Image of an overflowing bowl

Don’t fill the bowl

November 1, 2018  ●  1-minute read

When I “fill the bowl”, life is too jam-packed. Everything in the bowl competes for space. When the unexpected happens, the important things suffer. The solution? Don’t fill the bowl.

Most mornings, I eat eggs with lentils, bruschetta, and hot sauce. This morning was no different, but all our cereal-size bowls were dirty. I grabbed a smaller desert bowl and heaped in the same contents.

It didn’t work very well. The bowl was full, so it was near impossible to mix the ingredients, or eat them, without spilling.

When the bowl is full

The full bowl and the near-miss mess reminded me of my life management in years past. Being a type-A tweaker, I’m often tempted to cram in as much as I can. My default thinking is that it will make me more productive. I’ll be able to get more done in the same amount of time or with the same amount of effort.

But it never works out that way. Whatever I crammed into the life bowl in the past had to compete for space with everything else. Nothing was at the level it could have been. Or worse (and often) something would break down. My training would often suffer because I was trying to do too much alongside it.

When the bowl isn’t full

This year is different. Unlike the past, I’ve put less in my “life bowl”, allowing more space for training and a margin for the unexpected.

It’s like a margin of safety in value investing. The extra space in my bowl can absorb any unforeseen demands. The result is that my main priorities (my family and my training) are better served. They don’t have to compete for space, ever.

So far, it’s worked well. My training volume is up 60% over last year. With that bigger base, I can tolerate more high-intensity training than I’ve ever done before. With a solid base and more intensity, my race performance should improve this season.

Don’t fill the bowl

I’m not sure what I’ll pursue after skimo racing, but whatever it is, I hope I’ll remember to give it lots of space. I’ll plan on one pursuit, and I won’t “fill the bowl” with anything less important. That’ll give me the best chance of performing to the best of my ability.

Posted in: principles