How to Cross the Finish Line
Amanda Kirk, MS
Remember that story about the race between the tortoise and the hare? You know, the one where the hare was a zippy, flashy multitasker, and proud of it? Then there was the tortoise; slow, steady, confident, determined. Yeah, that one.
I have no idea how many times I’ve heard that story – I’m guessing at least a thousand. So I know how it ends. But I still want to coach Tortoise to pick up the pace. And please, for the love, Hare, focus!
As the story reminds us, the Tortoise had it right all along. And we do too, when we follow his example. When we focus on a goal, remain determined and undeterred by competing forces (or foes) around us, we are often rewarded with a calmer brain and better performance across finish lines. It is an exercise of discipline, patience, and consistency.
Zipping around from one thing to the next, preoccupied by whatever tasks are in front of us until the next distraction comes along, all while our actual goals and desires take up less and less of our energy, time, and effort – that’s racing like a hare. We may look impressive for a while, but soon enough, our lack of focus will catch up to us and we’ll be left in the dust of our own chaotic whirlwind.
Did you know multitasking can have a negative impact on your brain function? Turns out, the ability to multitask may not be so great to add to your next resume after all. Instead, singular focus on one task at hand, then the next, then the next may actually create better quality, and even faster work than we have often believed.
So how do we meet the demands of the day that are often competing for our time and attention and prioritize appropriately? There are a bunch of analogies we could use here, but one example is a jar of rocks (I believe this analogy is originally credited to Steven Covey).
Imagine that the most important things for you to accomplish today are large rocks in a jar. Then, smaller pebbles are tasks that would be useful, but not necessary to complete today. Next, sand can be poured into the jar, settling around the large rocks and pebbles to represent the nonessential, minor tasks that will have little to no impact on our goals. Finally, water fills in and around the rocks, pebbles, and sand. Even though the jar seemed full before adding the water, there were still crevices within the jar that can be filled with distractions – the water – that actually work against our accomplishments.
Now imagine filling the jar in the opposite order. If we allow distractions and nonessential tasks to enter the jar first, those larger items will not fit. Order, priority, and focus really do make a big impact on whether we leap or limp across the finish line, assuming we cross the finish line at all.
So how about it? Do you relate most with the Tortoise or the Hare?
If the Tortoise, congratulations and keep going! Your focus and determination are an inspiration and will likely serve you well. If the Hare, challenge yourself to make a list tonight as you prepare for your day tomorrow. Create the headings “Rocks – Essential Tasks,” “Pebbles – Useful, but Not Necessary Tasks,” “Sand – Minor/Non-Essential Tasks” and “Water – Distractions.” Fill in all of your tasks under each appropriate heading. Then in the morning, start filling the jar of your day with rocks.
You have a finish line to cross.