How Much Sand is there in Your Life?

By Nilooka Dissanayake

Today I intend to explore role of sand in our business and personal lives.

Let me explain. At the beginning of my personal excellence seminars, I take a large plastic bottle and fill it with a few tennis ball size plastic balls. Is it full now? I ask. No. There is still space in between the balls. Then I take a bag of marbles and empty it into the bottle. They take up the space between the plastic balls. Full now? The audience agrees that you can put something more. Then I take a few cupfuls of sand and pour it in. The sand filters down through the gaps between balls and marbles. Later I put in water and add other things to it. But that is not relevant here.

In the explanation, I liken the bottle to our lifetime. The six or seven plastic balls that fit in are priorities in our lives. Spouse, kids, parents, job, studies, leisure, learning and so on. All of us have room for only so many priorities. The marbles are the second level goals and aspirations. New furniture, a better car, bigger refrigerator, better job, seeing the latest movie and so on. By this time the audience picks up on the idea.

What does the sand stand for? That is the next question. After they try for a few minutes, I give the reply myself. The sand stands for SAND. The sand that we fill our lives with from morning till night, every moment we are awake.

Think of it. How many things do you do each day that do not relate to your priorities or the second level goals?

In a rural setting, I have come across village women who do not take time to milk their cows, even though they do not have money to buy milk for their young children. The kids go to school after bread and plain tea. When asked what they spend their time on, instead of spending 20 minutes to milk a cow, they have no answer. Then there was the bank officer who complained that she did not have time to talk to her husband. They were both too busy! It is the same about helping kids with homework. Many mothers complain they cannot find the time. When asked what they do, the inevitable answer is that they watch television. Tele dramas, of course. Need I mention that?

This is the sort of thing I call sand. Think of your typical day. How much sand do you have in your day? And how much time do you spend on priority areas?

Now imagine the plastic bottle again. First we fill it with sand, the same amount that fitted in the bottle earlier. Then we put in the same number of marbles. Will we have room to fit in the plastic balls? No. Only one or two may be, not the earlier number, for sure.

Think of this. How can you reduce the sand in your life so that you can spend more time on priorities? We will discuss this topic again next week.

 Originally Published in the Business@Home column in Sunday Times (2005 September)

About Nilooka

I am a learner; and also a great trainer. I make learning fun for myself and for everyone else. Follow me @NVEDissanayake and visit my Facebook Page:
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