Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Why My "To Do" List is Like a Starfish & The Big Rock Theory

I am organized. There is no doubt about it. There is almost no project that I can't break apart into efficient little pieces and then accomplish it. Great. I get it done. Here is the thing, though, my To Do list is like one of those starfish where one part is cut off and it grows back (technically speaking, regenerates).

Every time I cross something off my list, the damn thing grows another appendage.

I was one of those good little girls. I did not play until I got my work done. No sir, no fun for me until I did what I NEEDED to do.

Well, this is not working as well for me in mid-life as it might have when I was younger.

I am finding that I need to force myself to do something fun that is not on my To Do list or I don't get to "my time", that is, something that really gives me joy.

I read an article that asked the question, "what MUST I do"? I thought about that. What if I just did what I "must" do today and left it at that?

I realized there are only a few things that I "must" do today.

If I look at it that way, I just might have time to do something that brings me actual joy, not just "satisfaction" in checking something off my To Do list.

In the end, we all know that the To Do list never ends. Maybe I need to stop pretending it does and make peace with the idea of having a little fun before I have finished "all my chores".

To all of you who just go out and play without even looking at your To Do list, my apologies for repeating what you already know and my compliments to you.

For the rest of you, here is another way of looking at it. As I was talking to a good friend about these thoughts, she said, "do you know about the Big Rock Theory"?   I didn't, so she sent it to me.  Here it is for your reading pleasure.



In "First Things First," Stephen Covey tells a story that one of his associates heard at a seminar. The seminar presenter pulled out a wide-mouth gallon jar and placed it next to a pile of fist-sized rocks. After filling the jar to the top with rocks, he asked, "Is the jar full?"

The group replied, "Yes."

He then got some gravel from under the table and added it to the jar. The speaker jiggled the jar until the gravel filled the spaces between the rocks. Again, he asked, "Is the jar full?"

This time, the group replied, "Probably not."

The speaker then added some sand and asked, "Is the jar full?"

"No!" shouted the group.

Finally, the speaker filled the jar to the brim with water and asked the group the point of this illustration.

Someone replied that no matter how busy you get, you could always fit more things into your life if "you really work at it."

"Very good answer, and while it is true, it's not the one I was looking for." countered the speaker. "The point is that if you don't put your big rocks in first, you'll never get them in at all."

As you start your new venture, think of the "big rocks" in your life as the things you can do to make this a healthier and happier world for yourself and others. 

When making decisions during the moments, days and months of the year ahead, ask yourself: "Is this a big rock?"

Say "yes" to your "big rocks" first. Don't feel you need to explain each "no" when the smaller gravel and sand try to fill your time. "No" can be a complete sentence! If the sand and gravel are still around after you have placed all of your big rocks, with a little jiggling, they will find a place all on their own.