For getting things done in our lives, it comes down to what we consider a priority. Those items that take precedence over other things and becomes our focus on a given day, a week or month. Are you the person who reacts to your day and doesn’t have a plan or a list of priorities? Do you look back at your week and wonder where all the time went and think I got nothing done I wanted to accomplish? This thing happens to all of us.
You’ve heard the story of the professor that took a jar into his classroom with it filled with large rocks and asked the class if it was full. The class said yes, so he fills it with pebbles then asked again if the jar was full. The class again answers yes, so he fills it once more with sand that went around the rocks and pebbles and filled in the surrounding space. When he finished, he asked again if the jar was full and the class said yes once more. The professor again shows them it wasn’t full and pours water in around the rocks, pebbles and sand to fill the jar even more. It was at this point the jar was full.
I love this illustration as it reminds me that your priorities need to be in that jar first; they are the big rocks. The pebbles are other things of importance and they go in around those big rocks. The sand and water is all those things you can get caught up in on any day to fill up your time.
Is your focus each day on the sand and water items because you wake up reacting to the day rather than have a plan to accomplish those bigger items? Are there things in your life you want to accomplish this year and the month of January went by and you got none of those items going due to the sand and water in your days?
For many people they set resolutions at the beginning of the year. They want to lose weight; they want to write a book; they want to open a business, increase sales in a current business, they want to get out of debt and so on. After two weeks in the new year most people have dropped those resolutions and went back to reacting to life.
To lose the weight, write that book, get out of debt or start a business you have to have a priority on the items that will help you accomplish those tasks. With any dream or goal you have to start with the plan but once you have a plan, you have to schedule those priorities to make that plan work.
How does one go about making these goals a priority and scheduling the time needed to make them happen? Here are a few tips to help you with that.
1. Calendar – You need to have a calendar, whether on your phone or a paper version you can plan out your week and day. When you take the time to plan out the days ahead, you can make these goals a priority in your week.
2. Schedule – You need to schedule the priorities into your week and day. If you need an hour to go to the gym, then pick a time and how many days a week you wish to put it in our calendar as if it was a doctor’s appointment. If you are writing a book, then pick a set time to spend thirty minutes to several hours writing to make that book happen. The point of the schedule is you do not break the appointment you set in the calendar for these items.
3. Challenges – No matter who you are there will be challenges that occur that will interfere with your schedule. You need to have a plan of how to change your schedule to get back the hour you needed for writing or going to the gym. It happens to us all and rather than stressing over it, just go with it and show yourself some grace on those moments. People get sick, the gym floods, the computer doesn’t work and so on.
4. Priority – Figure out what your priorities are for the next quarter (3 months). If you don’t know what you want to make a priority, then that might be why you are struggling. Take the time to sit down and figure out what is important to your life and what you want to accomplish. Is it spending more time with your family? Is it going for walks with the dog? You need to know what those important things are before you can schedule them in your calendar.
5. Rewards – Each quarter set up a reward for sticking to your schedule and moving forward towards whatever goal you have. If you lost weight and went to the gym every day you had scheduled, then do something fun as a reward. If you wanted to write a book, and you wrote every day, you had scheduled then reward yourself. The rewards can be things like a new book, a movie, having an overnight trip, visiting a friend, going for a hike, sitting on the beach, or buying new clothes. You get to determine the reward for the effort you put in.
6. Review – At the end of each month review the events that have taken place. Were you able to stick to the schedule you created to work on those priorities? If not, then how can you adapt your schedule so you can? There is no right or wrong way to do this, it has to work for you. Ask yourself what you need to change, what worked, what didn’t, and how can you improve from the last thirty days to make things better? Be honest with yourself as you set your goals and priorities for the next thirty days in your calendar.
7. No – When you know your priorities it allows you to say no to things with the potential to distract you from what is most important to you. Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should do it. Your priorities press you forward towards what you feel called to do. Saying no eliminates the distractions that could prevent you from accomplishing those goals. Remember when you are following your calling or purpose in life there will be situations, challenges, and resistance to prevent you from reaching that purpose or calling. Learn to say no.
Your priorities are the big rocks and if you start with the sand and water, then your jar will be full before you have time to put in the pebbles or big rocks. Start with the big rocks in your calendar. Stick to that schedule just as you would for a work deadline or a doctor’s appointment. Your priorities are important and need to be scheduled in your day-to-day life. As Stephen Covey says, “The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.”
Make a few changes and see where your life takes you at the end of three months. Are you closer to your goals? If you were trying to lose 50 pounds, and you only lost 10, you are still making progress towards that goal. That’s 10 fewer pounds you have to think about losing. Be sure to acknowledge your progress and be proud of what you are accomplishing. Small changes can make a huge difference in time.