Portrait of a Mad C.O.W.
How easy it is to let little things fill your day at the expense of your priorities! I can attest to this. Truly, I am not a sit-around-er. My life is filled with a lengthy “To Do” list and a frenetic “busy-ness” that has caused more than a few people to suggest that I consider ADD medication.
Actually, I’ve decided I have a case Mad COW Disease: C.O.W. as in a Chronically Overwhelmed Woman! Sadly, I know it’s an all too common affliction. (Face it, even in the yogic world there are plenty of tight-jawed Mad Gomukhas.) I want to get control, really I do. From Franklin to Stephen Covey, I’ve tried it. I am a connoisseur of time management books, calendaring software and daily planners. Yet most of the time, I feel like I’m not making much progress.
Like the hamster on the wheel, I run as fast as I can ~ often to the point of exhaustion. My “To Do” list alone overwhelms me. With countless line items and some that even merit a separate addendum ~ as in “run errands” (see other list for stops) or “Get ready for Christmas” (has its own spiral) ~ the list making itself is draining.
In a recent post, I shared an inspirational piece on priority management. (See The Mayonnaise Jar & the Golf Balls.) In that analogy, your daily time constraint is represented by a mayo jar. The jar can be easily filled with different things depending on how you do it. Golf balls represent “the big things,” your stated priorities. Sand is everything else. If you put the sand in first, you can’t get the golf balls in. But if you put the balls in first, THEN the sand simply fills in around the balls. Your stated priorities are upheld.
The story illustrates that if you aren’t conscious of your choices, your day gets quickly overrun by lots of sand. Wait, wait, I’m having a flashback! There was a soap opera that opened with sand passing through an hour glass while this authoritative voice-over said, “Like sand through the hour glasses so are the days of our lives.” Clearly, HE knew about this whole mayonnaise jar thing! (Okay, so maybe I DO need ADD medication.)
Enter the Sacred Six
A few months ago I discovered a fascinating motivational podcast. Morning Coach with JB Glossinger is a daily 15-minute pep talk and a great way to jump-start your day. (It’s available for free on iTunes.) In one broadcast, Glossinger shared Ivy Lee’s concept of the sacred 6, a method for making sure your priorities don’t get lost in the sand. The idea, as explained below by John Watson, is a well-known legend in the personal development lexicon.
“About a hundred years ago, Charles Schwab was in charge of the Bethlehem Steel Corporation in the USA. Things were not going that smoothly so he asked Ivy Lee, an efficiency expert, for advice for himself and his managers to help them be more productive.
Lee told him that he would increase his company’s sales and the efficiency of his management team if he could talk to each man for about 15 minutes.
Charles Schwab asked: “How much will it cost me?”
Ivy Lee replied: “Nothing, unless it works. After three months, you can send me a check for whatever you feel it’s worth to you.”
He spent ten minutes with each executive and told them to follow the instructions below:
- In the evening, write down the six most important tasks that need to be done the next day and arrange them in order of importance.
- The next day, start the first task and finish it before starting anything else.
- After finishing the first task, start the second most important task. Finish it and then start the third and so on.
- After the day’s work, spend five minutes making a list for the next day. Unfinished tasks can be moved to the new list.
- Do this for the next ninety days and check the results.
Ivy Lee’s plan worked well with the executives of Bethlehem Steel. Charles Schwab was so pleased with the results that he paid Lee $25,000 a huge sum in the early twentieth century.”
Time Management Steps that Work by John Watson
As Watson notes, effectiveness is about doing the most important tasks even if minor tasks get left undone. “A merely efficient person may get lots of tasks done, but they may well not be the tasks that move their life forward.”
And there in lies my problem. I exhaust myself with low priority busy work which results in being ineffective and overwhelmed. I get stuck on the proverbial sandbar of life. But now, I have my shovel and pale (and just 6 scoops). I am ready for a change. Such are the Days of MY Life!