Apparently there is a lot of confusion on about how to manage our lives. All of it tells us the key is to be organized, scheduled and disciplined, but none of these three are for good reason, the least bit attractive to us and this is the wrong emphasis. Adding to the guilt trip, various experts tell us to manage ourselves, manage time or manage tasks. If we only knew which tasks to manage, we would do it, but the clock won’t be managed, managing ourselves is too abstract. I think priorities are the only things we can really manage, this is what our opinion leads us to. We don’t need to focus so much on organization, scheduling, or discipline, when we do it right.
There is no such thing as excuses, there are only priorities, there are not even reasons. We may make peace with the fact that we could manage only our priorities, but couldn’t manage ourselves, our tasks or our time. We realize why we had so little interest in being organized, scheduled or disciplined, once that fell into place. Those are means to an end or just tools. They focus us on a process only when the result matters. Highly organized and disciplined people had sent us on the guilt trip after guilt trip for decades chasing those tools as if they would magically make us productive but in vain, they just made us busy. Many highly organized people mistake activity for productivity, and they surely look very impressive during the process. We have gradually learned not to be impressed with the discipline, endless activity, schedules, organization, or any other focus which is the process- oriented. The results alone matter anymore.
We Have It Backward–Big Rocks First
Instead of the end result, we’re all taught to focus on these means to an end (process). The only reason to have any organization or discipline at all is to get the important things done. To know your priorities and focus on them alone is the only way to get those things done. There was a story often told by Stephen Covey about the convention speaker. He first filled a vase with huge rocks, then added in smaller pebbles, then sand followed by water finally. The only big and clear lesson that you can learn from this is that if you initially put small things like water or sand, there would be no room left for the pebbles and rocks later on. On the other hand, if you proceed in the reverse manner, putting rocks into your schedule first, there would always be sufficient room for inconsequential maintenance things that don’t really improve our lives. We finally found a reason to use the tools of organization, scheduling and discipline, to get the work done when we started focusing on the big rocks. In this process, we learned that we did not need to live like those people who made long, tidy lists, filling every week with a pre-scheduled activity and never forgetting their wallet.
The Magic of Trash Basket
The admin of the company would open the mail, log in and then throw it in the trash basket. Upon asking him the reason for this, he would say that he had understood that most of it pretended to be important but was not, so he threw almost everything away. Sounds confusing and gets us curious and we are compelled to ask him how does he come to know what was exactly important and what wasn’t, to which he just laughed and said that this was the reason he logged all the mail in. If the mail came back, he considered it important else he did not waste his time messing with it.
Start With an End in Mind
Stephen Covey, the American author, was absolutely right about starting with an end in mind. How would you recognize the big priorities every day, week or month? Firstly you need to figure out the two or three big things you want to accomplish in a year. Taking up anything more than that tends to distract and causes loss of focus. Then use every day and every minute of your precious time to get that accomplished. Focus on your priorities and make liberal use of trash basket all along the way.