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ROCKS AND GRAVEL AND TIME

ROCKS AND GRAVEL AND TIME

Another IPS (Inner Peace Symptom):  a tendency to choose to do what is important to you.  [If you know what’s important to you, you can free up your time to consider how to get THAT just right by letting go of spazzing about your trivia.]

One of the best visual metaphors I’ve ever seen about time management is this one that involves stacking sand, pebbles and big rocks in a jar.  This YouTube video was put together by 7 Big Rocks Productivity System, a company that sells websites and computer hosting services, and was inspired, they say, by Stephen Covey’s classic book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change.

When Stephen Covey first presented this metaphor at a workshop he said the point of it was this:  If you don’t put the big rocks in first, you won’t be able to get them in at all.

MAKING IT A PRACTICE

The way to turn the metaphor into a practice basically takes four steps:

  • Decide what is important to you. Write them down.  Starter ideas might include spending face-time with family or friends, learning a new skill, putting time and effort into a side-hustle, experimenting with new ideas…whatever.  These are your big rocks.
  • Choose your “jar” – day, week, or month.
  • Place your most important things – your big rocks — within that framework first. What one action will move each of your important things forward?  Put that in your jar.  Make the time for the one action you can take that addresses each of your important things.  The rest of your day or week or month can fill up with other stuff, but you’ve got your big rocks covered.
  • Do the big rock moves first.

Each time you finish each of the important big-rock actions you’ve put in your jar, find the next action that will move that big rock forward.  And so on…repeat, repeat, repeat.

DOES IT WORK?

Does it work?  Sort of.  The real is that there will be times when “urgent” trumps “important.”  The manure hits the fan and you’ve got to pull out the buckets and mops and clean up the mess before the stench reaches major proportions.  That one is very likely to take a bunch of time away from your important stuff.

But, once the mess gets cleared up and the mops and buckets are put away, then you can go back to filling your jar with your big rocks and doing the actions you’ve chosen to do.

The little steps you make working on your big rocks do accumulate.  The things that are important to you get done, eventually.  You can call yourself to order when you go off-tangent.

REALITY CHECK

There is one other reason to try this thing.  When you do this, you will have a ready-made system that can help you re-think what is important to you.

If you’ve made the time and the room for the things you call big rocks, but you never complete any of the moves you want to try, it may be an indication that the “big rocks” you’ve chosen really are not yours.  Maybe they are other people’s big rocks that you have adopted as your own.

If the big rocks you’ve targeted are not really yours, you won’t do them, even if you’ve set aside the time for them.  Try to avoid beating yourself up about that.  It’s okay to choose other big rocks if you find that the ones you thought were big for you are really not.

Look at what you’re doing instead.  Maybe that’s where your real big rocks are hidden.  Or maybe you just haven’t found anything yet that is important enough for you to give up the trivia.  Keep looking.

Here’s a poem.  It came in response to a quote by philosopher Alan Cohen, who said in his book WISDOM OF THE HEART, “A friend is someone who knows your song and sings it to you when you’ve forgotten it yourself.”  I have had so many of those.  Lucky, me….


THANKS FOR MY SONG

Hey, babe,

Thank you one more time.

 

I had gotten so caught up

In other-people imperatives,

In their projects, plans and priorities

That had me prancing

Like a Lippazaner stallion

As I drowned in the minutia

That led me to forget

That, for real,

I am not a pretty white stallion

And have never wanted to be;

That had me dancing pretty

Going ’round and ’round

Yet another arena

Head held high.

 

You sang my song for me,

The one you’ve heard me sing

And you brought me back to me.

 

So, here I am

Getting back on my dragon

The one I parked in that mountain cave,

The one drowsing in the boring blah,

The one who woke up

When you started singing

My song back to me,

Making me remember

Who I am and why.

 

Dragon’s in the courtyard

Bugling her impatience with me.

I’d better go now

Before she throws a hissy-fit,

But, I did want to stop by and tell you,

Thanks, eh!

by Netta Kanoho

Picture credit:  Maui Sunrise by Frank DiBona via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0] 

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THE ONLY COIN

THE ONLY COIN

Poet Carl Sandburg once pointed out, “Time is the coin of your life.  It is the only coin you have and only you can determine how it will be spent.  Be careful lest you let other people spend it for you.”

There are a multitude of methods and products that are supposed to help you manage your time.  The problem with most of them is they don’t work all that well any more as our world speeds up and our to-do lists grow exponentially.

Self-discipline strategist Rory Vaden’s counter-intuitive thoughts on time management is explained in the following TEDx Douglasville talk, “How to Multiply Your Time.”

The book Vaden mentions in his video is one he wrote.  The name of the book is PROCRASTINATE ON PURPOSE: 5 Permissions to Multiply Your Time.  It came out in January, 2015 and it was an instant national bestseller.

