Wednesday, May 2, 2012

how to eat an elephant

divide and conquer . . . one bite at a time

(Confession time) I'm hyperventilating in my study carrel, looking at all that must be done this summer to stay on track in my doctoral program. You may not be a doctoral student, but I wager you have too much to do and not enough time, just like me. And if not, you  might be glad just to know that I get stressed, too. A dear friend just sent me this note:

I hate to say it, but I'm glad to hear you struggle with getting stressed too :) You usually seem so calm to me and like things are very under control. So it's good to know you are normal :) But I hope you can relax and know that everything will get done somehow, and know the Lord is sovereign over everything, including your time! I am trying to learn this myself.

A great reminder. If God called me here (and he did!), then he will see me through.

I've spent the whole morning taking stock of what I need to do, prioritizing, counting days, and dividing it all out. Winging it is not going to work very well. I need to know exactly what I must do today so that I can fit it all in. Knowing what I have to do will also (theoretically) keep me from being stressed about how much more there is to do. Better to let tomorrow worry about itself.

What, you ask, could be so daunting?

  • learning to read French (and read 80 pages of French articles for my dissertation)
  • reading 240 pages in German (for my dissertation)
  • reading 2755 pages (for a fall seminar and from the comprehensive reading list)
  • skimming 24 other books from the comprehensive reading list
  • researching and writing one full chapter of my dissertation and part of another (about 60 pages total)
  • taking a 3-week class at Notre Dame (I don't have a syllabus yet, so I don't know how much more work that will add)
  • reading through the entire Bible, finding relevant texts for my dissertation
Too much for one summer? I'm inclined to agree with you, but all I can do is try.
So, for the month of May I will attempt to . . .
  • write the partial chapter of my dissertation (10 pages)
  • do 2 lessons a day from my French book
  • read 33 pages a day from my current Comps book
  • read 15 chapters a day from the Bible
  • translate 3 pages a day of German
  • skim 6 books
  • and do as much reading as possible for Notre Dame (when I find out what it is)
That almost sounds relaxing.

After all, no one could eat an elephant in one sitting. But if it's cut into chunks and eaten one bite at a time, it might even be nourishing!

May you have a nourishing summer. Don't try to do it all at once. It'll kill you! (It almost did me.)

divide and conquer . . . one bite at a time

Oh . . . and if anyone wants to join me on the Bible read-through this summer, click here for the checklist I'm using to pace myself. Let me know if you're on board!


  1. "Yikes!" "And, yikes again!" You sound like Joe! Although, Joe decided that this term he would go to bed by 12:30 to get up at 6 (instead of pulling all nighters), to take an extra class so that he could learn the "fine art" of being OK if everything doesn't come out perfectly, and to not feel too stressed by it all. That doesn't seem like a formula for de-stressing to me!! Hope your plan works for you!! I sure am glad I'm not in school!!

  2. Chomping along nearby, but not nearly as organized...