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I hear from friends all the time, “I have no time!”, “My to-do list is too long!”, “Why can’t I ever get everything done?”

Time is a precious commodity, as we only have so much and we have no idea how much we have. It amazes me how people give it away so freely. There are several tricks that can help you get your time management under control, but one of the best tips comes in the form of a story. I’ve seen this story attributed to various sources, so I won’t attempt to even try. You’ve probably seen this already, but if you haven’t here’s the story:

The teacher stood in front of his students and put a large, wide-mouthed jar on a table in front of him. He produced about a dozen fist-sized rocks and carefully placed them, one at a time, into the jar.

When the jar was filled to the top and no more rocks would fit inside, he asked, “Is the jar full?” Everyone in the class said, “Yes.” Then he asked, “Really?” He reached under the table and pulled out a bucket of gravel. Then he dumped the gravel in and shook the jar causing pieces of gravel to work themselves down into the spaces between the big rocks.

He asked the group once more, “Is the jar full?” By this time, the class was on to him. “Probably not,” one of them answered. “Good!” he replied. And he reached under the table and brought out a bucket of sand. He started dumping the sand in, and it went into all the spaces left between the rocks and the gravel. Once more he asked the question, “Is this jar full?”

“No!” the class shouted. Once again he said, “Good!” Then he grabbed a pitcher of water and began to pour it in until the jar was filled to the brim. Then he looked up at the class and asked, “What is the point of this demonstration?”

One student raised his hand and said, “The point is, no matter how full your life is,  you can always fit in some more!”

“No!” the speaker replied. “That is not the point. The lesson is: If you don’t put the big rocks in first, you’ll never get them in at all.”

What are your big rocks? Time with family? Quiet time for yourself? A special project? A cause? Focus on your big rocks first. If it’s truly important, don’t worry, the gravel will transform into big rock all by itself when it needs to. Remember, there is a difference between “busy” and “productive”.

Be sure to prioritize your big rocks, then rest and rebalance. Otherwise, there is always way more gravel than rocks.

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