To Do List: Prioritize!

An office can be a stressful place.  We constantly work on an ever-growing “to-do” list, and anyone can get overwhelmed in this type of situation. We get frustrated, and we start to worry about how we are going to get everything done.

Time is a precious thing that should not be wasted, and if we look at our commitments, we will find tasks that can be put off or dropped from the list.  The process of prioritizing our business can be taught through this simple metaphor.

Think of an empty jar.  This jar represents all the possible time you have during the day.  It may be empty now, but it will fill up fast with rocks and sand, which represent the tasks you have for the day.

The sand portrays the minor tasks you prefer to do in a day. Sand represents the small projects that are given at work, hobbies, or personal errands.  Smaller projects with a deadlines far into the future need to be pushed further down your list, because they do not heed importance right now.

Rocks are our responsibilities.  These rocks are usually the main points of stress in our live, so we might dread completing these assignments. When they are dealt with, we relieve stress in our lives.

If we go about our day normally, we usually procrastinate the rocks and go for the sand, so the sand fills our jar limiting the space for the rocks.  After the sand almost fills the jar, we notice the lack of space or time to complete our bigger responsibilities. If we try to place the rocks on top of the sand, it is most likely that all the rocks will not fit.

We are left with incomplete responsibilities, which reflect badly on ourselves.  Luckily, this is a metaphor, so we have the opportunity to empty the jar and start over.

This time around we will start by placing the rocks in first.  We jump on our responsibilities and finish them early. We can breathe a sigh of relief knowing that we have completed our obligations. If you look into the jar after the rocks have been placed, you can still see little spaces between those rocks.  Those space usually represent the time left over or free time in our day.  You might want to use this time to get a head start on your less important tasks or enjoy your hobbies.

This metaphor teaches a lesson of great importance. Prioritization is the key to peace and balance in life.  If we take the day and divide up what we need to do versus the things that can wait, life gets so much easier.  We have the ability to step back and put the rocks first in our lives. The sand will fill in the open space, creating the perfect balancing act.  We will have days where we only get to the rocks, but the sand will always come eventually.


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