Here’s a poem:


MONEY, TIME, FREEDOM…UMMM….

People tell me

Money buys time and

Money buys freedom

And that is why

(Or so people tell me)

They spend all their time

Pretending to be those wild cowboys,

Those rodeo “champeens,”

Chasing money down

And wrestling it to the ground

To the cheers from the assembled fans…

Which is sort of peculiar to me

Since in real rodeos

Those wild bulls don’t ever

Seem to do anything

‘Cept stay wild

So those cowboys can go on

Chasing them down and

Wrestling them to the ground

As the fans go mad.

 

Hmmm.

 

People tell me

They spend all their time

Locked in step with

All the others

In this ticktock world

Chasing down elusive bits of

Specially printed paper

That flutter in the wind,

Moving away…always away.

They tell me

They have no time for freedom right now

Because they’re wrapped around

In the chains of their commitments and obligations

That depend on their presence at all times

Overseeing all this herding of money.

Corralling all those cash cows.

 

Hmmm.

 

There are whole libraries

Of books about money –

How it talks and what it says,

How it moves inside your head,

How it grows and what it knows,

How it flies and how it dies.

It sure takes a lot of time

To learn about money.

It takes up lifetimes.

All this stuff generates a lot of head-scratching,

A lot of movement and activity.

There are whole colleges full of

Eager-beaver students

Learning ’bout money.

There are entire cities

Of people devoted to

Chasing and wrestling down money.

 

Wow.

Ummm….

I’m sorry, but I’ve gotta ask a stupid question:

This time and freedom that money is supposed to buy?

Who does it belong to?

By Netta Kanoho

Picture credit:  Coins by Ruth Hartnup via Flickr [CC BY 2.0]

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FRANK-THE-MECHANIC MOVES

FRANK-THE-MECHANIC MOVES

I don’t remember where he originated.  He was a character in one of the potato-chip (you can’t just eat one) books that I like to read.  In the book, Frank-the-Mechanic was a retired assassin who gets sucked back up in leftovers from his previous life.  He was a super-casual sort of businessman who had a number of interests that he kept up, all of them suitable as a single career.  He did each one – a little bit every day to move each project forward.  And he was most excellent at everything he did.

It was a good story, but it was Frank I fell in love with.  I keep him in my head as a role model.  “What would Frank-the-Mechanic do?”  It helps me stay on top of the myriad details of my life and, when I get it right, the day ends well for me.

I do a little of each thing I do as well as I can every day.  Some days I can do it well; some days, not so much.  But the weight of all those itty-bitty little things done on all of those days does add up to a whole pile of something, a lot of which I like.

On my good days it feels like I am working with the Creative to help my Millenium Falcon fly….and that is a good thing.

And then there are the days when the one thing I’m doing eats the whole day and a lot of the night as well.  One time I told myself I was just going to work on a little blog post – a small story that was part of an epic tale of traveling between Nepal and China to Lhasa when the border was just being opened.  (It was one of the Light of My Life’s stories.)

I had other things to do, after all.  The palm leaves that passing tropical storms dropped needed to be hauled off to the compost heap.  The bamboo and the false ‘awa, two rapacious patches of wild and free plants, were encroaching again.  I needed to get a bunch of little nit-noy stuff set up for my property management gig.  ARGH!

I got so caught up in the tale I just kept going and going and going.  I ended up with four long blog posts with pictures and so on and so forth.  I also blew off work in the yard and work on a number of other projects, none of which was particularly pressing.  So it goes sometimes.

I got on the other stuff the following day and in the next days after and it all eventually got done.

One of my favorite, pertinent quotes about all this is from English comedian Russell Brand:  “One day at a time.  It sounds so simple.  It actually is simple but it isn’t easy.  It requires incredible support and fastidious structuring.”

Uh-huh….

Here’s a poem….


THE ONE ABOUT TRYING

Universe always gives you what you want

It usually comes one day after you can’t stand the waiting any more.

 

What are you grumbling for?  Ambiguity is good for you and balancing on cliff edges is

Exhilarating…if you can stand the height.

 

Listen to the grass blade underneath that rock

Pushing, twisting, bending, finding the light…and making the concrete crack.

 

And watch the baby wobbling on unstable legs,

One step, fall, up again; two steps, fall, up again; three steps….well, you get the picture.

 

Pay attention to water weaving through a stream bed,

Seeking ways over, around, under, past, and through…and through.

 

Think about the wind gently, gently pushing against stone,

And think about mountains twisted into eerie spires and fantastic gyres.

