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Be satisfied with your days: put your highest priorities first

​At the end of each day, how do you typically feel? Are you:

-- happy and satisfied with how the day went, or

-- feeling unsatisfied and frustrated, wishing you had gotten a few more things done?

If you can relate to the latter, then this blog is for you. We only have 168 hours in a week. It is all too easy to fill up that time with "fluff" activities that are not our highest priorities; we choose these fluff activities because they seem more urgent, or easier, or less annoying, or less taxing, or we fear looking bad if we don't do them.

But if we fill up our schedule with fluff, there is no more space left for the truly satisfying high-priority items. And then we justify ourselves with the age-old adage of "there just isn't enough time" when really there just isn't enough prioritizing. One of my favorite lessons in prioritizing was taught to me by my college biomaterials professor, and I want to pass it on to you. This lesson probably originated from Stephen Covey (7 Habits of Highly Effective People), although I am not sure if he created it or heard it somewhere, himself. My professor had three small piles of rocks, pebbles, and sand on the table in front of him. Each object, on this desk, he said, represents something in your life. The size of each object represents how important it is to you. The rocks are the most important things in your life, the pebbles are somewhat important, and the sand is least important.

He then produced a glass jar. This is your life, he said, and you get to decide how you fill it.

Let’s say you start filling that jar with sand. It fills the jar up halfway. Then you add the pebbles. Now the jar is almost full… and there is no space for the rocks. They are too big. You can maybe cram in one or two, but that’s it. That is a bummer, because the highest priority items didn't make it into your jar of life.

If you don't feel satisfied at the end of each day, odds are that you filled your day with too much sand, not enough rocks.

Instead, start by adding the rocks first. They fill up most of the jar, with some space remaining in between them. That is where you add the pebbles. They slide and fall into the spaces between the rocks, further packing the jar. There are still tiny pockets of space between the pebbles, and so that is where you add the sand.

In the end, you have a jar that is mostly rocks, a bunch of pebbles, and a little sand. Which is exactly how it should be.

You have to first make space for the most important things in life. Then if there is space remaining, add the rest.

Far too often, we start by adding the easy stuff— the emails, the errands, making something perfect when it is already "good enough”—which actually aren’t very important to us. So take an inventory:

  1. What are the rocks in your life?

  2. Where are you putting them first? Where aren't you?

  3. What sand and pebbles are you spending too much time on?

Once you have the answer to these three simple questions, I challenge you to pick ONE thing you can do TOMORROW to spend more time on your rocks, and less time on your sand.

What will it be? Write a note and share!


Image courtesy of Ashwini Ramanisankar

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