Barnacles slow us down. Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/hkuchera/

Ship Shape

by Jim on March 7, 2011

Originally published in May 2008 as a Goals Gone Wild newsletter.

We’re finally heading into Memorial Day weekend. Spring has been cold, windy and rainy here on Cape Cod, but it looks like the proverbial tide is finally turning. Businesses are re-opening for the tourists and boat owners are prepping their boats for another season on the water.

One of the off-season tasks for boat owners is scraping, cleaning and painting the hull to keep it free from barnacles. Barnacles are tiny arthropods that stick to rocks, whales and boats. Not too big a problem for the rocks and whales, but it is a big problem for boats. Over time the accretion of barnacles can decrease the efficiency of the boat moving through water. Basically, they slow your boat down, as much as 40 percent if there’s a large enough colony. That is, quite literally, a drag.

So what does that have to do with your personal success efforts, you might ask?

Well, as it turns out, our hulls can collect barnacles too (metaphorically speaking). For me, they show up on my To-Do list. They’re the tasks that never get done, but keep getting carried over (and over and over). They drag me down emotionally and mentally. It’s hard to feel a sense of accomplishment when every week you see the same tasks lining up against you.

Are they particularly difficult? Nope, they often just have that “low priority” feel that the tasks with deadlines always push aside. My barnacles are the household chores that I don’t really enjoy or look too difficult. They do require a fair amount of time, and that’s the one thing there is never enough of. So what to do?

Ignoring them isn’t helping me sleep at night. Seeing them on the list is driving me batty. Looks like its time to take the list into dry-dock and break out the scrapers.

What I suggest doing is frequent list examination. Are you carrying over too many barnacles? Ask yourself why. If they’re on the list week-after-week what’s really going on?

  1. Low Priority – maybe the item needs to be dealt with but they aren’t mission critical. Well, turn up the heat! My wife discovered that planning parties at our home makes me get off my duff and do some of these things. (She’s so clever). I don’t like to see the “deferred maintenance” tasks that need doing, but over time I block out the visual evidence. By giving me a deadline (the party), they become priority items. Well played, honey.
  2. Low Interest – Sure, something needs to be done, but you really don’t care about it. Time to get tough with yourself and find the discipline to deal with it. Try tying it to a particularly nice reward. Cleaned out the garage? You get to see Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skulls (Hey, I’m a nerd, it was a treat).
  3. Looks Too Difficult – If a task has been sitting there staring at you from the dark with glowing red eyes turn on the lights by inviting a few friends over or calling in an expert. I try to balance the value of my time doing the project vs. paying an expert. Often with the home repair issues there’s higher value in hiring an expert while I continue to produce billable hours at my job. Friends only cost me pizza, beer and karma points. I’ll be there when they need a hand. True story.

On the water, the best defense against barnacles is a clean hull, freshly painted with a copper based paint. On our lists, the best defense is a proactive strategy for ridding ourselves of the little things that drag us down.

Barnacles are a drag. Who needs that? We’re trying to live awesome, THRIVE!-tastic lives, right? Try clearing a few barnacles from your list this week and I bet you’ll find the world a brighter, sunnier place.

I’m off to scrape some barnacles from my list. What kind of pizza and beer do you want?

Quotes of the Week

“Never put off until tomorrow what you can do the day after tomorrow.”
Mark Twain

“Do something every day that you don’t want to do; this is the golden rule for acquiring the habit of doing your duty without pain.”
Mark Twain

photo credit hkuchera

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