Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Stones, Pebbles and Sand

In the seminar about time management with Janet Askew, she gave us an illustration of a vase and she filled it with stones first, then some pebbles, then some sand. Think about prioritisation. This illustration of the vase was critical for me. Sometimes I get so overwhelmed with the stones in my life that I let the sand take up all the space in the vase—and this wastes time.

(If you have been reading my blogs then you have realised that the advice or consultation given to us in the WoW sessions I apply them to my life in general and not just to issues in the workplace.) As I discussed in my blog yesterday I am now concentrating on being an excellent person and time management and prioritisation is key to this, I believe.

My mind is always running; sometimes I can’t sleep because I am always thinking about…so many things. I can be this way with projects as well. I don’t know how to say no and I have so many interests. This leads to me having a lot to do at the same time because I take so much on my plate. Being in South Africa has helped me do away with this characteristic of stretching myself beyond limitations. I am away from family and friends (people I can’t say no to) and I am here on my own able to think and do for myself. I also realised in university that being involved in too many activities can actually take away from excelling in the critical things.

Back to Askew’s illustration:
Ø The vase – symbolises - time

Ø The stones - symbolise the major things, the essential goals and roles of our lives. For me, I have three big stones
o My spiritual growth
o Family and loved ones
o My career aspirations or what I have to offer to this world- my passion

Ø The pebbles – symbolise other big things/activities in our lives but those that are secondary to the stones. This middle category is difficult for me. I tend to make a lot of things major in my life- putting them into the stone category. Even though I only listed the three, trust me, it’s probably not like that in reality. I need to reflect on this more because I think there are pebbles in my life that is taking time away from my stones.

Ø The sand- symbolises all of the left over issues/activities that are not critical to sustaining my life or my three stones but are fun and frivolous and actually help me to cope with the major things. This one is easy…
o Shopping/fashion
o Reading books/magazines
o Dining out
o Traveling
o Music/singing/dancing
o Watching movies

Askew states that we should prioritise our life based on the three categories; making room for all, but obviously not in equal amounts. That's why she put the stones into the vase first. It’s about being clear of what takes precedence over other things, and about being completely aware of what our major purpose in life is. This is tough for me; I don’t know what my major goal in life is. Right now all I can write is that I want to be excellent in all of my stone categories.

I spoke to my father the other day (he gets wiser as he gets older—or maybe I am just a better listener the older I get). He could sense that I was feeling a little anxious about my life right now. Normally I am in such control of things-- being a student it is fairly easy to manage your life. Looking for a job—it’s a different story. He told me that I am at a milestone right now and I should relax and let things progressively work out. He isn't suggesting that I be lazy and do only the sand activities, on the contrary, he urges me not to be stressed if I am not in my dream career by the end of next week.

But the most crucial thing he said to me was that I should not let my stones conflict with one another. He didn’t say it in this way but what he was saying is that I should not allow my role as daughter, sister and friend conflict with my career aspirations. He knows that being here from my family is tough and sometimes I think I should go back home. There is a reason I am in South Africa and I have to stick to it until I think I have accomplished whatever it is. He also said that I should not let love (my partner) distract my purpose as an individual. Lastly he said that my spiritual journey takes precedence over all, and if I keep that focus then it will be easier to manage the other stones.

"Don't be a time manager, be a priority manager. Cut your major goals into bite-sized pieces. Each small priority or requirement on the way to ultimate goal become a mini goal in itself" ~ Denis Waitley


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