The cornerstone of any effective time management system is knowing what’s important to you and planning your life around what you value most. There are 3 paradigms that guide my own philosophy on time management and that I personally use.
One that I particularly like is a concept I picked up while in grad school – Freud’s “Love and Work” model. Freud found that happiness comes from fulfillment in your work (what you create in the world) and love relationships (romantic, family, friendships and otherwise). It’s a nice shortcut to get clear on what’s important.
Another paradigm that I find particularly compelling and that I teach to my students in Time Management Bootcamp is Stephen Covey’s classic Urgent/Important Matrix from 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. The sweet spot in the matrix of course is quadrant II, the Important/Non Urgent zone where our higher order goals and values are.
The third model that I teach my students is the Rocks, Pebbles, Sand story. I’ve included the story here in its entirety.
A professor stood before his class with some items on the table in front of him. When the class began, he picked up a very large and empty jar and proceeded to fill it with rocks.
He then asked the students if the jar was full. They agreed that it was.
So the professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured them into the jar. He shook the jar lightly. The pebbles, of course, rolled into the open areas between the rocks.
He then asked the students again if the jar was full. They agreed it was.
The professor picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. Of course, the sand filled up everything else.
He then asked once more if the jar was full. The students responded with a unanimous “Yes.”
“Now,” said the professor, “I want you to recognize that this jar represents your life.
The rocks are the important things – your family, your marriage, your health, your children – things that if everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full.
The pebbles are the other things that matter – like your job, your house, your car.
The sand is everything else. The small stuff.”
“If you put the sand into the jar first,” he continued “there is no room for the pebbles or the rocks. The same goes for your life.
If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff, you will never have room for the things that are important to you. Play with your children. Take your spouse out dancing. There will always be time to go to work, clean the house, give a dinner party and fix the disposal.
Take care of the rocks first – the things that really matter. Set your priorities. The rest is just sand. “
What are the quadrant II, big picture “rocks” that anchor you in your life? Are their pebbles and sand items you wish you could delegate? Leave a comment below and let us know!