In this week’s podcast, Anna gives you a tool that will shift how you think about all your ‘to-dos’ and help you make time for what’s important.
We’re all so busy, all the time. There are emails and meetings and bills to pay. Not to mention all the housework and kids and ‘life admin’. So when are we supposed to write that book we’ve always dreamed of? Finish that passion project that has been lying untouched for years? Start a new business as a second income stream and potentially change career direction altogether? How can we make time for the ‘Big Stuff’ when we’re so, so busy with everything else?
If you have a question that you’d like Anna to answer on the podcast, then email firstname.lastname@example.org to be included in the #askanna series.
*Resources mentioned during the episode*
Partner with me as your coach – If you’d like support to improve your work-life balance, either within your existing work and business or with a new model that will give you more freedom and flexibility, then get in touch to discuss how I can help. www.onestepoutside.com/call
Hello there. And welcome back as we continue to look at pillar five of Building a Life Outside of the 9 to 5, pillar five, which is designing flexible work/life integration. It’s a big topic today as well as a small one. The question is, how do we make time for the big stuff? I have this question, I have this series now I do, which is Ask Anna, #askanna, and this came in from a client, or prospective client who I hope to work with, and asked, “How do I find time to do this? I know I want to do this, I’m committed, but I have this, that, and the other that I’m doing whilst I’m so busy. I’ve got the young kids, I’ve got my work, I’ve got my fitness and hobbies, et cetera. How do I make time?” That’s the question I want to ask and answer today. How do we make time for the big stuff? Capital B, capital S.
Unfortunately, we have all this busy work, right? I talk a lot about the badge of honour we get from, “Oh, I’m so busy and important,” as Bridget Jones would say, “I’m so stressed. I’ve got so much to do. I’ve got this endless to-do list.” Right? We fill up our day, especially with a full-time job with young kids and so on. Right? I’m not saying this stuff is not important, in fact, right? But it’s answering emails, it’s going to meetings, it’s sorting this out, it’s this bill that didn’t get paid and it’s bouncing that and the other and you have to tie it in whatever. Right?
I talked last week about all that life admin, I hate life admin, but you need to find a way to reframe it because we have to do it. But all these things. It’s busy work, essentially. That gets done because it has to get done. But the question is, when in all this busy work do we get to start that passion project? Do we get to have time for those new ideas? Do we get to reflect on and plan a career change? Do we get to plan and build a new business? All that gets pushed to one side, so how do we make space for these really big, important things that ultimately matter more that will make a bigger difference to you, to your family’s life and happiness, to the world, ultimately? Because you’re not going to make an impact, no offence, by just replying to emails and doing that busy work and just getting by.
However little time we can carve out… I spoke to someone, I was interviewed on Sagi Schreiber’s podcast, in fact, a few weeks ago as I record this, and it was called Commit First, the podcast. Check it out. He said that when he had initially had his career, he spent one hour, I want to say, one hour a week, and he wrote one blog post a month, and he managed to use that to create incredible valuable content that then ultimately got him enough of a following, enough of a business to be able to quit and go all in.
I always say, “Look, you can find an hour a week.” I challenge you, I dare you, if you can’t find an hour in your week, get in touch with me, podcast at One Step Outside. Come message me on your favourite social channel and say one hour and let me have a chat and let’s see what we can do. I’m sure we can find an hour.
What I will say is, as I always do caveat this, if you’re in a really difficult situation now, exceptional circumstances, ill health, things going on, maybe now is not the time. In which case, that’s absolutely fine. I’m talking now, in general, the general busy-ness. The kind of stuff that we’re like, “Oh, I’ll do it when I have a bit more time, but we never will.
If this is a temporary situation, you know it’s a really difficult time right now, please be kind and compassionate with yourself. But if it’s not, if it’s just the general busy work, the stuff that you know is always going to be there, then let’s chat and let’s see how we can’t carve out that time.