 

Old truths repeated one too many times become clichés,

And very often “trite” means “old” and “trite” means “true”….

by Netta Kanoho

picture credit:  Two-Handed by Daniel Incandela (images courtesy of Jean Damon) via Flickr.  [CC BY-NC 2.0]

 

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AS THE TOMATO TICKS…DOING THE POMODORO

AS THE TOMATO TICKS…DOING THE POMODORO

I felt silly the first time I tried this.  I had to talk myself into it over and over again.  I mean …REALLY.  You set a plastic mechanical timer (preferably one that is shaped like a tomato because it’s traditional) for 25 minutes, and then you go do a thing you’ve been putting off (like writing a blog or a poem, for instance).   When the bell rings, you stop and rest for at least five minutes.  Repeat, repeat, repeat.  (It’s also traditional to do the sequence four times.)  Finding the old tomato timer at the Kula Iki thrift shop was a sign that I HAD to do this, I told myself.

The plastic tomato (or whatever other silly mechanical timer you can find) is supposed to help you develop a new habit.  You have to set a particular task or project  before winding up the tomato and  then you do that task while the silly thing sits there going tic-tic-tic.

A funny thing happened, though.  This bit of silliness actually worked!  Done stuff kept piling up as I went through the ritual every day for weeks on end.  That silly tomato and me got to be great friends!

This bit of silliness, which is called the “Pomodoro Technique,” is an actual time-management exercise.  It was developed by a very successful entrepreneur named Francesco Cirillo when he was a university student in the late 1980’s.  (An authentic Cirillo-authored book about it costs some bucks these days.  It’s become a collectible.)  Cirillo named the technique after his plastic tomato timer.  The technique is supposed to help you develop your focus.   Other folks have taken up the banner and run with it.

HERE’S HOW YOU DO THE POMODORO….

All you really need is a timer that ticks and dings after you reach the end of a time period and a small piece of paper and pen.

The Pomodoro Technique is a six-step process:

  • Decide on the task you want to do.
  • Set your Pomodoro (or plain old mechanical timer) to some number.  (You don’t have to keep it at 25 minutes.)
  • Work on the task until the timer rings.
  • When the timer rings, put a checkmark on the piece of paper.
  • If you have fewer than four checkmarks, take a short break (3 to 5 minutes), then go back to Step 1.
  • If you have more than four checkmarks, take a longer break (15 to 30 minutes), then reset the checkmark count to 0 and go back to Step 1.

Four checkmarks = one Pomodoro “set.”  Each Pomodoro is “indivisible.”  If you’re using it the regular way for developing focus, every time you get interrupted you ignore, postpone or record  whatever it is and get back to it after you finish your Pomodoro.  If you can’t ignore or postpone the thing (or if the person who’s interrupting you is a persistent little person who keeps playing with the tomato), then you have to abandon that Pomodoro set.  When you get back to it, it’s like you are starting a whole new set-of-four.

People who know say you really should use the low-tech method, even though there are all kinds of electronic substitutes.  The physical act of winding the timer confirms your determination to start the task.  The timer’s ticking externalizes your desire to complete the task.  And the ringing announces a break.  (Me, I just like the physicality of it all.  It feels like a ritual, and I’m big on ritual.)

GET YOUR OWN POMODORO….

Design Gifts has tomatoes, lemons, apples, peppers and a bunch of other silly ticking timers.  They are fun, they’re under $10 and they work.   You can get one at Amazon.com.

ADDING SOME REVERSE ENGLISH….

Since I tend to get OCD about things and really hyper-focused for hours on end, I also used this technique to STOP me from getting lost in a project that was particularly entrancing.  The tomato helps to make me stop every twenty-five minutes and take a break, then stop completely when I’ve done my four.  This, too, is a very good thing.

The point of all this is that this technique is a beauty.  If you are easily distracted or very good at talking yourself out of doing a thing you want to do , the Pomodoro will help you start to work on your Someday Project and  actually help you form a habit of working on it until you’re done.  If you’ve got the other problem and tend to get lost in some project or other to the detriment of the rest of your life, it helps you stretch your attention back to the normal world.  How cool is that?

And here’s another poem….


BORING

Sometimes I think boring would be just FINE….

Walking ’round with cotton stuffed up my ears,

Mouth all set to pout and whine.

What could be cooler than numb and dull,

Without a thought in an empty skull?

 

It’s gotta be better than all this rattle-and-roll.

Trauma and drama that shakes the soul,

Ducking puzzle pieces flying around,

Catching the 2x4s, prat-falling down and down.

 

Okay…where is it?

Why isn’t boring part of my fate?

Why is it always ridges for running, thin ice to skate?

 

Ah, well…here I go, back to the grind.

Boring’s another country of the mind.

Can’t buy a ticket there, it seems…

Gotta get back to chasing those dreams.

By Netta Kanoho

photo credit:  by Erato at Italian Wikinews via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0)

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