I am being feasted upon by the little things

I wrote that sentence a few years ago in the anticipation that I would eventually develop it into an essay for my master’s students studying to be school principals as the idea is a fact of life of being a principal, and its mastery is the key to staying sane and keeping family – not school – first!

Until this morning, it just sat on my hard drive. I expect because I was being feasted upon by so many little things that I never developed it.

But now is a good time – a perfect time to remind myself and you, my friends, that we are in the Christmas season. The season of the most significant depression during the year. The season of unreasonable spending. The season of, “Oh no, not another party.” The season of weight gain. The season of regret.

Now is the perfect time to refocus our energies on the small things. In the world of quality and systems, small changes that produce the most significant gains are the key to lasting improvement.

As a metaphor, I used to use to teach this to my doctoral students in our Organization Theory Class – the class was much better than the name implies! It was one of my very favorites. 

Anyway, back to the metaphor. Think of a trifling small rock thrown into a still pond and the resulting ripples traveling the entire width of the water before they reach the shore. 

Those are the kinds of ideas we need to focus our minds on to bring our world back to some semblance of order. The truth is the world will never stop so that we can clean off that desk or countertop or get in that exercise class. Another reality is that no matter how large or small our work area, it will always be cluttered! I remember when I got a new office with a conference table in it! In a month, that table AND my desk were cluttered whereas before it had only been my desk.

A more critical result of this idea is that “a job will expand to fill whatever time I allot to it. Little task with all weekend to do it? It will take all weekend to do it.

It is possible to slow this feast of the little things, but we have to work on it. Stephen Covey of 7Habits of High Effective People, said the key was to put first things first. That is – focus on the important. Usually, when the little things are feasting on us, we have let it happen by not following Covey’s advice.

In this Christmas season, regardless of your religion or lack of one, you certainly know the song, The Twelve Days of Christmas. My advice is to focus on 12 things only – essential things – and let those little time-wasting creatures find someone else to feast on this year!

A favorite philosopher of mine, Earl Nightingale, built a career on teaching people this one piece of advice: “You are what you think about.”  Later I discovered it really came from Proverbs 23:7 says, “For as he thinks within himself, so he is.” However, when I heard it preached about, it was almost always in the negative. Think about sin and you will become sinful. Only later – through Earl Nightinggale – did I find the remarkable positive power that this simple Biblical truth always possessed.

For the next few days, I challenge you (and, myself, too) to think about what you are thinking about. Try to focus on “first things first.” I know you can do it! If you fail, just get back on the horse and try again!

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