Stephen Covey, one of the founding members of Franklin Covey (the time management people), a motivational speaker, and the author of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People (among others) died yesterday. He innovated the field of leadership studies and contributed a huge handful of powerful principles that have inspired leaders for generations. There are thousands of lessons I could quote from him, but what has stuck with me most continuously is this:
"The key is not to prioritize what's on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities."
To demonstrate this, imagine that you have two bowls of exactly the same size that represent your life. One is full of rocks, and the other is mostly full of sand. The rocks are your major priorities -- family, friends, exercise, client work, etc. The grains of sand are all the little things you do that add up over the course of the day -- emails, errands, laundry, dishes, diapers, TV, etc. Your task is to combine the rocks and the sand into one container, to make sure you're getting everything you want out of life. However, if you put the sand in first, the rocks won't fit. You have to put the rocks in first, and then pour the sand around them.
Most of us have this backwards. We have the major commitments and desires, but we let day-to-day life overwhelm and overtake us. We regularly and continually put the sand in first.
The video below is old and, arguably, corny. But it demonstrates this principle so clearly that I had to include it.
The first step is to identify your rocks -- your priorities. Then to add them to your schedule in such a way that they really ARE priorities. Then let your life fill in around them. As the video shows, it will anyway.