Why You Need to Pick Up Your Tortoise (and Run With It)

Most of us live complicated lives and are constantly juggling several tasks at once. You might have a number of work or business projects on the go at any one time, and you might also have a number of personal goals.

And that’s on top of all the other commitments that make up our lives; household chores, family and social events, and those essential 12 hour sessions watching Battlestar Galactica. Okay, that last one isn’t entirely essential, but we all need some downtime too or we’d burn out pretty quickly.


Sometimes the sheer number of different tasks can be overwhelming and lead to feelings of despair as you wonder whether you’ll ever achieve anything. I know from experience that it isn’t a pleasant feeling.

One day when I returned home from work I complained to my long-suffering girlfriend about my frustrations. I told her it felt like every project I was trying to complete was a small tortoise, ambling along a vast racetrack. Despite having worked hard on each project for several weeks, none of my tortoises had moved more than a few feet from start line.


Lack of Momentum

It felt like I was out there on the racetrack, giving each tortoise a little nudge of encouragement each day. By doing this I might manage to make one of the tortoises progress a few meters, and for that day it would edge ahead of the pack. But I never seemed to be able to get any momentum going.

As a result I was leaving work frustrated, feeling that I hadn’t achieved anything. It didn’t do my self-esteem any good to feel so ineffectual and I was in a pretty miserable mood. But thankfully my girlfriend is an extremely patient listener.  And whilst we were discussing my tortoise problem, I suddenly realized what I had to do.

Get to the Finish Line Quicker

As essential as it was that all my tortoises get there eventually, by straining to give all of them a shove each day, I was achieving very little. What I had to do instead was pick up one of my tortoises and run with it, all the way across the finish line. The others would still be there when I went back, and it would mean I could get the others there much quicker too as any challenges along the way were likely to be similar. Not only that but I would now have fewer tortoises to worry about and I’d be a lot more encouraged to keep going with the next one.

What I’m talking about is of course prioritizing one task at a time and then taking massive action to complete it. It’s not a new idea, and in those terms seems incredibly simple and obvious. But sometimes it helps to look at things from a different angle (known as ‘reframing’ in NLP), and by thinking about each of my projects as tortoises on a racetrack, I’ve finally been able to get both them and myself moving. Maybe you can do the same?

Milo McLaughlin is a freelancewriterandblogger and has a number of tortoises still waiting for his attention.

Photo credit: Tim Parkinson