Putting the rocks in first, jumping right in, thinking big & valuing your time

Dec 16, 2016Padraig's Insights

Put the rocks in first

We all know the story of the professor who asked his students how many rocks, pebbles, sand and beer it would take to fill a jar.

We all know that it’s important to put the rocks in first – to do the important things first – but many of us don’t do it. The other day a client told me that he hasn’t been swimming in three weeks because he was too busy. This was his daily exercise routine.

I truly believe that your health is your wealth, and if you lose it you have nothing. I consider my training as part of my working day – my stretching, my running, my meditation and my workouts in the gym.

If you don’t give these things priority then you will lapse. You will get out of the habit and fill the jar half full with sand and pebbles but you won’t get the rocks in – the things that really matter.

It’s really, really important that you make time to sharpen the saw, as Stephen Covey would call it. It’s important that you schedule your exercise the same way you would schedule a meeting with a client.

You don’t have to be ready to start

You don’t have to be ready to start. You can make it up as you go along. I have two case studies – two clients I’m working with at the moment. One is building a new business in legal recruitment. The other has a well established business turning over tens of millions and wants to grow it significantly.

In both cases a clear market opportunity came up but they hesitated. In both cases, despite my best efforts, they wanted to get ready. And they kept getting ready, and readdier, and even readdier, until I got reddier in the face!

If you’re waiting until you’re ready you will miss the opportunity. In the case of the existing company, I believe they have missed the opportunity. All the good opportunity that was available at the time has been snatched up.

In the case of the new business, she now has a part-time job to pay the bills because she’s not delivering on the business front. And yet she’s still talking about how she will start as soon as she irons out the little things.

You’re never ready. Take your courage in your hands and go for it. You only have to be one chapter ahead of your clients for a business opportunity.

How big is your box?

This week I received an email from a client. They are working on their ONEThing Plan and they asked me for input, specifically on their mission – their Big Hairy Audacious Goal (BHAG).

When I read their Big Hairy Audacious Goal it struck me that they had fallen into a typical error – they were thinking too small. The question is, how big is your box? It’s a very simple question.

I want you to imagine a graph where the x-axis represents the size of one’s thinking, and the y-axis measures time and effort.

Picture yourself marking the point of intersection where your thinking is small. Then imagine creating a small box from the data. It took lots of time and effort but a small box means a small result.

Imagine then the point of intersection where you spend the same time and effort but your thinking was big. The result is a much bigger box, and a much greater outcome!

So, it takes the same time and effort to reach for bigger goals as smaller ones. I find that people fall into this trap all the time because they’re afraid of thinking big. The key is to think big and specific – so think really, really big and then narrow it down to one thing. Same time, same effort, completely different outcome and result.

How much do you value your time?

I remember meeting the CEO of a company about 2 or 3 years ago and he complained of a lack of time. Specifically, he was 30 minutes late for his meeting with me. When I asked him what he was doing he told me he was invoicing.

When I questioned him on whether this was the best use of his time, he said he had people do it before, but he was never comfortable or confident that it was done properly and he really wanted to understand what was happening in the company.

At the time I asked him if the half day a week he spent doing the invoicing was spent on business development, what would it do to his business? He reckoned he could increase his business by 50%.

Today I had a meeting with a client that reminded me of this, as he wanted to recruit an accountant. When I asked him what he really wanted we discussed it. He wanted someone who could give him the information that he required and reassure him that it was accurate, so he had real insight into the cash flow of the company and whether or not the company was meeting its commitments on time.

He mentioned that he couldn’t go on holidays because he didn’t have confidence that invoices and cash collection would be done.

This begs the question of whether people really understand the value of their time and the necessity for hiring perhaps at a higher level than they would normally have anticipated, thereby freeing themselves up, i.e. giving them the confidence to actually delegate to people they know will deliver.

This allows them to get on with things and do the things they should be doing – i.e. predicting the future, building the future, building revenues, strategy, building better teams, etc.

Planning is a team building exercise


This week I had a ONEThing planning workshop with a client. I was working with the CEO, sales and marketing director, head of operations and head of marketing.

It’s interesting – when I asked them about the benefits of the ONEThing planning process, they told me that the single most important benefit is that they’re now thinking and working as a team.

Many times over the years working with clients it has struck me that planning is a team building exercise. Perhaps one of the most effective exercises if done properly.

If you help people identify where the company adds value, where they add value, what the purpose of the company is, what’s it’s BHAG is and how it’s going to deliver on that goal, you will get alignment amongst the team. It’s a powerful process in building a world class team.

Final thoughts…

Put the rocks in first. Always do the most important things first – get your daily exercise.

When it comes to any new endeavour in business or in life, take the plunge. You don’t have to be ready to start.

It takes just as much time and effort to dream big dreams as it does to dream small ones. So, choose to dream big!

Reflect on how well you’re using your time. If you can delegate tasks or hire people to lighten your load, then do it.

And finally, planning can be a valuable team-building exercise in developing a great team!


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Do you want 2017 to be a great year for your and your organisation?


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