A few days ago I was feeling completely overwhelmed. I had what seemed like a million things to do and not much of a plan for getting any of it done. I knew my first priority had to be a to do list so I could see it all in front of me and create a solid, manageable (and extremely flexible) plan. One of the best ways to clear my head is something I do every day anyway: take a shower. I tend to come up with my best ideas while I'm in the shower. It's cleansing both literally and figuratively. Sure enough, while I was in there, I had an epiphany. One of the things bothering me was my next blog post. What was I going to write? I've been writing so much lately, both fiction and non- that I thought I was tapped out until I remembered this exercise that I'd like to share with you:
Imagine a large, empty pitcher with a capacity of about 24 ounces. Now imagine three, ten ounce glasses. In your mind, fill the first with sand; fill the second with pebbles, and fill the third with rocks. We know we can't possibly fit 30 ounces into 24, but humor me. Pour in the sand. See how it fills more than a third of the pitcher. Now pour in the pebbles. There's not much room left in that pitcher, is there? Let's try adding the rocks. The excess either piles on top or falls over the side. We haven't left enough room for the big rocks, have we?
Indulge me; let's try this another way. Imagine the setup again. This time, empty the big rocks into the pitcher first. Of course they'll fit this time. Now pour in the pebbles. They don't seem to take up as much space this time, do they? They sort of work their way in between the rocks, so we have plenty of room to spare. Now we'll add the sand, slowly. Watch it as it trickles down between the rocks, between the pebbles. Each grain finds its own place in the pitcher, in the 24 ounces, in the day. You may even find there's some space left over once all the sand is in the pitcher. By putting the big rocks first, we've found extra space, extra time, we didn't necessarily realize we had.
Now I want you to imagine that those big rocks are the most important things in your day, in your life. Is one your spouse? your child? What things are most likely to enrich your life? The pebbles are the things we must do, like work. Is your work a big rock, or a pebble, or something in between? Other pebbles may be grocery shopping or laundry, mundane things that must be done in order to support the big rocks. So what is your sand? We all know what it's like to get sand in your shoe. It can feel like a big rock, but is it really? Isn't it just merely a nuisance that sometimes gets in our way? Sand is sometimes necessary. Sometimes it supports the pebbles or even the big rocks, but it can often just be swept away.
After I got out of the shower, but before I got dressed, I grabbed a pen and notebook and started my list. It's now two, 8 1/2 x 11" pages long. It's structured and well prioritized and it will get done in due time.
No matter what comes our way, if we remember to prioritize properly, to put our big rocks first, we can handle the rest. And if we have to throw out a little sand along the path, so be it.