Elephants, Frogs, and Your Career

When you get a new syllabus at the start of a semester, do you mark all the assignments on your calendar for the whole term? Do you start outlining your research plans for upcoming projects months in advance? Have you ever done the reading for an English class weeks before it’s due?

Yeah, me neither.

For most of us, there is a natural inclination to procrastinate. And, apart from the day-to-day organization that all students need to think about, there’s long-term career planning to consider. Imagine that charting your career path at the end of your time at IU is one massive assignment. Have you thought about what you’d like your resumé to look like when you graduate? What summer jobs and internships should be there? What coursework? What volunteering, research, and study abroad experiences? Are you perhaps procrastinating on this particular project?

There are two procrastination analogies that apply here, I think, and both involve eating animals. First, how do you eat an elephant? The answer is one bite at a time. The huge, gargantuan hurdle of landing a job and starting out on a career path is only accomplished through small bites, bit by bit. And secondly, eat the frog first. At any given moment, you probably have a dozen little tasks, some easy, some onerous. The idea is that you do the worst task first (i.e., eat the frog), then everything else will seem easier.

There are people who study procrastination professionally, like the Procrastination Research Group (I wonder how many deadlines they miss). And they have a great collection of articles about how to overcome procrastination hurdles, both on a day-to-day basis and over the course of one’s life. Check it out!

As always, there are Career Coaches at the Walter Center available by appointment to help manage your frogs and elephants.

By Trevor Verrot
Trevor Verrot Career Coach Trevor Verrot