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Setting Priorities

I recently attended a workshop on setting priorities. Before we began, the facilitator asked each participant to talk a little about what s/he hoped to gain from the two hours we would spend together.

Many people talked about feeling overwhelmed, stressed, like they were running in place – no matter how busy they were or how fast they ran they just couldn’t seem to get done the things that really needed to be done. There just don’t seem to be enough hours in the day, several people lamented.

Overwhelmingly, those present in the room were seeking ideas and support for achieving work/life balance. They wanted to know the magic formula for “doing it all.”

Much of what we talked about that afternoon was based on Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.We worked on two habits specifically: Put First things First and Begin with the End in Mind.

Using those habits as a springboard, we spent a good bit of time crafting the beginnings of a personal mission statement. Like the mission statements created in boardrooms or for business plans, personal mission statements can help clarify, direct and motivate. These statements can also help us prioritize or identify what Covey calls our “Big Rocks” (those things that are most important to you, such as your relationship with your partner or children; or time in the garden).

When we begin to distinguish our Big Rocks from the little rocks (things that may be important but may not move us closer to our life purpose or goals, or they may not be important for any reason other than to keep us busy or protect us from the discomfort of saying “no” if we aren’t good at setting boundaries), in our lives it becomes easier to order our priorities accordingly. To illustrate this point the facilitator showed a clip from a Covey workshop.

In the clip an audience member comes to the stage. She is presented with a bucket nearly full with little rocks, several big rocks sat on the table beside the bucket and beside that was an empty bucket.

Her challenge – get all the rocks in one bucket. She tried hard. The woman pushed little rocks this way and that, she shifted and turned the big rocks, she puzzled and persevered, but she could not make them all fit in the bucket.

After many diligent attempts the solution came to her. She put each of the big rocks in the empty bucket, THEN she arranged the little rocks to fit around the big rocks.

What are your big rocks? Are you so busy with your little rocks that you have no room in your life for them?

The bottom line: You can’t do it all, but when you determine what really matters you can ease your load by letting some things go. Use that time for your big rocks...and don't sweat the rest.

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