Putting the stones in first

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On the eve of a new year, I sat down this afternoon and began to plan what projects I’d like to focus on in the coming 12 months. As always, my vision of what can be crammed into a day, a week, a month or a year was hugely over-ambitious. Somehow I had to prioritise (or go completely doolally).

My predicament reminded me of a story quoted in Servan-Schreiber’s book, “The Art of Time”. A professor in an American university demonstrates time management in a practical way to his students. He fills a bucket with a dozen or so large stones and asks the class if the bucket is now full. They answer ‘yes’.  The professor adds a bag of gravel to the bucket. Is the bucket full now? The students are less sure. The professor shakes in a small bag of sand. Now is the bucket full? No, because he proceeds to pour in a bottle of water.

The point of the demonstration was not to show how much we could cram into our lives. Instead, the professor was pointing out that if you didn’t put the stones in first – your top priorities – you couldn’t add them later.

What are the ‘big stones’ for you in 2010? What has to be in there? What is non-negotiable for you? Relationships? Career? Creativity? Change? Once you’ve decided what takes precedence, maybe set some goals for 31st December 2010 (writing them down and keeping them in sight helps) and break down those projects into milestones over the coming days, weeks and months.

Best wishes for a successful and focused 2010.

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2 thoughts on “Putting the stones in first

    • idcoach

      Thanks Helen – stories and metaphors have a way of lodging in the brain more easily, I think. Another one that I’ve found helpful on the same issue is the idea that you wouldn’t sit down in a restaurant and expect to eat everything on the menu at one sitting. Being selective prevents feeling overfaced.

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