Sunday, November 20, 2011

How Much Can One Person Do?

I’m sure this has happened to you. You anticipate the weekend thinking of all the things you want to do, and stressing about all the things you need to do getting in the way. This particular dilemma is causing me a considerable amount of angst these days. Typically in November I begin to play catch-up, but with the weather being unseasonably warm, it’s almost a crime not to take the motorcycles out for an afternoon. So there goes another day when little is accomplished and the chores stack up, not to mention cutting it close to the wire on the bills sitting in the queue.

It was during a typically long commute that I felt as though a melt-down was imminent, thinking I could be writing the next great novel, spending time on staying fit, or just getting some much needed R&R, when I heard again this story. Maybe you’ve heard it too. A teacher puts a jar on the desk and fills it with rocks. When the jar is full of rocks he asks the students if there is anythng more he can put in the jar. The students look at the jar and it’s obviously full, so they tell him that of course he can’t fit anything else in there. He then pulls out a container of gravel and pours it into the jar. The gravel trickles into the air pockets left by the larger stones. He asks his students again if they think the jar is now full. Amazed, they nod their heads and tell him certainly it is full now.

“Oh is it?” he says, and pulls a container of fine sand which he pours into the jar. The sand filters down and into the jar. Again he asks his students the same question, but they are on to him now.

“We don’t know what else can fit in there, but I’m sure there is something.”

The teacher grins and pulls out from under the desk a pitcher of water and pours it into the jar.

In the link above, this story asks us to consider what the “big rocks” in our life are and to make sure to put them in first. Yet, this same story has been used in moral and ethical questions and ingenious ways to manage time. It has also been used to challenge our perceptions as the teacher did with his students. What we see and believe can so often be challenged in ways that surprise us. It had me looking at a typical day in my own life. The jar full of rocks so to speak. Those rocks can seem so big and so heavy; I can’t imagine how I can ever manage the gravel, sand and water. My perception it seems is skewed.

For those of you connected to me on Facebook, you’ve noticed me talking about cleaning the house of unwanted junk that has collected over the years. I know you’ve all cleaned a closet or two in your life and know what a job that can be. It can eat up a good chunk of the day. Yet Andy and I don’t have big chunks to devote to this, but we could spare 15 minutes a day. (If you think 15 minutes can’t make a difference, think about what one drop of water a day can do to your roof over time.) So productive is our 15 minute sessions that we actually look forward to it each day. It’s not taking away from our life, we spend time together, and we learn a few funny truths. Closets are a lot like empty jars. We put the big rocks in and over time we test the theory of how full it really is.

PS: A special thanks to Lee, who always challenges my perceptions and offered up by example how to find the lost minutes of time in the hours of my days.


mq01 said...

thank you for this pat. seems many of us are struggling with the juggle that comes with lifes demands. just 15 minutes a day? thats do-able...and it certainly adds up...

Deb said...

I'm at school studying for finals. Still, can find 15 minutes to read a blog entry or two. Great post as usual.