Now, specifically, I want to give you a framework which you may or may not have heard of. When I present this, often people haven’t heard of this, but which is a shame. It’s the five big rocks. I was taught it in a certain way. I believe it comes, partly at least, from Stephen Covey, the leadership guru. Lots of videos on YouTube you can search. You can find something that illustrates this.
The way in which I was taught this was from a senior leader at P & G when I first started, one of my first lunch and learn lessons, I guess, lunch and learn presentations that I went to in my first year, I guess 2007, when I started, was from this very well-known prominent guy in the company. He had started out as a personal trainer and managed to build his way up to become a senior marketing director and so on. That’s the story for another day. But Jim Lafferty. I’ll call him out, James Lafferty. He presented. I have to apologise, Jim, I probably am bastardising your story, but this is how I remember it and how I tell it.
He told us that he had these five roles in life, and I’m making these up now, but let’s say marketing director, he’s a son to an ageing mother, he’s a husband to his loving wife, he was a golf player with his buddies, and I can never remember the fifth one. Let’s say he had another fifth one which is very important for the purpose of the story. He said then, when he had his first child, his two children, I believe, he realised that he couldn’t keep going and playing golf every Saturday and Sunday because then he wouldn’t see his kids and he wouldn’t support his partner, so he had to take away that role of being a golf buddy with his mates. Let’s say the fifth one was fitness, being a fit guy, because I’m sure he was having been a personal trainer and that’s a healthy sports enthusiast, let’s say, and that’s pretty important.
He chose, when he had kids, to remove the fourth role, let’s say, the golf buddy, and instead, put in its place the father. That’s the compromise he made. Now, he said we can have these five roles, those five big rocks. If we’re going to put something in there, we have to take something out. That’s a really interesting model.
I’ve since learned much more about this and the idea of the five rock. Again, let’s imagine an empty jar, and we’ve got different bowls of things. We’ve got a bowl of sand, we’ve got a bowl of gravel, some bigger rocks, bigger stones, pebbles, and then these big, big rocks. Right? Really chunky rocks. We’re going to start by pouring the sand into the jar. Great. We’re going to pour the little gravel bits and pebbles, slightly bigger stones and rocks and things. Right? Then, when the jar is almost full, what we’re going to do is take those big rocks and try to force them into the sand.
Let me tell you this. It’s not possible. Try it at home with the kids, by all means, or watch the video on YouTube. You can’t squeeze those rocks in. Maybe you’ll get in one, partially two, depending on how big the jar is, how strong you are. You might break the glass, which is never good, but you just can’t do it.
Let’s flip this around. Let’s put those big rocks into the jar first. Bing bong bong. Easy-peasy. It’s an empty jar. I put the rocks in. Five big rocks fit perfectly. Then I pour in the pebbles. Oh, they all nicely fall around the rocks. I pour in the gravel. Very nice, too. They fill the gaps that the rocks couldn’t get to. Then finally, the sand, and that fills everything up. By the way, you can go even further and you can pour in water, because water’s going to infiltrate everything as well. Suddenly it all fits in.
Now, to hammer home the point here. The big rocks are the big, important priorities in your life. They’re your big roles, they’re your big projects, the things that really matter. The smaller stones, the gravel, the sand, the pebbles and so on, that’s all that busy work. That’s the emails, that’s the stuff, that’s replying, that’s meetings, it’s admin. It’s just doing whatever, right? Your to-do lists and cleaning and so on.
The lesson is that, if we put those big rocks in first, everything else will still fit around it.
At least everything that matters. By the way, there’s still an opportunity to leave some of that sand and gravel out to return it to the earth, to the beach, because it doesn’t have to be in your jar at all. Right? If some of the sand, some of the gravel doesn’t fit into your jar, no problem. On the other hand, if the big rocks don’t fit in, that is a big problem, because suddenly you don’t have space for quality time with your partner. You can’t take care of your health, your children, your career, your whatever your passion project is. Right?
