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It’s Time to Eat That Elephant

Amy Leibbrandt

Managing Director

FAME Media

Amy Leibbrandt

Amy Leibbrandt

27 November . 3 min read . Opinion

(Credit: Deagreez | Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto)

I can’t believe next month it’s December. I’m sure, like many of my colleagues, this year feels like it has simultaneously dragged out slower than Eskom’s restoration plan, whilst at the same time, sped by so quickly that I am still signing documents with “2022”.

Our ambition at FAME has always been to be organized and prepared. Even more so in the last quarter. This covers every facet of our business, ranging from gently nudging our clients to send us earlier 2024 briefs, all the way through to putting in our much-needed leave, to ensure we have enough hands-on-deck over the silly season. Every morning, I look at my diary and try to map out how to get all the work and admin done inbetween back-to-back online meetings. In the evenings, I am googling year-end-function ideas and Christmas gifts and school textbooks and the public holiday planner for next year to maximise some time off before my team beats me to it.

But despite how early I started and how much organizing and scheduling and to-do lists I created, I still feel chaos. This year, in particular, I feel like we are about to face a mammoth wave in these last six weeks. I can appreciate that our clients, peers and media partners, like us, are also under a tremendous amount of pressure to finish off the year strong. Long gone are the days of December existing as an extended holiday for the media industry; our days filled with media partner and client lunches and spoils. My diary is now a colourful mosaic of meeting blockers and schedulers (not the fun kind), stacked all the way up until Santa starts his trek around the globe.

It would be easy to get swept up in the panic of it all. Sometimes I want to. Times are hard for all of us South Africans; outside of the Boks winning, we’ve had very few other wins this year, big or small. And when work becomes chaotic, it feeds into the overall chaos of our lives. Give into it all, and there would be little reason to get up in the mornings.

So I’ve challenged myself and my team to pause. In chaos, there exists this knee-jerk reaction to rush and panic and overreact, which ultimately results in very poor work and very unhappy people. Ultimately, at the end of the day, we are all human, with a finite amount of time available to us each day. And this available time, is not solely dedicated to work; we have families and friends and hobbies and pets, and we deserve to spend our free time doing what is important individually to us, especially over the festive period.

About a decade ago, a good friend and industry colleague, in a particularly rough period of work, asked me “how do you eat an elephant?”. I thought he had honestly lost it, and his question offered me zero help to combat the Everest of work that I was facing. The look on my face must have given away my confusion and he answered, “one bite at a time”.

And so to pause, to take a breath, and to approach each task as if it’s the only task, one-bite-at-a-time, is the only way we can end this year off with any kind of sanity. It’s about setting boundaries and managing expectations and having the courage to stick to (and accept) these. I’ve always believed that if we are going to spend nine hours away from our family and friends and hobbies and pets for work each day, let’s make it the best possible nine hours. Let’s work consciously, diligently, with meaning and quality. Let’s get our tasks purposefully done, one at a time. And done by 5pm.

Some practical examples of managing this in the real world can include:

  • Setting realistic goals and deadlines
  • Prioritizing tasks
  • Delegating and collaborating on tasks where possible
  • Communicating with all stakeholders every step of the way
  • Be flexible and agile
  • Taking breaks


And most importantly;

  • Taking care of yourself both physically and mentally. Make sure you are getting enough sleep, eating healthy foods (mince pies don’t count), and exercising regularly, as well as finding ways to relax and de-stress
  • Not forgetting to celebrate the success of 2023


I’m not going to get it right every single day. No doubt there will be days where I work late into the night to avoid disappointing our clients. But I am going to try damn hard to be kinder to myself these last six weeks. And so this is how I hope to finish 2023 strong. By eating away, one mouthful at a time, and enjoying every single bite of that mammoth elephant. (and don’t forget, leftovers can be frozen and de-frosted in 2024!)

Amy Leibbrandt is the Managing Director of FAME Media, a joint venture between the Duke Group and PHD. With almost two decades of experience in the media industry, working with some of South Africa’s most loved agencies and brands, she now runs FAME Media, working across a diverse range of client categories. Outside of her passion for media, Amy is a single mom to teenager Ethan, as well as a herd of dogs and cats. She is an avid baker, as well as pole dancer who has represented her country at the World Pole Dance Championships in 2022. Amy also won the South African FortyUnder40 Award for Marketing and Communications this year in September.