The Big Rocks: How to Prioritize Your Life and Time

9 June 2014 · 9 comments

You lead a busy life. There never seems to be enough time to do the things you really want to do, the things that make you happy. You’re too preoccupied with work, errands, and other demands placed upon you by the outside world.

In Work Less, Live More, Bob Clyatt argues that you can make time for the important stuff. The secret, he says, is to prioritize, and he offers an analogy. (I’ve learned recently that this idea may have originated with Stephen R. Covey in his book First Things First.) Here’s how it works:

Imagine you have a jar. You want to fill this jar with some rocks and some sand. What’s the best way to do it?

  • One way is to add the sand to the jar first and then add the rocks. If you did this, however, you’d quickly find that it’s impossible to make everything fit. With a layer of sand at the bottom of the jar, there’s no room for the rocks.
  • On the other hand, if you begin by putting the rocks in the jar, when you pour in the sand it will sift downward to fill in the gaps and the cracks between the rocks. Everything fits.

Here’s a video that demonstrates this idea in action:

This same principle applies to your personal life. You can achieve well-being by prioritizing the Big Rocks in your life. This may sound elementary, and you may be tempted to ignore this advice. Don’t. This one idea revolutionized my life. It made me happier and more productive. By focusing solely on the things that were most important to me — by making room for the Big Rocks — I was able to reclaim my life and time.

A few years ago, after first reading about this idea, I sat down and drafted a list of the things that were most important to me. I decided that my Big Rocks were fitness, friends, writing, Spanish, and travel. If these weren’t in my jar, I wasn’t happy. So, I made sure to squeeze these in before anything else. Once these rocks were in place, once these things were on my calendar, then I’d fill the remaining space with the sand — television, email, errands, and so on.

During the past year, I allowed the sand to squeeze out some of my big rocks. For instance, I stopped exercising. I used to say that “fitness is job one”. I grew complacent, though, and fell out of the habit of going to the gym. Fitness was no longer a job at all! Instead, I put more sand in my jar.

Last week, I sat down to re-examine my schedule and my priorities. I realized I wasn’t spending any time on Spanish or exercise. I immediately made changes. I returned to my Crossfit gym (which has been humbling) and I set aside time to study Spanish.

How can discover your Big Rocks? To construct your ideal schedule, you have to become clear on what your priorities are. We’ll explore a couple of ways to do that in the weeks ahead.

{ 2 trackbacks }

Top money tips: don't worry about money, be happy
21 June 2014 at 23:21
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30 June 2014 at 09:33

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