My challenge to you this week is, if you haven’t done this exercise before, take a step back and think, “What are my five big rocks?” They could be your roles. Mother, father, aunt, uncle, daughter, boyfriend, whatever, business owner, writer, author, speaker. You can do it in all sorts of ways. Slice it up as much as you want to. Whatever way that means the most to you. Or you can think of areas of your life, and of course I have my five Ls. I talked about them again last week, but it’s live, wellness and wellbeing is one area, health and fitness, love, relationships and romance, learn, development, growth, lead, that’s the career and impact, and laugh, fun and spontaneity. Maybe those are your five areas. Maybe you have your own five areas. And yes, five is sort of an arbitrary number, but I think it works really well. You can have four, you can have six, three by all means. But I think we usually want more, but we need to put a cap on it somewhere, so five big rocks.
Then, of course, without going into the detail because I want to keep this short and impactful in terms of the big message here, but then, of course, we need to take this further and actually block time, look at our calendar, think, “Hang on a second. How am I prioritising these big rocks?” Literally, we need to block time for in the calendar, and we ideally need to do it first.
If I’m busy with my, by all means, important client work, emails, et cetera, et cetera, every day, paying invoices, sending invoices, et cetera, that gets done. Those things are going to happen regardless. I know it. I always pay my bills, I always send my invoices, I always meet clients for the calls and I do workshops and whatever. Right? That’s in the diary, that happens.
If I want to write a book, if I want to create a new course, if I want to design a new programme, if I want to completely rethink my career in business, whatever that new thing is on the horizon, that needs to be carved out in my diary. It needs to be put first.
Another great metaphor is to eat the frog, by the way, which is from Brian Tracy, time management guru extraordinaire. Eat the frog. If you eat the most disgusting, most impactful, biggest slimiest frog first thing in the morning, then whatever happens the rest of the day, at least you will have eaten that frog and everything else will be easy. If you only did that one thing every day, then you’ll make massive progress. Right? Whether it’s I had a client who got up in the morning and painted for an hour, or my boyfriend had a colleague, hello, Charlie, who went to the office an hour early back in the day when we went to the offices and wrote on his books and he’s got several novels published now. Find the time first thing in the morning, probably is the best thing because then it gets done, lunch break, carve out the time. But if it’s one of your big rocks, then it better damn well go first into the jar, not trying to squeeze it in after you’ve put all that rubbish, all the sand and grit and busy work in the jar first.
I challenge you again not to find that one hour a week, if not one hour a day, 30 minutes a day. Find the time, morning, evening, lunchtime, you choose. Again, I’m a big fan of putting it first, but I challenge you not to find that time and to make time for your five big rocks. Thanks so much for listening and I’ll see you next week. Bye for now.
If you’re ready to start to reimagine what success could look like for you, here are some of the ways in which Anna can support you:
Get private mentoring for your business – Partnering with a business coach can help you see those blind spots and get both external accountability and expert guidance to take your business to where you want it to be. www.onestepoutside.com/freeconsultation
Get private career coaching – Individual coaching is fully tailored to your specific goals and desires so we can create the programme that works best for you, with the support that you need to move forwards. www.onestepoutside.com/claritycall
Grab a copy of Leaving the Corporate 9 to 5 – After interviewing 50 people who have left the corporate 9 to 5 to forge their own path, Anna has collected their stories in a book that will inspire you with the possibilities that are out there and reassure you that you’re not alone in looking for an alternative. www.leavingthecorporate9to5.com
Join the One Step Outside the 9 to 5 Business Incubator – This is your roadmap to transitioning from a corporate job into setting up a meaningful business that will bring you more freedom, flexibility and fulfilment outside of the corporate 9 to 5. www.onestepoutside.com/9to5
Level up with The Outsiders Business Accelerator – This is a mastermind for entrepreneurs, freelancers and small business owners who want to create a long-term sustainable brand and business. www.onestepoutside.com/accelerate