Coffee, Phone, Ball – Which would you try catch if they were falling?

A quick thought experiment on prioritisation. Imagine you are standing by a table and someone knocks the table and…

…three things start to fall:

  1. A Cup of Coffee
  2. An expensive Mobile Phone
  3.  A Stress Ball

Which do you go for? Do you go for all three? None?

  • The Coffee is urgent, it will be the messiest and you also have the least chance of catching it. If it spills everywhere, it will need to be cleaned up.
  • The Phone is the most important, it is expensive to replace, it is catchable, but no guarantees. There is a consequence, as it’s falling maybe we are already thinking of who or what to blame.
  • The Ball is least urgent, it is also the easiest, almost guaranteed to catch it. The highest chance of success. It is comfortable.
  • Going for all three is foolish and likely to result in all three falling, still we try multitask.
  • Under stress, we can freeze, panic, do nothing. A failed attempt at any, is likely to be better than nothing. It is easy in retrospect to look at missed opportunities, rather than successes.

Which do you go for? 

Of course, what if I gave you some more information.

  • The Coffee has a sealed and secure lid. It is unlikely to break or spill.
  • The Phone has a protective case on, is backed up and insured.
  • The room is full of fragile and valuable works of art that the Ball could bounce and knock over.

The extra information is unfair, the picture above is different (perspective) and there was no time when all three items where falling to look for more information, action was needed. But we seldom have all the information we need.

Which do you go for? 

The lessons:

  1. Preparation is important:
    1. Know what is important and focus on that.
    2. Prevent bad things happening to important activities.
  2. Get more information where time allows, where it doesn’t, trust in your preparation.
  3. Focus on one thing at a time for success, then make sure you action.

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