Hole in the bucket

 

Perhaps you’ve heard an old folk song that begins, “There’s a hole in the bucket, Dear Liza, dear Liza.” Maybe you know what it is to begin to do one thing, and find you have to do something else in order to get on with the first thing, but then that second thing requires a third, and pretty soon you’re deep into a task that seems quite remote from the first thing you set out to do.

I heard a story recently, possibly apocryphal, about a young consultant hired to evaluate a business. After some time spent in study of the company, he had one recommendation for the owner: begin working on one and only one thing, and keep at it until you’re finished. The story goes that the business owner wrote him a rather large check.

Though maybe not large like this.

 

But what if your one thing is carrying water, and you have a hole in your bucket? You clearly can’t fetch water until that hole is fixed. Perhaps there’s another instant in time we could focus on–the point in time when we were using the bucket and it developed a hole. If we had fixed it then, things would have gone more smoothly for us today. Unless the hole developed between that day and this. Surely some holes develop unbeknownst, don’t they?

If “do just one thing” has champions, I’m guessing there are also advocates of the related idea that we should strive to “think about just one thing” until we’ve gotten to the end of it before going on to another. It might help us be a bit less scattered, but given the way that many of us seem to be living our mental lives these days, it’s a pretty tall order.

But we were talking about something, weren’t we? I must have lost my train of thought.

 

 

[Image: etc.usf.edu, bankrate.com]

 

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2 thoughts on “Hole in the bucket

  1. I had heard the same story of the consultant who evangelized doing one thing until complete. I tried it, but found too many tasks to have “dependencies” on other tasks, similar to the proverbial hole mentioned. I have found my ability to prioritize and shift gears if needed to be profitable. That said, I am not a proponent of “multitasking”…at least not the way it is envisioned within most small businesses. I find that passionate, intelligent focus on a task, rather than blind exclusive devotion to it, seems to be the balance that works for me. One last thought: in an interrupt-driven job, focus is power. So the simpler the calculus used to triage requests, the better.

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