Choosing your rocks: balancing life, work, and the other stuff

private coaching programHow do I find time for the things that are important? How do I prioritize? How do I get anything done when the kids are on summer vacation and I’m trying to work from home? How do I make time for me? These are all questions I’ve heard floating around (in droves) over the past week.

Another variation of this question came up in my Mastermind Group recently, and one of our members addressed it by giving a new perspective on an old story. I shared it with a private coaching client today who was questioning how to prioritize her time and energy and struggling to fit in me-time and family play time while running a successful business.

You’ve probably seen or heard this demonstration. The presenter holds up an empty container and then fills it with rocks. S/he asks if it is full and when the audience says that it is, the presenter disproves this by sprinkling in smaller rocks. “Is it full?” Not yet–the presenter then drizzles in fine sand which fills all the cracks and crevices. The container is now filled to the brim—or appears to be. Because when the presenter is told the jar is now full, s/he produces a pitcher of water and is able to add even more to the container.

This demonstration is used to illustrate a variety of concepts including creative problem solving, and how we can underestimate our capacity or even the room in our lives. These are all good points, but what my mastermind partner pointed out is critically important.

Choose your rocks wisely.

  • The big rocks take up the most space and in order for them to fit, they need to go in first.
  • When it comes to setting our priorities, sometimes we mistakenly choose the wrong rocks.

My coaching client started with the question: “How am I going to get all this work done when I also want to spend time with my family and take better care of myself?” But as we looked at her real priorities, here’s what we discovered.

When she made her work projects the big rocks and tried to get by with sand for family time and self-care, she was feeling unfocused, irritated, stressed, and out of balance. We took a step back and got a bigger view.

The truth was, that my client’s summer schedule is different from the rest of her year. She values the opportunity to spend more quality time outdoors with her family. She also knows that certain kinds of me-time and self-care are critical to her well-being, her stress management, and her creativity and productivity. This wasn’t happening because it was all squeezed in after the other parts of her life.

So I asked her, “What would be different if these were the big rocks?”

  • What would change if she filled her bucket with family fun and me-time and self-care first?
  • What if the other stuff had to fit in around her true priorities for the season?

As she took this in, her face broke into a huge smile of relief. “That feels so absolutely right,” she said. “If I knew those were the big rocks, and the things that I definitely needed to hold time for, my work would just happen. It’s like getting ready to leave my office before a big vacation. Because I’m focused on the wonderful thing I am going to do, I get really productive and focused. I make better use of my time and I don’t let stuff drag on and on because I really don’t want to do it.”

Getting clear on what her big rocks really are, shifted everything. No more guilt when it comes to honoring what she loves, and more focus and energy when she tackles the other areas of her life.

Do you know what your big rocks are? Are the ones that you are currently putting in your bucket aligned with your values and your priorities? It’s worth pondering. Because the truth is, our time and energy are our most valuable and irreplaceable assets.

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