Do yours fit?

rocks-pebbles-sand_jpgI really like holidays.  It seems like an age ago but when you read this, it will only have been about eight weeks since my last one in sunny (genuine) Norfolk.

We love it up there.  Obviously, up is all relative.  If you’re reading this in your bath in Manchester it’s down there.  I digress.

Or do I?  Perhaps my digression into geography is a subconscious attempt at ignoring the fact that I have this article to write and well, procrastination gets to even the best of us at times.

Where was I?  Ah yes, Norfolk and to be specific, East Runton.  It’s a really lovely part of the world and somewhere we have become very fond of over the past two or three years.  What we really like are different types of beaches and in particular the beach at Holkham Bay, about an hour up the coast.

It has miles of a sandy beach to walk along and then miles of beautiful pine forest to amble back through before ice cream and the drive home.  The scenery is stunning and it’s incredibly peaceful.  We take our time ambling back and enjoy being well, just being.

Perhaps the thing that Josie likes doing most, other than pretending to be a towel wearing caped superhero, a long distance jumper or a mermaid is to collect stones.  It’s like a habit.  It can take us hours when we walk the dog to get anywhere because she simply can’t walk past a stone without picking it up and examining it.

There’s flint.  These have to be smashed so we can have sharp bits or arrow heads.  There are small ones, there are round ones and there are shiny ones.  There are glittery ones, there are ones with holes in and before I know it, my pockets, her pockets and even the dog’s pockets (not true) are filled with stones of all types of denomination and perceived value.

I’m not complaining.  Josie also has an eye for flat stones.  This gives me an opportunity to show off my rather good (true) stone skimming skills.  11 is my best in case you’re interested.

Again, where was I?  Pockets full of stones.  Invariably when we return home (I must get the suspension checked on the car) we have to store the stones and shells (when did she pick those up) somewhere.

The answer is simple Josie says.  “A jar of course dad”  Followed by a noise that sounds suspiciously like “duurrrrrr”.  I do love Josie but there are times when I’d like to stick her in the jar for a while herself.

The trouble is that there appears to be a far greater volume of stones, shells and associated sand and gravel than there is room in the jar.

She starts with the easy stuff and pours the sand and gravel in first, followed by the small shells and stones and then carefully places the bigger items (is that a crab?) into the jar.

They don’t fit.

She tries again; And again.  Now, I ‘d love to say that Josie is open to help from her dad but, for some reason, she has a tendency toward stubbornness and also toward persistence.

She continues for several hours on and off until she decides that asking for help might help her resolve the problem and I might stop moaning at her about all the detritus littering her bedroom floor.

Watching Josie go through it was really interesting to see and it occurred to me that she was approaching the problem in the same way that many people, especially business owners, approach their time.

To fill the jar all Josie had to do was put the large pieces in first, then the smaller followed by the shells and then after a gentle shake, pour the gravel, sand and associated dirt (including the crab) on top.

By putting the small stuff in first it created a pile at the bottom of the jar which reduced the jar’s capacity to hold much of the larger stones.

When we filled the jar with the big pieces first it ensured they went in and so did the pretty shells and stones with weird holes in.

You know what?  Some of the sand didn’t quite fit even though we had a further shake.  I asked her if this was a problem and should we find a larger jar.

“Dad, it’s only sand.  I can always get more sand.  It’s the big stones and those shiny bits that I really want to keep.”

It’s exactly the same in our businesses and in our lives.  We sweat the small stuff.  We fill our time with all the little inconsequential details and then find we have no capacity left to look after the important things that we know will improve us, move us forward, create opportunities, revenue, and contentment.

Think about this for a moment:

Facebook notifications vs writing that proposal

Emails from Ken in Nigeria vs that call you’ve been putting off

Hanging out the washing while “I think about what to put on my web copy”

Replying to a customers text at 7.30pm instead of having a conversation with your wife/husband/spouse/partner/crab*

Ticking off 12 items on your to-do list that makes you feel really good because you ’ve had a really productive morning and then realising it was all stuff “I had to do for other people” instead of completing that sales letter.

Spending an hour finding the best price on photocopy paper and feeling smug for saving 12pence a reem vs following up that list of business cards you picked up at networking last week.

Do the important stuff first.  Fill the jar with the large stones or things that actually matter to you personally or move your business forwards.  Spend time with family and friends.  Rekindling the hobby you used to do.  The chances are that if you don’t get to the small stuff because you run out of capacity at least you’ve made progress – and  you’ll probably find that the sand wasn’t that important anyway.  Instead, you’ll have genuinely made some progress and that doesn’t just feel good but is much more effective in the long run.

*no crabs were harmed in the writing of this article and no, crabs don’t actually talk.

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