Comms is getting busier. Much busier. Pretty much any comms person you care to ask will confirm this. There are several ways of managing this increasing demand. But here’s a really novel way…

By Mike James

Are you busy?  So am I.  It’s taken me ages to get around to writing this, for example.

That’s exactly why I want to share a recipe.  I can’t guarantee it’s a recipe for success.  I hope it’s not a recipe for disaster.  It won’t win me the Great British Bake Off – but perhaps you could call it my signature dish.


·         Two empty pint glasses

·         12 table tennis balls, split into two batches of 6

·         1kg of Hama beads*, split into two batches of 500g

·         An audience of work colleagues

*Hama beads are small plastic things you make pictures with, and then iron over the top to fuse the beads together.  They’re also often used by small children as a torture device, to be left lying around the floor to puncture the feet of adults walking sleepily to the kitchen in the morning to make coffee.

Place the two empty pint glasses on the table in front of you.  The space in these glasses represents the working week.  They’re both empty – but we’re about to fill them with things to do.

The Hama beads are all the small things that we all need to do every week.  The hundreds – thousands, it seems – of emails that need attention, the day-to-day tasks to keep our comms service going.

The table tennis balls are the Big Things To Do.  The things we really need to deliver to make a difference and to support our organisations to do what they need to do.  This could be a campaign, an event, a project that supports a strategic goal.

Mixing for success

Let’s try two different things…

In the first pint glass we’re going to pour in 500g of Hama beads first.  This makes us feel better.  We’ve started our week clearing all those pesky emails and sorting out lots of little jobs.  Now we’re free to concentrate on The Big Things To Do.  500g of Hama beads fills up our pint glass by about two-thirds.  If the space in a glass is a full week, then that’s the equivalent of filling up our time to around mid-morning on a Thursday.  Great.  We’ve got a day and half to crack on with Big Things To Do.

Or maybe not so great as it turns out.  We’ve still got 6 table tennis balls to fit in yet.  Try it: put them in.  Do they fit?  Do they heck.  The top two have just fallen out of the glass and are now bouncing across the room in the annoying way that only table tennis balls can do.

Looks like you’re working a bit longer this week, in order to fit the Hama beads and the table tennis balls in the same glass.

But there is another way.  Let’s start the week differently…

In the second pint glass, we’re going to put the table tennis balls in first.  If you’re really brave, take a step back and throw them in with a flourish.  This is totally unnecessary, but adds an element of panache if you’re doing this in front of an audience.  They fit in easily.  Of course they do: there’s nothing else in the glass at the moment.

That’s the Big Things To Do sorted.  We’ve done them first.  But the balls take up loads of space.  And we’ve still got 500g of Hama beads left to fit in.  Get pouring.  Go on: pour them all in, all at once. 

Here’s the amazing thing: the Hama beads all fit.  They don’t spill out over the top.  They squeeze themselves between the cracks.  They fill up the un-used space between the Big Things To Do.  You’ve done it – you’ve fitted everything into your working week.

In pint glass number 2 you’ve managed to fit in 6 table tennis balls and 500g of Hama beads.  In pint glass number 1 there’s no chance.

That’s my point.  Worry about the Big Things To Do first.  The other stuff…?  It’ll fit around the edges.  And at the end of the week there’s a strong chance you’ll actually have achieved more.

Hama beads and table tennis balls are available for all good toy shops.  Or you can borrow them from a small child, if you promise to bring them back.

Mike James is Communications and Marketing Manager at Selby District Council

image via Tyne and Wear Archives and Museums

Original source – comms2point0 free online resource for creative comms people – comms2point0

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