One way I explain to my children why I just can’t listen properly to what they are trying to tell me –
– and I mean about Pokemon or Beast Quest not life threatening emergencies!
is to explain that my head and heart are already full and anything else poured in is just going to pour over the top and make a mess!
It seems to be a helpful image for everyone concerned.
The question I have recently been asking myself is what is hanging around in the jug to make it so full?
Often it is quite reasonably the actual task / conversation I am having already involved in. Here the lesson is quite simply about interrupting; pausing before launching to check if I am clearly otherwise engaged.
But sometimes my fullness is less obvious to them, and in fact to me. I am basically interrupting myself all the time – wantonly adding more to the already full – oblivious to the growing puddle around me. While this self-inflicted mess seems to be acceptable for a while, the slightest drop any one else tries to add in is totally intolerable and is given short shrift.
And so I have decided to get better at either emptying my jars as I go along, or screwing on a lid and leaving it elsewhere. It is a similar concept to my brain receptionist from a while ago, but it seems to be sitting within a more practical reach for me to access helpfully.
To give some examples..
As I drove back from a meeting yesterday evening I prayed about the things mentioned, mentally noted the three things I would type up and then turned the jar upside down.
Today when the All or Nothing wanted to play with me, I screwed the lid on the jar I had been filling, and got out a new one to enjoy filling with him.
I have one jar at the moment which is quite exciting and pressing and unknown and has a tendency to keep on dripping all the time – in other words it presses in on my consciousness regularly. So here I need to be really careful that I don’t let it drip into whatever I am meant to be concentrating on! Otherwise, before I know it drips from all sorts of places are all filling the same container and I suddenly have a bath tub full of water and just need to let the plug out!
No idea if this makes sense to anyone else, but the drips thing seems to have stuck in my imagination.
Another helpful image has been the 20% / 80% one. Which states that we generally get 80% of a job done in the first 20% of the time we give it. To get the last 20% takes a really disproportionate amount of time. So we need to be really choosy in what we decide to take beyond 80% in a day. We need to identify the tasks that we are really happy to just get to 80% on and then totally turn off all drips from that source. It is not an unfinished task, incomplete, failed or inadequate – it is just not a 100% task. It can have a clear tick next to it despite ‘only’ being 80% because that is all it needed to be. In the course of the day you might even have to downgrade tasks to 70% because as you weigh things up that is all it is going to get / all they need as compared to something else that has cropped up. The thing is that those tasks are just as much done as the odd 100% task we achieve.
It seems so simple – possibly even lazy – to stop at 80%! But actually, keeping on doing something can sometimes just be the easier option. Having the discipline to stop and shifting myself to do the next thing well and with full attention takes more effort.
Lord, please help me to be better at giving the tasks, and more importantly the people around me my full attention for the right amount of time and to leave what I don’t get to, haven’t managed or just have to abandon in your hands. Help me to discern where that final 20%, that extra work / time is valuable and a good investment and where it is just pride or inertia. That you Lord, Amen.