One pebble at a time

I have Mondays off. Each Monday, I write a list of things I need and want to accomplish. And each Monday, I barely scratch the surface. Those items just keep getting recycled one Monday to the next.

I wish I could get it all done much faster. Moving at the speed of lightning would be the superpower I wish for right now.

I have so many blog drafts to tidy up, so many photos to organise, so many papers to organise (or chuck), let alone all the routine and mundance household chores to attend to. And the mountain keeps getting higher, the monkey on my back morphing from a pygmy marmoset to a mandrill, the largest monkey in the world.

The mountains aren’t going to go away. I need a new strategy to face them. Because when I’m giddied by overwhelm, I lose my perspective; I lose will power, I lose patience. I comfort eat and the ugly me appears. I don’t like her. Neither do my family.

I am going to try a new tactic and work at sticking to it. As it’s said, to eat an elephant, you eat it one teaspoonful at a time. Bit by bit, a mouthful at a time. I’m sure it helps if it’s made of chocolate, but I digress.

Eating the chocolate elephant by Sir Froggie’s Pondering

{image credit}

I need to do what it takes to chunk my tasks and priorities both at home and at work. I need a to-do list and a timer and to stick to those small blocks of time on each task. It means everything is moving a bit. Then I can cycle back to the first task, if unfinished, and do it all again.

The thing that I will have to battle is me. I have a compelling drive to finish one task at a time. It means other things get delayed and I get stressed knowing those neglected monkeys are dancing behind my back. Logic dictates this practice is not working but I get stuck on auto-pilot. It will be a deliberate decision to go to manual.

Have I written about this lesson before? Probably, but as I like to remind myself, we are all a work in progress. Where would be the living if we’d already arrived? Still it would be nice to conquer and complete from time to time. Don’t you think?


“Nobody trips over mountains.

It is the small pebble that causes you to stumble.

Pass all the pebbles in your path

And you will find

You have crossed the mountain.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson

Do you have a “monkey on your back”? What lesson do you find yourself having to repeat over and over again? How are you overcoming?

Related Posts

Carpe Diem

No such thing as an unimportant day

Grateful for…..fresh starts

Getting into Gear

Close-Up: The Ugly Me


I’m linking with Jess from Diary of a SAHM for IBOT.


21 thoughts on “One pebble at a time

  1. I know where you are coming from. I am finding all the jobs I have to do so overwhelming, that I just sit and do none of them! I have tried the 15 minutes each task thing and it seems to help me focus a bit better, but I can still work on it! We are moving in 5 months, so there is nothing like a deadline to get things in order 🙂

    • Yes, when I’ve done small chunks like 15 minutes at a time, I am, or at least, feel a bit more productive. I have the opposite problem though. Instead of doing nothing when overwhelmed, I have to keep moving so I often end up doing things that are irrelevant just to feel I’m doing something. Still doesn’t help the mountain shift though. Deadlines, like moving house, definitely help. Good luck with the arrangements, Chantel!

  2. So true about doing one pebble at a time. When I am super overwhelmed, I just have to break the tasks down to smaller pieces and tackle them one at a time. If I look at everything I have to do, it’s just too much. Small steps!

    • Once upon a time, I never even understood the idea of small steps. Crazy, huh? But I get it now. It’s just hard to stop myself trying to finish things one at a time. There’s nothing like needing to shift through 3 major work projects quickly to force myself to learn to chunk things down! Eeek!

  3. My list sounds like yours. My problem is I get distracted, so I jump from one to the next – which is kind of like the opposite of your problem. I need to sit down and focus, close my email so I don’t know when a new one arrives, and just DO it. Good luck with your new tactics 🙂

    • Now you mention it, I do have a distraction problem too, but usually only when I’m cleaning the house. I’ll be in the lounge cleaning the bookshelf, find a toy that doesn’t belong, and promptly go to the kid’s room to put it away then get distracted and tidy that room, find something there like unfolded laundry and start on that, before eventually getting back to that bookshelf. It’s funny how we all tick! Email is a great distraction though when I get too behind, I start ignoring it altogether knowing that mountain is growing with every minute, along with my stress levels! Must change that today!

  4. Yes the elephant would be much easier to swallow if it was made of chocolate! 🙂 I feel the same way whenever I write my new year’s resolutions too. Every year the list seems to be about the same. And even in every day living too.. I never seem to see the bottom of the pile.

    Anyway I’m sending over an email to you. Check it when you have the time 🙂

    Ai @ Sakura Haruka

    • Anything tastes better made of chocolate, IMHO! 😛 I stopped writing my resolutions because they seemed the same every year. Maybe writing action plans would be a better idea on 1st January 2013! As to the bottom of the pile, I just accepted this week that one cyclical project I run will never end and to deal with it. It does have a start and end but the next cycle just begins again once the first ends. I suppose this is how tax agents and tax accountants feel about the financial year! Ha Ha!

  5. I’m a list maker. I don’t think I would get anything done without my list. I just love crossing tasks off as they are finished. Pathetic, I know. Although I don’t go so far as to set the timing for each task, which is probably why my list is constantly longer than the available hours!

    I wish I had Mondays off. I also wish I had a chocolate elephant.

    • I wouldn’t underestimate lists, Lisa. I need mine now too. My problem was I dilly dallied for so long between an electronic list or paper. Embracing technology I thought that would be better, but I’ve found a paper list is better for me. Maybe I can switch back once I get some discipline and more order. Deadlines would help too. I’m terrible at setting my own but manage to (just) stick to others like when bills are due!

      I wish I had a chocolate elephant too. And I wish I had two Mondays, one to get the “stuff” done and one to actually relax and pamper myself. Well, one can dream! 🙂

  6. I often feel overwhelmed by my list of jobs and can get quite anxious. For me, I just focus on one thing. Rather than thinking “I need to do this, then this, then this,” and getting upset, I just think about the one thing I need to do now. I find it’s the only way I can get pas the overwhelm, and not get cranky and upset.

    • Interesting perspective, Jess. Jumping about could create anxiety for some. I’m honestly not sure what works best for me. I suppose “one at a time” has left too many other things incomplete for me so I’ve got to try the chunking strategy. I know the incomplete tasks are stressing me out. I hope the jumping about doesn’t do the same. I hope either way I can control my crankiness too! xx

  7. Mountains are definitely scary. Every day I pick the one most important task for the day. Just one. Then once I finish that, more often than not, I’ll do more and it seems easier when I already feel good about myself because I completed the one task (rather than feeling bad because I didn’t complete the other 1000).

    • You’re right, Tat. It’s about setting expectations. My to-do-list is always up to 20 items long. Even as I write that, it’s obvious I’ll never get through all that in a day, let alone a week sometimes. I have to deal with my expectation problem!!

  8. Gosh, I hear you. And I needed reminding of this myself. You’ve explained it so beautifully. It’s the barely scratching of the surface, it’s the mountain getting higher, and that damn monkey on the back! I love that Emerson quote – will remember it now. I hope you wake up one day to find yourself across that mountain. What a wonderful feeling that will be. xx

    • Emerson writes some great quotes, Deb. It was the catalyst for my post. I really need to remember this because otherwise I let the overwhelm take over and am back at square one. I hope you find your path across your mountain too. The faint whiff of the exhilaration that would bring is definitely motivating. xx

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