet. I enjoy browsing for books as much as reading them. And I’ve made significant progress there. This project costs me about an hour per week. I think. I hope it never ends.

And I haven’t told you about the huge to-do list for my house. And the refactoring of my profile on dozens of social networks. And my secret plan to rule the world.

Needless to say, these are all Big Projects.

I do them all one small step at a time.

Your Big Projects

Sometimes people ask me, “How do I start test-driven development on a big legacy framework?” or “How do I convince our big management layer to become agile?” or “How do I finish this big nightmare of a project?”

Well, that’s easy.

You eat an elephant one bite at a time.

I’m busy eating a herd!

(photo by Matt MacGillivray)

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  • Andy

    This is nothing new. The biggest problem – at least for me personally – is to keep on eating (the elephant). How you deal with this – how you manage to ensure no week passes by without at least some progress in each and every one of your Big Projects?

  • Andreas Balogh

    “Finding the best fantasy and science fiction books”. Browsing the Hugo and Nebula awards might be a good starting point!
    Good Luck.

  • project management

    Agreed that the elephant must be eaten one step at a time.. however you do need a holistic strategic view of the elephant to understand where is the best place to start eating (the tastiest place, the easiest place, etc).. gotta think strategically and that requires you to think of the whole elephant..

  • Dan Ackerson

    If you are losing sleep over that “0%” test coverage number at night, just start testing!
    I find that if I write at least one test per week, the other developers take note and start writing tests as well. If you can get the ball rolling, it quickly ramps up so that 0% becomes 10%…25%.
    The art of the start – Newtonian physics as applied to mental hurdles. Objects at rest tend to stay at rest, while objects in motion tend to stay in motion.

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