The elephant technique for time management success (Article)

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Approaching big tasks one step at a time

This free High Performance Newsletter article explores the elephant technique. The analogy of eating an elephant one piece at a time is used to explain how big tasks can be broken down into 'bite size' chunks.

Derek Stockley is a training and performance consultant based in Australia.

One reason that people procrastinate about big jobs is the belief that they need to devote significant chunks of time to the job. They say they need a week or a couple of days or a good few hours to get started. They postulate that if they do not have a significant time period, it is not worth the effort starting.

The problem with this approach is that the project or job never gets started. The person never finds the reasonable chunk of time they think they need.

Personal example

For some time, I have wanted to re-develop my website. Standards have changed and every two or three years it is necessary to undertake an upgrade.

I have being saying to myself "next week I will have a day or so that I can devote to the website". As each week went by, the available time has shrunk as higher "must do" priorities arose.

I then decided enough was enough. The need to redevelop was becoming both urgent and important.

If I could not devote large chunks of time, then I would have to employ the 'elephant technique'. The concept is simple - it is possible to eat an elephant if you do it one piece at a time. (My apologies to those people who like me think elephants are great - it is the size of the animal that is useful to this story, not the quality/desirability of the meat.)

So in the last few weeks some of the planned changes to my website have been implemented. There is still more to do. The website appearance varies visually from place to place, but I believe I am starting to achieve a better, more business like visual appearance. Other changes and improvements are being gradually introduced. New content and pages have been added.

The elephant technique has worked for me. I still have some other elephants in the yard to get to, but I can now see myself starting them shortly.


The elephant technique is a useful and helpful time management technique. Complex projects can be broken down into bite size chunks. This enables progress.


There are many references to the elephant technique on the internet. I attribute the original elephant technique idea to TMI (Time Manager International).

The TMI website is at: Time Manager International (TMI).

Related reading

Time Management Articles - a range of short articles written by Derek Stockley - topics include techniques, work-life balance and ideas for effective meetings.

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Derek Stockley conducts public training courses in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and Perth, including a Public Train the Trainer Program.

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