Looking after the rocks first … or mindful priority-setting

The following story is one that’s been circulating for a while. It holds a very important message regarding setting priorities in our lives – whether we are business owners or not:
A professor of philosophy stood before his class with some items in front of him. When the class began, he picked up a large glass jar and proceeded to fill it with rocks about two inches in diameter. He then asked the students if the jar was full.

They agreed that it was full.

So the professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured them into the jar. He shook the jar lightly and watched as the pebbles rolled into the open areas between the rocks. The professor then asked the students again if the jar was full.

They laughed and agreed that it was indeed full this time.

The professor picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. The sand filled the remaining open areas of the jar. “Now,” said the professor, “I want you to recognize that this jar signifies your life. The rocks are the truly important things, such as family, health and relationships. If all else was lost and only the rocks remained, your life would still be meaningful. The pebbles are the other things that matter in your life, such as work or school. The sand signifies the remaining “small stuff” and material possessions.
If you put sand into the jar first, there is no room for the rocks or the pebbles. The same can be applied to your lives. If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff, you will never have room for the things that are truly important.

Take care of the rocks first – things that really matter. Set your priorities. The rest is just pebbles and sand.

Even if this story is not new to you, let it trigger a reminder that the rocks really do matter. You can label the glass jar “My working day”, “My business” or “My life in general” and decide on the priorities (rocks) for each one. Just like Diane Keaton had a jar of white pebbles on her desk in the film “Something’s gotta give” (appropriately named film in this case!) you can even use a real jar and real stones as an ornamental and subtle reminder to make time for what really matters in life.

Source used for re-telling the pebble story with grateful thanks:
http://www.sparkpeople.com/resource/motivation_articles.asp?id=264&page=2

Achtung! Are you becoming an “intro-preneur”???

When I was in Vienna last week I read an article in a local magazine and had one of those “A-ha!” moments I would like to share with you…

Anyone who has started their own business knows how it feels: the all-consuming passion and drive that fuel you in the initial phase, the adrenaline rush when your first client says “Yes!”, the sense of pride at having (finally) started doing your own thing, the pangs of fear and trepidation that sometimes strike when things don’t go to plan…

If we harness this initial passion and energy it will sustain us through the less glamorous or more arduous side of entrepreneurship such as; the relentless paperwork and bookkeeping, the cold calls that need to be made, sometimes frustrating visits to local authorities to get necessary permits sorted out, staff grumbles etc.etc.

Yes, passion and energy are great –and essential for running a business. However, if you reach a point where you are so driven to work that you do your thing 24/7, you might find yourself becoming alienated from friends (or even worse  – your partner!) , dropping your hobbies, quitting sport and basically becoming an all-round introvert (and a rather unhealthy one at that).

“Oh, that’s obvious”, I hear you say. “Work-life balance again, groan, tell us something we don’t know…”

Actually it’s not that obvious folks, that’s the point. I had to do the test in said magazine to prove to myself that things had gone too far; that I really HAD become a… (gasp!)  INTROVERT – after 5 years running my own business. I train people and I speak to them all day. On the surface I look like a pretty outgoing sort of girl…INTROVERTED is not a word I have ever used to describe myself. I thought I was an expert juggler of all what makes up my life. Then, through the answers to the test, I realized that I had become a 24/7 entrepreneur. An introvert, with no real time for friends, sport or other interests on a regular basis and this had built up over the last 5 years. This one had crept in very very slowly…

And so this blog article carries an appeal to all my hard-working fellow entrepreneurs out there. Life is not just about work. Successful entrepreneurship does not mean a 24/7 commitment. Hard work can have a beginning and an end. And I’m not talking about coming home and flopping in front of the television until you go to bed. I’m asking you to look at how much time you spend reading for pleasure, talking to friends, interacting with people outside of your business, doing something you really enjoy. Do yourself a little pie chart of the percentages. You might be shocked by the result. And start scheduling something back into your diary. You can start with one thing for now, and build it up gradually. Awareness is the first step to solving a problem.

Well that’s all from me. I’m off to phone a friend I haven’t spoken to for half a year…

Are you really making honey? – A common business dilemma

You probably all know the term ‘busy bee’ and associate it with people you know who are always on the go, constantly active and living life in the fast lane. In the animal kingdom the bee is a worker, completing a specific task and contributing to the whole. There are measureable and tangible end-products; i.e. the contribution it makes to the environment through pollination and, of course, delicious honey for our morning toast.

If you’re an entrepreneur I suggest you stop and think for a moment. Think about how often you use the word ‘busy’ e.g. “I’ve been really busy this week.”, “I can’t make the meeting, I’m too busy”

When you’re busy, are you really being productive? Are you really ‘making honey’? Is your ‘busy-ness’ having an efficient and effective impact on your “busi-ness”? Or are you getting side-tracked and distracted by the sheer volume of things to do?

If we find ourselves accumulating hours and hours of overtime, it might be because we have refused to delegate some tasks or are conducting time-consuming administrative jobs at peak times of the week, rather than reserving for them for a quieter time, like Friday afternoons. Once you are up-and-running with your enterprise you will get a feeling for which times are ‘quiet’ and when you can afford to allocate space in your schedule to certain regular tasks like invoicing. ‘Schedule’ is the magic word here. Plan your week ahead of time – don’t randomly decide what you are going to do when you enter your office each morning!

The best tip I can give you is not to have your email in-box open when you are doing anything that requires concentration. Incoming emails are a constant distraction. Checking emails apparently gives us an adrenaline shot, that’s why some of us do it every couple of minutes, but it can slow you down considerably when working through your tasks. Opening, reading, deciding if important, deciding to answer later – not to mention the time involved when you finally do answer later – will add hours to your week.

If you want more advice on optimizing your activities I highly recommend the late Stephen Covey’s “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People”, if you haven’t read it yet. His ‘Time Management Matrix’ is unbeatable, in my opinion.

For a recent take on this subject also check out the following blog post by Vered Neta: http://www.balancedbusinesswomen.com/blog/5-strategies-in-creating-content-without-losing-your-sanity

It contains some great ideas on how to smarten up your act.

Vered also once recommended setting an alarm when using Twitter – another valuable tip along the way!

And now this bee says: “Thanks for reading and good luck with the honey, everybody!”