Reordering Your Priorities

Sort out your bucket; enjoy the journey!

Sort out your bucket; enjoy the journey!

For this week’s blog, I invited Roger Eaton, Coachify’s Project Manager to write on how his recent experience in reordering his priorities has improved his productivity and reduced his stress levels.

Do you ever get the feeling that you have overcommitted yourself? As a result of your enthusiasm, or perhaps weakness for people-pleasing, you agree to take on more and more responsibility at work, or in your social scene, not to mention maintaining family life.

At the beginning of September, the summer holidays already a distant memory, everything was picking up speed. Working two different jobs, leading a new church in a foreign culture and language, married with two young children and trying to maintain a social life, I was feeling overcommitted! Something had to budge.

I felt overcommitted because when engaged in a task or activity, my mind would often wander to other responsibilities rather than remaining focussed on what or who was in front of me. For example, when reading a story to my kids, my mind was on a work project, thoughts about Sunday’s sermon and how my football team are going to get out of the relegation zone! What was the answer? Step back? Handover some responsibilities? Press on? All seemed possible options.

I found the following exercise eased the pressure of managing all that begged for my attention. Perhaps, like me, you did this a while ago but haven’t for a while. It’s amazing what a fresh perspective this gives to managing your capacity and priorities.

The Life Bucket

Wiser people than I have suggested the following method to get your head and your life priorities in order:

  • Take a bucket and fill it with big rocks. When you have filled it to the top, is it full? Not really. There are gaps between the rocks.
  • So pour in enough pebbles to fill the gaps. Ask yourself again, is it full? Again, there are still gaps.
  • Pour in enough sand to fill the gaps. Is it full? (I think you’re getting the idea now!).
  • Pour as much beer as you can into your bucket until it appears at the surface…now it’s full!

Now, if you try to put these elements in the bucket in a different order, you won’t fit them all in – the order priority is key. It’s a helpful lesson in viewing capacity differently. And our own capacities are quite similar. In our life bucket story above, the bucket represents your life.

  • The big rocks are the most important relationships in your life: for me, it’s my God, my wife, my children and my health.
  • The pebbles are my church, my job(s), my friendships
  • The sand is everything else, all the small things

So here’s the exercise for you:

  • Take some time out to analyse what’s important to you in your life in these different levels of importance.
  • Then take a look at your diary and see if this reflects your priorities. If your diary shows an imbalance in how you allocate your time and energy, then you have some adjustment to do to realign your activity to your values. TIP: colour coding your priority allocation can be a helpful way of visually communicating how your energies are distributed.

When I performed this exercise, I realised that I didn’t need to step back from any of my commitments but rather, with careful planning, I could meet the expectations that were placed on me and that were self-imposed. The emotional benefit was a sense of pressure release and a drop in personal stress levels.

Oh and why the beer at the end? Well some have used water in the illustration but I like what Meir Kay portrayed in his short film on the subject, entitled The Jar of Life…”that it goes to show, no matter how full your life seems to be, there’s always room for a couple of beers with a friend!” Enjoy the journey!

What next?

Over to you to block out that time to do this simple yet effective exercise. It won’t take long but the time investment on this activity is considerably outweighed by the benefit it adds to your life and the lives of the people you interact with.

Comment with your own story of how this or other life priority restructuring activities have been helpful for you.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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