Brick, Splash, Bucket

15 March 2023

Brick, Splash, Bucket

A metaphor for managing overload... 4 possible options... and in particular, how the impact of time spent on tasks may make a crucial difference…

The brick, the splash and the bucket. This is a metaphor about overload and various ways of dealing with that. In the beginning is a bucket. This represents your workload, which is full to the brim. You have no extra or spare capacity Then along comes another task represented here by a brick. You have no space for this If you accept the brick into your full bucket, there will inevitably be a splash to make room for the new task.

Something else will have to go. Be deprioritized, not get done. So what are your options here? Let's go back to your full bucket Your first option is to manage the brick. This could include saying no. Especially if it isn't in your job. Description. Rescheduling. Breaking the brick down into smaller chunks, which might minimize the splash. Delegating the brick to someone else.

Raising the problem with your line manager. Option two is to accept the brick which in turn means managing the splash. Options here include rescheduling some of the work that is already in the bucket delegating some of the tasks in the bucket to someone else, deciding what has to get left on the desk at home time. Asking your manager to help you decide Option three and one, which is very common, is to simply build a bigger bucket.

This happens when you can't or won't say no, but are also so conscientious that you don't want to let anything go that is already in your bucket. So you simply inform me. Increase your capacity by, for example, working longer hours, working through lunch, taking work home, and there's a fourth option, one which is often ignored, and that is to check whether your bucket is actually as full as you think it is.

This is to do with personal efficiency. For example, you may be working an eight hour day a full bucket, but do you really need to spend 8 hours? Any of the following possible ways of spending that time spending time in meetings that don't achieve anything? Spending an hour in a meeting that only needed 20 minutes, writing four or five drafts of a document that only needed or should have taken one draft.

Spending too much time socializing rather than getting on with the task Any of these, if improved, would not reduce the workload in terms of number of tasks to be done, but might reduce how much time you need to give to some of those tasks. And if you can do that and be more time efficient, then your bucket may be less full than it is now.

And so you might have the additional capacity to take on that break without creating a splash.

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