Prioritizing your life is simple when things are clear. If you are striving for more, however, then you will inevitably need reminders of what matters most. It helps to lean on a particular philosophy or even a basic visualization to snap you back into reality.
I recently shared the classic Stephen Covey First Things First rock parable with a friend. They had never heard of it, and I realized the thing that has helped me juggle a new book, a young family, and even entrepreneurship may not be on everyone's radar.
Get your rocks in order
The premise is simple: Your life has big rocks and little rocks. The size represents the importance and, essentially, what should be prioritized. They all have to fit into a jar.
Pour the little rocks in first and you can get them all in the jar, but you won't be able to fit the big rocks in. Put the big rocks in first, though, and then the little rocks will naturally fall into the remaining space allotted.
You can fit nearly everything in, if you take care of the most important stuff first.
Matrix your life
There are many ways to make sure your big rocks stay front and center.
One popular method is the Eisenhower Box or Matrix. To use it, split a piece of paper into equal quadrants and separate what needs to be done into one of the four boxes:
- Not urgent and not important
- Urgent, but not important
- Important, but not urgent
- Urgent and important
It becomes clear "urgent and important" items are your immediate priority. We get into the most trouble when we confuse "urgent, but not important" with "urgent and important." Successful business leaders, entrepreneurs, and even parents realize that things are always urgent, but if you only focus on the urgent, the important will never get done!
Done is better than perfect
I love this saying from time management expert Laura Vanderkam. This is my take, from a previous column:
Think about the last time you spent an inordinate amount of time for an incremental improvement on a completed project. Now imagine all the other things you could have been doing with that time. At a certain point, spending more time on something will provide significantly diminished returns.
That inordinate amount of time can have devastating effects on your "big rocks." It is better to ship, get it out the door, and move on to the next task, as having a perfect little rock won't help you manage any of your big rocks -- assuming you have any room left for your true priorities.