I was raised near the beach in Southern California and I’m a city-slicker, through and through. I married a country girl from a tiny town in Idaho. I remember her saying that someday I would be really glad that I married a farm girl, and frankly, I’ve been more than glad every day for the past 43 years.
Her father was a real, raised-during-the-depression farmer. I was riding in his old pick-up truck with him one day when he screeched to a stop, got out of the cab, and picked up something from the middle of the road. As he got back in the truck he threw an old, filthy, mangled right-hand glove onto my lap. I asked what he was going to do with only one glove, to which he replied, “You never know when you just might find a left hand one.” I watched this honest man work hard his whole life, but his days went something like the following story I heard.
It seems that a farmer set out to plow the south forty acres one spring morning. He started out early to oil the tractor and found he needed more oil so he headed to the barn to get some. On the way to the barn, he noticed that the pigs had not been fed, so he went to the corn bin, where he saw some sacks. That reminded him that the potatoes were sprouting, so he started for the potato pit. As he passed the woodpile, he remembered that his wife wanted some wood for the house. While he was picking up sticks, he spotted a chicken that was ailing, so he dropped the wood and went to its rescue. When the evening arrived, the tractor was still in the barn and the south forty still unplowed. The poor old farmer had worked hard all day, but hadn’t accomplished the main thing that he had started out to do that day.
Planning and organizing your activities is a prerequisite for getting things done. Let’s just admit that there are always more things to do than we have time to do them. Popular business expert Steven Covey was famous for saying, “The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.” That’s huge, and is much more profound than it at first sounds. More hours in a day, or more days in a week won’t solve the farmer’s dilemma. It’s really not a matter of time; it’s a matter of priorities and planning. If we don’t keep with the main thing, then secondary and tertiary matters always occur that can sabotage our primary goal.
Only you can decide what’s really important to you, what you have to get done today, what your main thing is. The Pareto Principle says that only about 20 percent of what you want to do each day is really important. You may have to forego lesser matters in favor of your main things or you will be busy all day and never get your south forty plowed. What’s your south forty: exercise, losing weight, eating healthy, finishing that work project, making it to your child’s game or parent-teacher conference? I think when we accomplish what we set out to do, we experience satisfaction and can live each day with no regrets.
One of the great military leaders of all time, General George S. Patton, said, “A good plan today is better than a perfect plan tomorrow.” In other words, plan your work and work your plan daily. Remember, the main thing is to keep YOUR main thing the main thing.
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