“There are too many things to do and not enough time in the day!” If that statement sounds familiar to you, you’re not alone. Our world has become so plugged in and productivity-oriented that it’s no wonder many of us feel overwhelmed most of the time. Between our jobs, our families, our hobbies, and who knows what else, how do you manage to get everything done on time?
The simple answer is: You don’t. That’s right, you read that correctly. There is no way for one person to do everything all the time without burning out, so the first step in becoming truly productive is to let go of the need to “do it all.” Being productive doesn’t mean doing it all; it means making sure the important things get done, and learning to accept that some things will fall through the cracks. (And that that’s okay!)
A great way to figure out how to prioritize your infinite to dos is the well-known “big rocks/little rocks” method.
How It Works
We all have 24 hours in a day. That’s non-negotiable. The key to productivity is deciding the best way to use those 24 hours.
Your bucket: Picture your day as a bucket—a finite, solid container that can only be filled to its brim and no further. Once you’ve hit the top (the end of the day), you’re done. Whatever’s left over will either have to be let go or become a task for another day.
Your big rocks: Your big rocks are the things you absolutely have to get done that day. Going to work, eating, sleeping, and caring for your children are some of the obvious and daily big rocks. Grocery shopping, mowing your overgrown lawn, and going to the doctor are other big rocks you need to get done to keep your life running smoothly. As you’re planning out your day, fill your bucket with these big rocks first. These are the things you’ll do before thinking about anything else on your to do list.
Your small rocks: Your small rocks are the things you’d like to get done, but that won’t throw your world into chaos if you can’t get around to them today. Weeding the garden. Catching up on your e-mail. Picking up that dry cleaning you don’t need immediately. The good thing about small rocks is they can fit in all the little spaces between your big rocks. This means that, once you’re done with your big rocks (or if you’re between big rocks, like waiting at the doctor’s office), you can try to get as many little tasks done as you like. If you can get a bunch done, that’s great! But if you can’t, you still know you’ve done what you needed to that day, because your big rocks have been tended to.
Accept Your Limitations
No one can get to all of their little rocks in one day. Sometimes we’re lucky if we can tackle all the big ones. Accept the fact that you’re only human and that things will come up to derail your schedule. Do as many of the big rocks as you can, and then go easy on yourself by knowing you’ve done the best you could. Tomorrow is another day. Just keep working on those big rocks first, and in the grand scheme of things, everything important will get taken care of.
About Kelly Gurnett
Kelly Gurnett, a.k.a. “Cordelia,” runs the blog Cordelia Calls It Quits, where she documents her attempts to rid her life of the things that don’t matter and focus more on the things that do. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook and check out her ebook here. She also offers her services as a blogger extraordinaire to those in need of some bloggy awesomeness.