I heard someone say this the other day, “It’s not about time, it’s about priority” and this statement stopped me in my tracks. How often do we say, “I just don’t have time,” particularly when it comes to doing things for ourselves? Think about it for a moment, do any of these statements ring a bell?

  • I want to learn a new skill but I don’t have the time.

  • I would love to go back and get my degree but where would I find the time?

  • I’d really like to be in better shape but I can barely keep up with my schedule now. How would I fit in going to the gym?

  • I’ve always wanted to (fill in the blank — get more involved in my community; start my own side hustle/business; write a book) but my days are already so full.

The truth is, we all have the same 24 hours in the day. And, there are people out there who are learning new skills, getting their degrees, going to the gym, and branching out to explore their interests. If we were to really dig into how they are making those things happen, my guess is that they don’t necessarily have more discretionary time than us. The difference is that they have prioritized these activities. They have realized that leaving what’s important to them to chance (e.g. when the kids are grown; when I retire; etc) doesn’t work for them.

So, the question for them shifts from “how will I do this?” to “what do I need to change in order to do this?” A visual I love that illustrates this comes from Stephen Covey. He talks about the professor who brought a jar, sand, pebbles, and rocks into class. In the first experiment, he puts the sand in the jar, and then the pebbles and, ultimately, only a few of the rocks will fit. He then separates the three and explains that the rocks are those things that are most important to you. They should go in first. Next are the pebbles. Pebbles may represent time-sensitive tasks or priorities of those you care about (e.g. your family, friends, boss, coworkers, etc). You’ll see that these pebbles will settle in the crannies between the big rocks. And then, finally, the sand. The sand represents the minutiae (e.g. emails, to-do’s, etc). The sand, you see, will find its way into any open space in the container.

The bonus of putting your priorities first is that you then have more energy, and capacity for the rest of the work. I’ll leave you with two questions to ponder:

  1. Do you know what your priorities are? Not the priorities others have delineated for you, but what is truly important to you?

  2. How might you begin to put those first?

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