What are your sand, pebbles and boulders? This may sound like a perplexing question yet that very concept had a significant impact on a number of people earlier this month when I presented Excuse Free Success: Winning by Losing! to a group of entrepreneurs.
Boulders refer to what is most important, your high priorities. A question you can ask yourself is “what will have the greatest impact?” You could also ask “what will have the greatest impact if it doesn’t get done?” As unpleasant, unmotivated, uninterested or anything else you (or the boulder) may be, boulders need to be tended to first.
Pebbles refer to more of a mid priority. They can be stepping stones to the boulders and typically take a little less effort. Think of them as manageable bite size pieces.
Sand is a lower priority. Typically sand consists of filler tasks that can often be inserted easily in a variety of areas. Have you ever been on a sandy beach? Later when you change your clothes, bathing suit – it seems the sand is everywhere and as if you never get it all out! Sand in life is the same – keeps showing up – dishes, laundry, recurring payments such as utilities etc.
Imagine we have a pile of sand, a pile of pebbles and a pile of boulders to put into a large container. Think of the room you’re in as the vessel. Outside each door are these three piles. It’s up to you to get everything in the room. This is a two-scale model. The first represents your day and all the associated tasks. The grander view is your lifetime and what you want to accomplish.
Most people tackle their day – and their life by starting with the sand. It often presents itself as a façade of being easier. Other times it seems more pressing or that it can be taken care of quickly. Have you ever embarked on a task you thought would be quick only to have it emerge into “never-ending?” Then the pebbles get overlooked and the boulders end up permanently on hold.
When you start with the boulders you know you’ve addressed what’s most important.
As you add the pebbles they surround the boulders fitting in between them in a manner that capitalizes on the space present. Then when the sand is added it will find its way into crevices you couldn’t possibly orchestrate. Only in this manner is what’s available fully utilized.
For example with the group of entrepreneurs, some of them work out of their homes. Dishes, laundry and other household chores are sand that prevents attention to the boulders of their business.
Health and self-care needs to be a boulder in each of our lives. People tend to ignore taking care of themselves hoping they’ll “get around to it” which usually results in a very serious matter or ends up being too late.
Life is full of demands no doubt. Juggling our priorities and tasks at hand can be a challenge. Ignoring boulders however doesn’t make them go away. Imagine falling on a boulder, on a pebble, or on sand. Which hurts more?
Noting two levels to this analogy I invite you to practice two applications as both are relevant. View each day as facing a pile of sand, pebbles and boulders. Likewise look at your entire life as a pile of sand, pebbles and boulders. If you change how you proceed with your day, you’ll change what you do with your life as a whole. If you get a different perspective on your life, you’ll handle each day accordingly. Therefore, you get to choose whether you start practicing on the daily tasks or your overall life. For some, to start with their life may be daunting and the daily application will work better. Yet for others looking at their life as a whole could serve as a wake-up call. Guaranteed, if you shift how you approach either, you’ve modified both!
What are the sand, pebbles and boulders of your day, your job, your life? Treat them accordingly and watch the miracles unfold!