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How to Eat the Elephant - 5 Steps to Break Down Your Goal into Bite-Size Pieces

Have you set a big and exciting goal to make happen this year?

Is it so big and exciting that you are now in a state of overwhelm and procrastinating over starting?

How do you integrate working on goals into your day to day life with even the busiest schedules?

"How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time,”

The proverb means that giant tasks can be accomplished if done a little at a time. Frank Cody, Detroit’s Superintendent of Schools, wrote in 1921: “It is entirely possible for a man to swallow an elephant one bite at a time.

This blog walks you through 5 clear steps to show you how you can apply the proverb to break down even your biggest goals so that you don't find yourself procrastinating or feeling the overwhelm of what is ahead.

Step 1 - Start with the big goal

Before you start, do you have a goal?


Then let's run through a final checklist before we start to break it down into bite-size pieces:

  • Is it specific and details what you 'do' want?

  • Is it your goal - what you want for you?

  • Are you clear about why this is important to you?

  • Are you clear about what will be different when you have achieved this goal?

  • Have you considered what you need to do differently to make this happen?

  • What do you know about you that will make this happen?

  • What external support do you need to help make this happen?

Once you have answered these questions, you are ready to move to step 2.

Step 2 - Break it down into quarters

Your first task is to check for any key dates or obvious milestones. If you are aiming to achieve your goals in 12 months, during that time period, are there any dates that you already know about?

If it is a type of goal that does not have milestones created for you, have a think about how often you want to 'check-in' to assess progress. This may be alone or with an accountability partner.

Having milestones and check-in points are essential to help you stay on track.

At the halfway mark what type of progress do you want to have made? What will that look/feel like? What will you want to have achieved by this point?

Do you want to see that half of the list has been achieved or that you are you have achieved a little bit of everything on the list?

This is to make sure that you don't get to month 11 and still have everything to do!

Once you have set any key dates and milestones the next step is to divide the 12 months into quarters. How can you divide up what needs to be done into 4. Break it up so that it is split it out over the year.

Does there need to be an order, or can you just list everything that needs to be done and divide it up?

Keep in mind any other commitments that you may need to keep into consideration when dividing the tasks and activities up i.e. holidays, exams etc.

Step 3 - Break it down into months

Once you have divided everything into the quarters you can chunk it down again.

Focus on the first quarter and break it down into the 3 months.

Determine what works best for you. Do you want to have one area of focus each month or make incremental progress across all areas each month?

Divide the list of tasks and activities across the 3 months. Take into consideration your key dates and milestones. Also, think about what else you know is happening that may impact the time and energy you will have to invest in your goals.

At this point, you can do the same for each of the other quarters as this is a higher level, or you can wait and do this at the end of each quarter so that you are planning nearer the time of implementation.

Step 4 - Break it down into weeks

One month at a time, look at how this can be divided across the weeks in that month. When you have a 5 week month you can decide whether to use this week or keep it clear to 'mop up' anything outstanding.

At this point, you will have a clearer idea of what else is in the diary that you will need to take into consideration.

Under commit and over-deliver. Factor in 'uncertainty'. You may not know what life will throw at you over the month, however, you can factor in that it will throw in something so plan at 75-80% capacity.

Step 5 - How will you show up daily

Now you have what you need to do each week to stay on track.

When you look at the week ahead you can see what tasks and activities are scheduled for you to continue to make progress.

If the tasks and activities are still big chunks then break them down again. If you have a busy schedule and in reality, you have an hour here and there, chunk down the tasks into activities that take no more than an hour.

What else is happening this week? What other commitments do you need to factor in and workaround? Now you can divide the list for the week over the 7 days to work around your schedule.

In addition to the tasks and activities have a think about how you can make this part of your daily routine. Bringing our goals into our daily thinking and how we show up is a significant factor in

What habits and behaviours will contribute to this?

What is the smallest thing that you can do that will feed into your goals to make them happen?

What small actions can you take that will have a ripple effect that will have positive consequences?

This may be something as simple as deleting apps off your phone or scheduling and timing when you are on social media.

It may be something as simple as how you start your day:

When I start my day with 'xyz' I feel more positive; when I feel more positive I am more likely to feel energised, when I feel energised I am more motivated to stick to the plan, when I stick to the plan I make progress; when I ... and so on and so forth!

Your goal maybe the size of an elephant. Chunk it down, break it up again and again and again until they are suitable bite-size pieces that work for you and your schedule.


If you would like to talk through challenges you are having making your goals happen, then you can book in a clarity call and we can talk it through. Book a free call here.

Make this your year of success!

Order your goal setting PDF Here or check out the workshops that support you to plan, review and support you with your goals HERE

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(changes each month)

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