“Peel one potato at a time.” That’s what my grandfather used to tell me. It’s some of the best advice I’ve ever received, or at least the advice I reference most often.

As Grandpa used to tell the story, he signed up for the Navy at the start of the Second World War. He had just graduated college and should have gone in as a commissioned officer, however when he told the recruiter that he was an engineer, he thought he meant that he drove a train. This misunderstanding was eventually cleared up, but not before Grandpa spent some time in a galley peeling potatoes. He said that every time he looked at the pile he felt depressed, hopeless and trapped. So he stopped looking at the pile and focused on the potato in his hand.

When peeling potatoes, you can only effectively peel one at a time. No matter how big the pile is, you still have to peel them one at time.

My life often feels like a giant pile of potatoes. As soon as I get a few peeled, someone dumps another load on the pile. My list of things to get done never actually gets any smaller, at least not for long.

As I see it there are only a few options for peeling a mountain of potatoes.

  1. Peel them yourself by hand
  2. Get someone else to peel them
  3. Find a better tool for peeling
  4. Leave the skin on

When managing a business the “potatoes” never stop piling up. The demands on your time can be absolutely overwhelming and if you’re going to be successful, you have to get it all done, right?

The same options apply.

  1. Peel them yourself by hand – Sometimes you have no choice but to tackle each task yourself, one at a time. If you focus on the pile, you can quickly lose hope or go crazy! Look at the potato in your hand and just finish that one. Then pick up another.
  2. Get someone else to peel them – As your company grows, you can afford to hire people to carry some of the load. Many hands will make the work lighter. You still shouldn’t focus on the pile….
  3. Find a better tool for peeling – I once saw a video of guy pealing a 5lb bag of potatoes in 90 seconds using a bucket of water, a power drill and a toilet brush. There are tools that can make you more effective and efficient and getting the job done. Use them!
  4. Leave the skin on – At the end of the day, sometimes you have to leave the skin on, at least for now. Put down the peeler and go to bed. You’ll need your sleep to tackle the pile tomorrow.
When the demands of work, family and life are mounting, focus on the task at hand and don’t look at the pile.
Just peel one potato at a time!
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Janitorial Manager – Software for the cleaning industry