Thursday, August 21, 2008

Day 4. Take It Bird By Bird

Ann Lamott, author of the well-known book Bird by Bird shares the story about her brother when he was 10 years old. On the eve of having to hand in a major school assignment about birds, he found himself in big trouble because he'd left it until the last minute. With paper, pencils and bird books surrounding him, in his frantic effort to get a three month project done in a few hours, he became, as Anne puts it, 'immobilized by the hugeness of the task ahead'.

Ever been there? I can just imagine the boy's panic and frustration, not to mention his anger at the monstrous shadow that threatened his doom. But the part I love about this story is when a helpful dad put his arm around the boy's shoulders and said, "Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird."

Part of living a beautiful life is finding ways to deal with what looms on our horizon like an unfinished school project without panic and undue stress. Whether it's a messy house, an overgrown garden, an inventory gone awry, or an unexpected errand that has urgent written all over it--whatever makes you feel overwhelmed and slightly panicked--I give you the same words that calmed a young boy. Just take it bird by bird.

Don't be tempted to keep looking at the mammoth size of your project because you'll only see how much is still left to do. So...take a deep breath.
Organize -- figure what exactly needs to be done.
Prioritize -- decide what you really need and what you can leave out.
Divide -- your task into small, bird-size pieces; do them one at a time.
Now savor that sense of being in control. It's a beautiful feeling.

Gracefully yours,


  1. Yes, I've been there many times. And my 13-year old daughter was there too recently when she waited until the last minute to do her "math calender" for October. It's a math class assignment each month; the kids must come up with a math formula that equals the day of the month using only a certain number of tens. For October you had to use nine tens in a formula that equaled the day. My daughter put it off till almost the end of the month and we had to work out about 25 problems! It weren't no fun, but we got it done - bird by bird.

  2. TC, You say you've been there many times.... me too! That's why that bird by bird story stuck... I've needed that word of wisdom on more than one occasion!

    If that would have been me in your daughter's math class, I'm not sure even the bird by bird advice would have helped...math not being my strong element.

  3. Oh yes, that story from Bird by Bird really speaks to me too. Been there too many times. I like your three points -- organize, prioritize, and divide.



To My Beautiful Readers,

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