Prioritizing Your Time Around Your “Big Rocks”

It’s easy for professionals – especially women and mothers juggling many hats – to lose control of their time quickly. It’s to no fault of our own; we fall into the role of constantly addressing the needs of others that our tasks get pushed to the wayside. It’s essential to learn how to prioritize your time and stay grounded by deciding what your non-negotiables are and having everything else fall around them. Your productivity will plummet if you continually react to other people’s needs.

As a career coach, I’ve talked with many women about prioritizing time and increasing productivity. I often bring it back to the “big rocks” analogy. Read on to learn more about prioritizing your time by tackling your “big rocks” first.

How to Better Prioritize Your Time?

We have all been there. You make a to-do list for your day, and by 9:30 AM, you have barely made a dent in it, yet you have been hustling all day. What gives? Odds are you have been reacting to the needs that pop up in front of you and taking care of them immediately to get them out of the way or helping someone else.

Many of these tasks are distracting and don’t help increase productivity. I agree that it can be difficult to ignore the small tasks that cross before you every day. It’s a quick win to add it to your list and check it off shortly after. It’s been proven that you get a serotonin boost when you cross an item off your list.

But, the most significant task on your list – the one that will most positively impact your life – tends to stay on the list day after day. This is when you have to ask yourself, “what is the most important thing I need to accomplish today?”

The most important thing on your list is your biggest rock. Let me explain.

What is the Big Rocks Analogy?

Imagine you have an empty jar. Carefully add four to five big rocks into the jar. These rocks are your non-negotiables – your big, life-changing goals that are naturally the most important and what you should prioritize your time around.

Then you pour some pebbles into the jar, filling the space around the rocks. The pebbles symbolize your medium-sized tasks and are less critical than your rocks.

To fill the jar, you pour in sand. The sand symbolizes the least important items on your list. These are often the tiny things that jump onto your to-do list throughout the day.

The big rocks analogy became popular in Stephen Covey’s bookThe Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, although it was probably around long before. As easy as it is to describe, it’s not quickly followed. That’s because the sand drastically outnumbers the rocks.

The Problem With Sand

The problem with the sand is that there is so much of it, and it seems to get everywhere. How can you focus on your most significant priority when you have sand in every crevice? In short, with practice. Expect the small things to seep in and steal your attention. As you practice self-control and determine what’s truly important and only a distraction, your productivity will increase, and you’ll find yourself reaching your goals quicker and easier.

When you work on the big rocks first, you have a higher chance of accomplishing your dreams. It’s that simple! Make it a daily priority to work on one of your big rocks before any sand trickles in – because trust me, the sand will get in!

How Does the Big Rocks Analogy Increase Productivity?

If you can complete tasks related to your big rocks first, you will become more motivated and successful. Tackling the grains of sand is a quick win but working toward the most meaningful goals is where real change and growth occur.

Everything Will Get Done

I’ve found it helpful to repeat to myself, “everything will get done – there are enough hours in the day” when I step away from my desk to make a healthy meal or go on a mental health walk. Chasing sand will only exhaust and frustrate you. Take moments for yourself throughout the day to check-in and ensure you are still in control and that the day is not controlling you.

Give Yourself Grace

Every day is new; if it doesn’t all get done, that is okay! Prioritizing your time takes practice and the power to tell people who are trying to hand you their messy piles of sand “no.” People will learn to respect your time, and they may even learn to practice the same techniques for themselves.

Accept Guidance

I’ve been in your shoes. I’ve jumped into action to help others reach their goals while leaving mine behind. Accepting guidance as you recognize your goals and make changes to get them is highly encouraged. It will only help you stay on the right path to a more uplifting and fulfilling life.

If you’d like help understanding and defining the big rocks in your life, drop me a note, and let’s connect. You can schedule a free career clarity consultation.

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