How do you eat an elephant?
One bite at a time.
It’s one of those sayings to encourage people to break things down into smaller tasks, but I came up with a little visual idea for dealing with the “too bloody big” tasks. One of the developers on my team was getting stuck on where to begin on a fairly daunting bit of work. This was my attempt to break the mental deadlock: a picture of an elephant with the various tasks written on it. The good thing was that it seemed to work: she got that nasty bit of work done.
So I present to you the “elephant list” or “task elephant” concept.
The idea is that you visually play around with your list and use the elephant to track your progress/keep track of the list. As you think of new tasks, add them somewhere on the elephant. You can pick symbolic areas of the task elephant if you like.. I’d suggest perhaps:
- the rear end for the really shitty tasks
- the head for the ones that require a bit of thought
- the legs for the bits to get you up and running
- the back for the ones you just have to grin and bear and do a bit of hard slog
- the trunk for the last task
Or just stick ‘em anywhere that the text will fit, but a bit of thought about where on the elephant they belong forms part of the exercise really: to think about what’s required to get those done.
A lot of the exercises and games in Agile software development are about engaging interest, engaging different bits of the brain and being a bit silly. The elephant list idea certainly does that as a handful of people wanted to know what the elephant was all about, so it’s something different at least.
Anyhow, I’ll post up a month or so in the future and see how the concept is working out.
Here’s my quick and dirty elephant task list template if you want to try the idea out yourself: