When I began working at the ApaCenter, one of my supervisors provided me with a metaphor related to priorities that has really helped me balance my life and manage my time. She described all of the tasks we need to accomplish at rocks of various sizes. She described small tasks such as picking up the dry cleaning as small rocks and things that take up a greater amount of time, such as writing a lengthy research paper, as large rocks. Of course, the time we have in each day is limited, so all of these rocks must fit into a jar. If we try to make every small task a priority and put all of the small rocks into the jar first, the big ones will not be able to follow. However, if we prioritize the big rocks and get them into the jar first, the small rocks can fill in the spaces in between. For example, if I was a student with a lengthy research paper to write, that would be a big rock that I need to make a priority and get into the jar first. Once that time is scheduled, small rocks such as picking up milk from the store, doing that brief worksheet, or grabbing some coffee could be placed into the jar to fill in the cracks that are left. This way, in the case that something just does not fit, I will at least be assured that the big rocks got into the jar.
This metaphor has benefitted my time management and priorities immensely because it helped me realize that I need to treat large tasks that require a lot of time and effort as large rocks and provide them with the space they need. Also, it helped me realize that it’s alright if the occasional small rock gets left behind, as long as my big rocks are in place. I think it is healthy to recognize that you may sometimes need to say no in order to focus on the most important priorities. This way, you tackle the things that matter to you most, first. Thinking in this way may help you to manage your time more effectively and feel more fulfilled at the end of the day the same way it helped me.