Chris Croft's Personal Blog

February 20, 2010

Wrinkly Apples

Filed under: Happiness, Time Management — chriscroft @ 1:28 pm

Thanks to the people at Watermeadow for making me think of this during a really fun training day.

I heard recently on radio 4 (so it must be true) that we throw away 50% of all the apples we buy. What a waste! How can that possibly happen? Well, I think I know…

In our kitchen we have a fruit-bowl with apples in it (and also bananas which I gather you should never have in the same bowl, they make the other things go off, but anyway…)

Often a new bag is bought, but there are still a few wrinkly ones left from before. Being the selfish person that I am, I usually take one out of the new bag, and since everyone else in the family (except my wife) does the same, the wrinkly ones eventually go off. But at least I am eating nice crunchy apples…

The other option, especially if I had a conscience, would be to eat the wrinkly ones first, at a rate of one or two a day, but by the time I get to the new bag THEY will have started to get old. I’ll be doomed to never eat a crunchy apple again.

What is the meaning of all this?

Well, I think the jobs queueing up for your attention are the same as my apples. They arrive all fresh, and ideally you would do them straight away while there is no time pressure. But if you do that then other jobs will become overdue and there will be trouble.

So you have to do them in order, and every job is done (eaten) just before its deadline (wrinkly, nearly going off) and you never get ahead, you can never seem to do a job well in advance (eating it while still crunchy).

One solution would be to not buy any apples until all the old ones have been eaten. But restricting the work arriving onto your desk / in-box is not possible.

The only other option is to have a work binge (or get help for a short while) and clear the backlog so that you have no apples in the bowl and you can eat any newcomers as soon as they arrive. You only have to do this once, and then you can stay ahead by working at the same rate as you always did, just without the queue of jobs becoming more and more urgent.

You then have to have the self-discipline to resist slowing down because you know you can – you have the potential safety net of a buffer of queued work that you can allow to build up – you don’t HAVE to do the jobs right now. Remember that the cost of procrastination is that once a queue has built up every job will be almost overdue when you do it. Much better that every job is done as soon as it arrives, and then every job is done with no stress, and done to its proper level of quality.

Be a Do It Now person!

May every apple you eat be crunchy!

Onwards and upwards




  1. Morning Chris,

    Love the apple Analagy. It doesnt work for HOLIDAYS and other absences though, because the apples keep arriving even when you are away, so you end up with a big heap of half-way-to-wrinkly on your return.

    there are several suggestions I’d make ….

    1. empty the larder before you go – really this is the affirmation of the be a do it now person – my time managemnt involves having a day clear in my diary before any holiday, so I can review what is outstanding, deal with the urgent stuff (quite often you can use a holiday productively by tasking others to do something while you are away, and review it when you get back). so when you leave, there are no apples that are close to going wrinklie.

    2. expect a pile of apples when you get back – again time managment is to keep the first day back clear to deal with those. some will require action by the end of that day, but some can safely be responded to over the following few days.

    3. let people know that the apples will not be eaten while you are away. OK the analagy is breaking down a bit here, but what I mean is use auto reply on email and a voicemail message so folks know you won’t be back till ddmmyy

    4. arrange for a friend or neighbour to deal with the apples while you are away – in a work scenario, this means authorising and enabling others to act while you are away, This could be a fellow manager or someone else.

    Dealing with them could be

    * putting them in the fridge (if its a low priority job that is outside their expertise – in the old days an acknowledgement or holding letter) or

    * eating the apples themselves (if it is an urgent job that is within their expertise) or

    * giving it to someone else to eat (if it is a high priority job that is outside their expertise)

    your friend / neighbour would have to be given permission to come into your home to do this, be told what to do with the apples, and of course be given a key / code to the alarm system, etc., In work terms this equates to developing staff so they have the necessary expertise, AND they have to have the resources themselves, both time and, eg. proxy access to your voicemail / email account, files etc. and your records being sufficiently full for others to be able to understand them. They may need to be briefed on some jobs so they know what to expect and how to deal with it (the Egremont Russetts will be arriving this week, put them in the bottom of the fridge in the bag marked my favourites”.

    Uplanned absences – sick leave, compassionate leave, etc are more difficult – you cant do 1, 2 and 3 above because you are not able to plan it. Really you are reliant on 4, with colleages being able to recognise the need to become involved, have capacity to do so, and shoulder the responsibility. Important back up would be able to get to emails, phone messages and any locked filing cabinets – this probably involves your own manager having an envelop with copies of keys and passwords, or proxy access having been granted in advance. this then leads towards your business recovery plan.

    there, done it now. what should I have been doing?


    Comment by chriscroft — February 20, 2010 @ 1:29 pm

  2. Hi Chris, thanks for a great tip.

    I’m confused as I regularly stick all my wrinkly apples ( and pears ) in a crumble. How does this relate to my working day?

    My guess is that I just throw everything together, disguise the stuff on top and hope what comes out is edible!

    Any thoughts?

    CC replies:

    … or maybe that’s the equivalent of delegating them at the last minute to someone who won’t do them as well as you would have!

    though in fact crumbles are great, so maybe the delegated stuff in fact gets done better than it would have been by you!


    Comment by chriscroft — February 20, 2010 @ 1:30 pm

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