Priorities determine how far we get in life. Imagine with me if you will, an empty glass jar. Next to it are three fist-sized rocks, river stones, pebbles, sand, and a cup of tea.
The jar represents our day.
If we pour into our jar a lot of sand, which represents all the small stuff, we can appear to be very busy. But we’ll be chasing after things that don’t truly make us happy or fulfill us. Our jar is about half full.
Next, we add pebbles which represent the unplanned or unavoidable things in a day that we must take care of: if you have a fender bender, the report that was due a week from now is needed today, you or your kids get sick, the dog runs off after the neighborhood cat right before you’re leaving for work, you have to work late again.
Already, our jar is running out of room.
We go to add our river stones, these represent obligations that help us maintain our lives, like our commute, paying the bills, filling the car with gas, going to work. These are the infrastructure of our day. After adding only a few stones, the jar can’t hold any more.
The 3 biggest stones, representing our highest priorities don’t fit at all. For some of us, those things might be spouse, kids, and health, or family, faith and friends.
What does this mean for you?
Know what your top priorities are. Most have at least three and some as many as five. If we know what our top priorities are, those always go into the jar first. We make sure every day, those priorities are the list toppers.
No matter what happens, we make time for them. If it’s getting your Bible reading or meditation in, time with your spouse and kids, or maybe it’s spending time with your parents or your friends. Maybe it’s following your dreams, maintaining your health.
Next, we add the things we must do to maintain our lives. Our jar is getting pretty full again, isn’t it? But that’s okay because we have the top three things covered. The things that help us maintain can change. Jobs come and go, cars come and go. We will find new ones and our lives will go on. Some of these things will distract us from the top priorities if we let them, so we must be watchful.
When we add in the pebbles, it fills in large gaps between the stones. The jar looks full. But, when we add the sand, it fills all the gaps. Those things, the minutiae are important, but not a priority. They add flavor and fun to our lives, but they’re not the most important things. We may not want to live without them, but they can’t be at the top of the list. And right now, they have a place and fit into this jar. But can you fit anything else into the jar? It looks amazingly full. You’re probably thinking nothing more could be added.
But we can add tea to the jar because there’s always room for tea. When we have our priorities straight, life flows better. There is room for many things. We can have a full life that is meaningful, in harmony and balanced because our priorities are correct. We won’t be chasing after the small things that don’t really fulfill our purpose or our hearts. We can live rich meaningful lives.
When you look at your life, what do you see? Is it filled with sand? Are you distracted by things that have no long-term value? Have you made room for the most important people in your life? The good news is that each day is like an empty glass jar. You have the ability to control what you put in it and how it is filled. What will you put in yours?