Many years ago, I was walking in downtown Tamale when I chanced upon a sign on a popular grocery store. The sign read “closed next week for inventory”. It was the first time I had encountered that word and I thought it meant they would be having a spectacular event necessitating the temporal closure. Upon further inquiry, I learnt what inventory meant and I could not fathom why such a busy place would risk making profit to close the store. What will happen to all the people who shop there? What are they supposed to do while this place is off for a week? I was convinced that somehow, they could keep the store open and still proceed with the inventory process simultaneously. Although I had come to understand the importance of inventory and the essence of not being distracted during this time, I was not yet convinced that it would be profitable to do it in isolation.
As advertised, they did close down for about a week for inventory. Certainly, there were no customers that week because it was closed to the public, however, behind those closed gates, was the embankment of a very strategic and integral part of the business plan that needed to be conducted with little or no distraction. Selected members of staff were on duty with the sole purpose of undertaking a rather painstaking and boring process to chart supply vs demand and profit vs loss. Though unpleasant, the information gleaned from this process could change the trajectory of the company for the coming year. It would determine what products to discontinue selling, price and quantity adjustments, and whether to introduce new products. Without that, the company would have no real focus and could easily go bankrupt. When the company re-opened, it had re-structured a few things and customers flocked back to them like they never closed. If the business was worried about customers alone, they would never have closed; they had to project into the future to ensure they remained relevant for many years.
About 11 years after that experience, I found myself working at a Hecht’s store (now Macy’s) in Maryland. It was around the summer time and my manager announced we would be taking inventory. Oh boy, I muttered under my breath, here we go again. I already knew what this meant and I was not amused with the laboriousness involved. The store did not close down but they hired temporary workers who worked in conjunction with full time employees to gather the needed data.
Stores are not the only places where inventory should be taken. It’s needful to extend this principle to our personal lives as well. While this can be done on a monthly or quarterly basis, the end of the year is another great opportunity to take stock of our lives. Are we charting the path we are supposed to? Do we need to forge new friendships and/or forgo existing relationships? Is it time to de-clutter our closet and get rid of things we have no use for but someone else could benefit from? Can we forgive someone or ourselves so we can expend our energy on more productive things? Are we making time for the things that are important to us? Have we spread ourselves so thin to the point that we are exhausted and ineffective at everything we do? Is it time to take a leap of faith and further our education or begin a social project? These are but a few of the pertinent questions we can ask ourselves.
The current pace of life is a fast one with many distractions and it’s easy to loose focus without even noticing it. By taking a minute to pause and reflect, we can renew our energy, re-strategize and be more efficient in all we do. We don’t have forever and one day, our time on earth will come to an end. One of my goals in the coming year is to rest/relax my mind and de-clutter ever so often. I have resolved to “travel light” through life. It’s no surprise that airlines typically charge for excess luggage. By so doing, they are simply stating that if you choose to bring on board more than you ought to, we will carry it for you but you will pay a heavy price for it as many times as you have excess luggage and for as many times as you check in that same excess baggage. For us humans, stress, sickness, resentment are but a few of the “fees” we pay for the unwanted excesses we carry.
In this coming year, will you join me to “travel light”?