Standing in line with my soon to be kindergartner, I balanced the giant construction paper pad, her teacher just had to have and the backpack full of Kleenex boxes, markers, pencils and crayons, all while attempting to make small talk with the other parents in her new class.  After finally making it to the front of the line, finding her desk and dropping her supplies off, I started filling out forms: reference cards, get to know you cards and oh no, there it is-the volunteer form.

It’s not that I don’t enjoy being with my kids in school, or that I don’t see the need for helping out their teachers or the benefit in volunteering, in general.  It’s more that I am only one person and I have a finite amount of time and energy.

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In the book, How Will You Measure Your Life by by Clayton M. Christensen, James Allworth andKaren Dillon, the authors talk about this phenomenon:

“People ask for your time and energy every day, and even if you are focused on what’s important to you, it’s still difficult to know which are the right choices…with so many people and projects wanting your time and attention, you can feel like you are not in charge of your own destiny.”

Before I sign those forms, I want to consider, how I can keep myself from cutting into my priorities.  So, I am taking a look at my rocks and pebbles and how to fit them in my jar.

 

Rocks and pebbles refer to a time management analogy.  In this analogy, someone has an assortment of rocks, smaller pebbles and sand that must fit into one jar.  In order to make everything fit into the jar, they must be put in the right order: rocks first, then pebbles, then sand.

Rocks= major responsibilities

Pebbles=tasks and activities we would like to do, but are optional

Sand=mindless activities that fill in the cracks, such as checking Facebook or watching TV.

You can watch a version of this here:

 

First, the rocks (we’ll get into the pebbles and sand in a later post).

What are the most important responsibilities you have in life and how can you determine what those are?  This may seem like an easy question, but it can take some thought to figure out.  One reason, is because we are so indoctrinated in the idea that we can do anything we want if only we try hard enough.  A very motivating, maybe depressing thought, depending on how you look at it, but the reality is that although, we can achieve a lot if we try hard and are given the right circumstances to do so, we still have a finite amount of goals we can reasonably pursue because we have a finite amount of time and energy.

Greg McKeowen, author of Essentialism, a book that looks at how to manage our time by not doing too much, argues that one of the reasons we are so overworked is simply because we take on too much, he relates:

The word priority came into the English language in the 1400s. It was singular. It meant the very first or prior thing. It stayed singular for the next five hundred years. Only in the 1900s did we pluralize the term and start talking about priorities. Illogically, we reasoned that by changing the word we could bend reality. Somehow we would now be able to have multiple “first” things.

I can only do a few things really well because I simply can not focus on more than a few things at a time, no one can.  Following the advice in Essentialism, I wrote down 2-4 of these priorities, tasks for which I was most suitable for accomplishing, they are:

 

  1.  Being there for the most important people in my life, starting with my husband and kids and continuing on to extended family members and friends in the best way I can.
  2. Learning and developing as a person (can’t really give this priority to someone else).

 

I haven’t quite figured out what I’m going to sign up for this year, but I do know that it will not be something that cuts into my priorities.   In the next post, we will talk about what  else we may want to fit in, but until then I invite you to join me in answering the following question:

 

What are 2-4 priorities in your life?  These should be tasks which either would not get done if you didn’t do them or for which you feel the most well suited to take care of.

Write it down in a journal, talk it over with a friend, or leave a comment below or on Facebook.