Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Breaking the Bundle One Stick at a Time


My Dad loved quotes, and one of the great ones he used to repeat was "break the bundle one stick at a time".

It is a great quote, but it's not really in my nature to break the bundle one stick at a time. I'm kind of an attack until it is finished kind of person. I generally hate lingering/unfinished business hanging over my head. I want to be done with it and move onto the next thing. This sometimes leads me to "beat a dead horse" (to incorporate another great saying) for the sake of completion.

But since I have had Jack, I have come to (have had to) appreciate the value of incrementality, of doing things in small bits. When you have a newborn child, you generally can't always finish what you start, in a linear sequence. This applies to projects both large and small. For instance, it took me three days to complete a simple apple crisp recipe this week...Day 1: peeled and chopped the apples, Day 2: did nothing, Day 3: made the crispy topping and finally, baked!  Perhaps there is a market opportunity in extreme slow food for moms? But I digress...

It can be very frustrating at times when simple things (e.g. showering) become elevated to the level of projects and when our lives seem to be in a constant state of interruption (e.g. applying lotion to one's body has now become a project in and of itself and cannot, often, be completed directly after shower project). But on the flip side, there is value.

Forced interruption can be a good thing: it can remind us to give whatever we are doing a little breathing room. Sometimes things - especially things which require thought - turn out much better if you can put them down for a few hours, or sometimes a few days. Sometimes projects need a little breathing room. Other times, they are so large that you can't possibly figure them out all at once. You need to tackle one part first and see how it plays out, before you can figure out your next move.

Here's too chipping away at things in bits, one stick at a time, and living a more incremental and, perhaps, thoughtful life. Apple crisp is always worth waiting for.

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