“Show me a busy fool my friend, and I will show you just a fool”
His words hit home.
Wisdom sometimes comes from the strangest of places don’t you find?
This gem arrived via a Manchester taxi driver as we sat together in rush hour traffic on the way back home from another mid week business trip…and he made me think, about how foolishly busy I have become.
“Show me a busy fool and I will show you just a fool”
He made me think, I really do like it when that happens, don’t you?
He seemed calm, as I checked my watch, and then went back to wishing the snakes of cars in front would part… it had been 4 days since I had left my family on my most recent trip, not a long time granted, but after three years of such regular travel, these days can feel very long. I frowned and focussed on the cars, but nothing happened, funny that.
I asked my driver if he minded the regular frozen traffic on the motorway in which he must perpetually sit, just as we did then, how could it not frustrate him?
“Not at all, there’s only so many hours in the day, my friend, I never worry about what I can’t fit in, the world seems to spin fine without me”
Wow, 2 gems in 2 minutes.
I sat back and smiled.
My new teacher jolted in me a pleasant memory, which resurfaced in the moment, of an important tale I once heard, but had allowed myself to forget. Sat still in the car, here the story unfolded itself… and demanded my attention…
…the tale of an old man, on a beautifully warm day , sat fishing on a box on a jetty over a sapphire sea, a simple cardboard sign on the side of his box advertising for sale the $1 fish he had caught, when a holidaying businessman walked up, stood over him, blocking his sun. The man introduces himself brusquely and asks why the fisherman didn’t price his catch higher, so he might one day afford a boat…so he might catch then more fish to sell for higher prices….and from the profit, likely employ people to fish for him…who, in turn, catch more fish…for him to sell,for even higher prices..so he might one day afford his own fleet and catch many tons of fish, corner the marketplace…and then, and then …he would have enough money, one day, to do precisely whatever he wanted to do with his life in this world.
The holiday maker smiled smugly , pleased with golden advice imparted.
The fisherman slowly looked up, under the brim of his old, weathered straw hat, smiled and said “what, you mean like sitting on a box in the sun and selling fish to strangers for a dollar? “
Love that tale.
This story has particular poignancy for me – not least as the Guy who once busily lived a life, regularly between two countries with his family in one. Learning that no matter how incredible your career might be, or how amazing the people you share your working life with is, ultimately sharing the balance of your time with the people who inspire you to work, for me, my family, is about finding my own box on the jetty.
For me the fisherman’s tale is not about industry or effort, as it actually tells us nothing of the wealth or productivity of either man, rather I think this is about beauty, beauty in the clarity of purpose and then the strength in acting to make this happen.
Of course we should never mistake busyness or pace for productivity. We all know lots of people who talk fast, act fast and then never actually move themselves or their organisation forward. If we doubt this I am sure we can still find that Tortoise to talk to, you know the one, the one from our childhood, the one with the smile and the medal.
But wait…so if this is more about clarity of purpose and timely action than pace or productivity Carl, why am I now wasting my important time here reading an apocryphal tale? How do we find, or simply rediscover our purpose, when life is just so busy around us?
Let me share some of my learning.
Inspired in part by an excellent book I am reading ‘The Art of Stopping Time “ by Pedram Shojai, and also the wonderful 7 Habit thinking of the late and great Stephen Covey whose concepts of finding your Big Rocks had a profound effect on me. I recommend both authors work to you without hesitation.
But, conscious of our time…here’s a super simple 10 step plan to help us find our own box on the jetty.
Before we start… Grab a pen and paper (relax, no-one is watching you, pen grabbing rarely draws attention)
10 steps to Purposeful time :
1. Breathing slowly, in 5 minutes write down a list of your “Big7” – THE most important things in your life (whatever this means to you it could be family,friends, career, health, sport/ arts, learning etc …whatever floats the boat next to your jetty). You will write more than 7 initially, that’s ok, but be ruthlessly honest, cut the list to no more than 7…. and No, you don’t need more time, the important things will quickly float to the surface, just breathe and wait.
2. Now, against each of these 7 items approximately note the % of your time you currently focus on them
3. Now write a second list of what other enablers (important must do’s) and/or distracting activities (did someone just say social media?) …actually fill your waking hours, those things that take up your remaining reality.
4. Reflect on this second list …to what extent do these items truly enable or distract from your Big 7. Think about your recent days passed, where did you spend those necessary (or wasteful) hours?
5. Ok … now you get to choose. Choose 3 enablers off this second list to add to your Big7. You know have your final Purposeful Big10.
6. Now we make some time trade-offs… split your 100% between your Big10 items. What should this split really look like, when, you are at your very best and most resourceful. What does great balance look like for you?
7. Now act. Start small… but start immediately. Within the next two hours spend 10 minutes on the one item in your Big10 that needs most immediate attention. We both know , you know what this is. So make the call (possibly literally) but don’t delay, simply do.
8. Record what you did and smile. Well done, You just spent some really purposeful time there.
9. Next, Plan your next 5 days. Where will you focus to rebalance to purposeful time? Remember start small, and incrementally build.
10. Review your plan every 7-10 days. I find Sunday afternoons work well for me, reflect on how easy it was to make small changes, reflect on the impact this has had. What did you notice? what did you learn?
Yes, I know, it’s a to-do list, so stop talking and just do.
(Btw I have it on good authority the Tortoise was a fantastic planner)
Thanks for your minutes here. I hope they prove purposeful.
Finally, as always, your comments, builds, feedback and shares are most welcome and hugely appreciated.
We always learn best together.
Carl Fitzsimons is the Founder of 4Box Consulting, a new and exciting human investment practice bringing better ways of working and unique thinking to European Leaders and their teams in their 4 areas of greatest challenge: Strategy Talent Performance & Coaching.
If you would like to find out more please check out our website at www.4box.co.uk