How to Swallow an Elephant

Jello de los Reyes

November 04, 2020

Tambak ka na ba ng modules and projects? Stressed ka na ba sa sunud-sunod na synchronous classes? Hindi mo na ba alam kung saan magsisimula o kung paano tatapusin ang lahat ng requirements?

If you’re already lagging behind in school, or if you’re already laging behindbecause of never-ending assignments . . . We hear you! You are not alone!

As the country’s entire educational system transitioned to distance learning, millions of students all over the Philippines are now bearing the brunt of this colossal shift. 

But, as they say, there’s no use crying over spilled milk! There should definitely be a space for proper self-care and rest, but if  you’re currently enrolled, the fact remains that you must finish your modules and submit your requirements by all means if you expect to pass all your subjects.

The biggest question is how.

In order to answer this question, let’s use an elephant as a metaphor for your overwhelming schoolwork. 

How do you swallow an elephant?

Caution: If you’re an animal-lover or an elephant enthusiast, this is going to sound really morbid! But, for the sake of illustration, pardon the morbidness.

In this article, we will teach you how to “swallow” this gigantic elephant, a.k.a. your schoolwork.

Okay, first things first: YOU CAN’T SWALLOW AN ENTIRE ELEPHANT ALL AT ONCE!

But here’s a tip from renowned cleric and theologian Desmond Tutu:

“There is only one way to eat an elephant: A bite at a time.”

Your backlogs and modules may look daunting and stressful as they pile up, but you can accomplish all of them gradually when you pace yourself and begin to develop the right approach.

How to Swallow an Elephant

Tip #1: Assess the size of the elephant.

Before trying to take down an entire elephant, examine it first. How huge is it? How much time do you need to finish this whole thing?

Whenever we’re faced with serious challenges or with plenty of things to do, our brain’s natural response is to feel anxious. If you feel anxious about your backlogs in school, what you’re feeling is completely valid and normal. Acknowledge what you’re feeling, take a deep breath, and then try to calm your nerves.

You need a sound mind to properly assess the tasks at hand. 

Writing down your tasks on your notebook or planner can help you assess the size of your “elephant.” When you write down the things that you need to do, you’ll be able to think more clearly. 

Tip #2: Strategize! Identify how to turn the elephant into bite-sized chunks.

Are you going to eat the trunk first? Will you start with the belly? Or will you munch on the thighs?

(Again, pardon the morbidness!)

After writing down your tasks in your journal or planner, list them in order of priority. The following can be your list of considerations:

Deadline. Which assignment or tasks are due first? Prioritize those.

Difficulty. By doing the easier tasks first, it gives you your much-needed momentum, boosts your energy, and helps you accomplish more. On the contrary, when you start off with the difficult tasks, it often drains your energy early on, leaving you with little strength to do your other tasks.

Careful planning is very important before diving into work! By taking the time to assess and strategize, you’re increasing your chances of finishing the tasks. At the risk of sounding cliche, let me repeat this old truth: “if you plan to fail, you fail to plan.”

When you’ve come up with your battle plan on how to chop up the elephant, prepare your tools, stretch your muscles, and condition yourself to work.

Tip #3: Chop and chomp!

As soon as you’re done strategizing your game plan, get yourself working!

Don’t get bogged down by overthinking, non-stop ranting, or “paralysis by (over)analysis.” 

Set your mind to it and face your challenges. Your backlogs will only pile up the more you avoid or delay them.

In a recent study, psychologists have proposed that procrastination is really an issue of managing our emotions, not our time. Meaning, the real reason why we procrastinate isn’t so much because we can’t manage our time well, but because of the negative emotions that we feel towards the task that we’re trying to put off. 

For instance, if the task at hand is boring, difficult, or is causing you too much anxiety, chances are you will put it off to another day and do something else; something more fun, enjoyable, or relaxing for you.

So, the first step to overcoming procrastination is to lead our emotions and change our mindset towards the tasks at hand.

Tip #4: Choking hazard! Pace yourself!

Eating the elephant one bite at a time can also be tiring, especially since you’re trying to take down an entire beast!

In order to keep yourself from choking, learn how to pace yourself. Have some study breaks in between your assignments. A good rhythm of work and rest can help boost your productivity without draining your energy in the process.

In fact, study breaks are proven to boost a person’s productivity and creativity.

One helpful technique that you might want to try is the Pomodoro Technique. The idea is to do some focused work for 25 minutes straight, then take a five-minute study break, then work again for another 25 minutes. If you want to read more about this technique, click this link.

Learning how to pace ourselves keeps us from experiencing physical, emotional, and even mental burnout. So take it easy, and learn how to manage not just your time, but also your energy and emotions.

***

As you swallow this entire elephant one bite at a time, the reward for your hard work can be the elephant itself—the new things you’ve learned, the new skills you’ve acquired, the new muscles you’ve developed, and the sheer joy of knowing that you’ve actually overcome your challenges and accomplished your tasks!

For a bonus tip, try eating the elephant with others! (Haha!)

You may ask for help from friends, classmates, or tutors who are willing to lend a hand. Or maybe find a study buddy and set a time when you can do your modules and requirements together. It can be an added boost to your motivation!

The tasks may be overwhelming; the new landscape may be challenging; but there’s grace for you for whatever difficulties you’re facing.

If you’re tired of all the academic pressure you’re juggling, here’s a personal invitation for you from no less than Jesus Himself:

  “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

Matthew 11:28–30 (MSG)

 

Now go and take down that elephant!

 

 

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The Author

Jello de los Reyes

Jello is an introvert who loves to spend time with students. He once dreamed of becoming a journalist to expose evil in government, but God’s destiny for him is to root out evil in the hearts of men as a minister of the gospel. For him, nothing beats the joy of seeing young students surrender their lives to Christ. Jello currently serves as the editor-in-chief of ENC.ph and the campus director of Every Nation Campus Imus.

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