This sits at my desk, to remind me to make space for Big Important Things. Years ago I was introduced to this idea by a brilliant financial planner to guide intention-setting in cash flow projection.
The thing to do is imagine your Big Important Things as rocks or stones, in a jar big enough to hold them. Now imagine that jar even half filled with sand, and you can see how the rocks would never fit in. It’s not hard to see that when you allow all the little tiny things to call your attention or use your energy, they fill up your hour or your day, and eventually fill up your life.
Here’s an example you’ll recognize if you have kids. Has there been a time that you saw your kid curled up with a book and thought, “I wish I could, but work/laundry/errands/blahblah”. Did you ever drop what you were doing and join in with your own book for a while, or read to them? The laundry got done. But if you made the laundry the Big Thing, that moment of connection, love, refreshing rest is lost forever. Or did you ever look outside on a pretty day and decide NOT to go for a walk or a swing, because news! games! vacuuming! Is there a walk outside that you regret taking? And trust me… we remember when we have made the wrong choice. It’s not that we don’t value our Big Things, but that the sand and gravel of everyday, if we let it, uses up our energy and time first.
It is not melodramatic to say that we don’t get a do-over of this day, this week, this life.
If you put the Big Rocks in first, most of the dumb little stuff will fill in around it… not quite all, and that’s ok. By being intentional about those Big Things, you’ll make sure that they get your energy, and the space in your life. Note that these are not priorities; that’s a subject for another day. They are the things that you hold most dear, that keep you sane, connect you with others and the world, that make your life worthwhile. They might require more or less time from day to day, week to week, but it’s a reminder to look at those days and weeks with clarity of intention.
And be clear about your Big Things! I am self-employed, so my work and ‘real life’ have no natural boundaries. For me, that’s bliss, and I’m good at it. But it also means that I need to be super-intentional about creating space and energy for my Big Things. When I’m asked to make a commitment, I glance at this and think hard about what will fit where.
One of my Big Rocks is rest and sleep: eight hours of sleep, no excuses, plus time to wind down (no tech!) in the pm, and time to stretch and hear the birds in the am, remember dreams, be grateful. Without this, I would not have the equanimity to weather storms or appreciate this one life I have, so it will always be a Big Rock for me.
Another is my work, and what my business, my clients and collaborators need from me today, this week, this month. This has its own sub-set of what really needs to be done, vs. what can wait and might never get done at all. You know this, right? Concentrate on the things that build relationships, enhance your learning and your service, that make you the best you can be at your work.
Time with my family has changed since my kids have fledged. But I arrange my life so that when family does gather, I am truly present, not distracted.
Being with friends, cooking, eating, making music, arguing, dancing, just has to happen. For me, without these things, what is the point of anything?
Something that many people (especially many entrepreneurs!) push aside for exigencies real and imagined is time to think and feel, plot and plan. I encourage my clients (some might say ‘bully them’) to create intentional time and space to really hear themselves think and dream freely, and I try to model that.
For me, running is another super-power, though I stink at it. But I have never, ever regretted a time I laced up my shoes and headed out the door. Like sleep and rest, it makes everything else possible.
What are your Big Rocks? Do it! Choose some rocks, stones or shells that you like, and name them. Find a jar, vase or glass something that will hold them.
You’ll be amazed at the clarity this brings you about how you use your time, or let others use your time regard to your Big Things.
“What is important is seldom urgent, and what is urgent is seldom important.” ~ Dwight Eisenhower