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Rocks, Pebbles, Sand

In December, as I look back and reflect on my 2020 and look ahead to and plan for my 2021, I will write more about goals, planning and the process.

We can approach anything in one of three ways. 

First, we can start with a goal. This is where we clearly visualise an end state that we wish to reach (like publishing a novel or interviewing 25 people for a podcast). Then, we work backwards and define a process for how to go about our everyday in a way that will help us reach this goal in the timeframe that we wish to do so. 

Here, the goal determines the process.

The second way is to start with a process. This is where we have clearly defined processes or deeply ingrained habits (like reading an hour every day or writing 500 words every day) as our starting point. We aren't really specific about a goal or an end state, but we are specific about how we go about our everyday. And the end state is simply an outcome of sticking to our habits.

Here, the process determines the goals.

The third way is to wing it. This is where we neither have clearly defined goals nor clearly defined habits / processes and we take things as they come. This is the romantic idea of taking each day as it comes and leading a more spontaneous life and treating it simply as an interesting journey that we are a passenger on. 

Here, we are less the driver and more the being driven.

I like to use a combination of the three. 

A popular prioritization technique is to identify tasks of three kinds - the big rocks that are difficult and time consuming to address but are also very impactful, the smaller pebbles that are easier to do and have relatively lesser impact, and finally grains of sand that are easy to do. And the constraint of time is represented by a glass jar.

If we pour in the sand first and the pebbles next, there is hardly any space for the big rocks. But if we start with the big rocks, we can always find more space for the pebbles and the sand as there will be cracks between the big rocks where these can fit in.

I treat the first approach as the big rocks. I take a 'goal determines the process' approach for some big things (5-8 goals each year). And I treat the second approach as the pebbles. And finally, treat the third approach as the sand.

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