Make room for the things that really matter

What we do tells the world where our priorities lie. We need to show the world what's really important to us by our actions.

Mahatma Gandhi once said, “Actions express priorities.”

Such a simple statement. It is true that we show the world what our priorities are through our actions. If we spend most of our time and concentration on work, there lies our mind. If we utilize a majority of our money on the next greatest electronics device, that’s where our heart is. What do people see as your priorities?

I’m sure you’ve heard that great object lesson on how we spend our time. It can also be applied to money, talents or any other expendable component of our lives. But in case you haven’t, I’ll share it with you.

Take a large jar or bowl. Now put in a large rock for each important thing that you have to do each day. They could represent going to work or school, cleaning the house, sleeping, eating, taking a shower, brushing your teeth or paying your bills. That sort of thing. Now add a spoonful of pebbles for everything you should do. These could be things like telling your spouse you love them, eating dinner with the family, saying your prayers, studying the good word or doing service. Finally, put a large spoon full of sand in for everything you would like to do. Things like reading a good book, watching a movie, painting a picture, taking a nap, telling a joke or going bowling.

If you prioritize by things you have to do, things you should do, and then things you would like to do, it generally works.

Now do the reverse. Fill the jar with sand for the things you would like to do. Then add the pebbles for things you should do and the rocks for things you have to do and you will see that there is not enough container for the lot.

This is the way life is. No matter how you may want it to be, there are only 24 hours in every day and you can only do so much. So setting priorities is a must.

How do we learn to get our priorities in order?

Examine your jar

The first step is to make a sort of mental note of your typical days. Keep a kind of time card in your mind and pay attention to what gets most of your efforts. Do this for a few days to make a more accurate assessment.

Make a list

Make a list of your current rocks, pebbles and sand. Examine them carefully. Is your life the way it ought to be? Is your jar full of sand with only room for a few pebbles and no rocks?

Make a new list

Write down what is really important to you. List what you think your rocks should be. Family, faith, work, school, health or whatever is of the most importance to you in the grand scheme of things. Next, list your pebbles. This would include things that are worthwhile and have lasting importance. Finally, throw in some good things.

Keep this list where you can see it

Carry it in your purse, your wallet, post it on your bulletin board or white board, stick it on the refrigerator or keep it near a spot that you frequent. Every time you begin a task, ask yourself if this is a rock, a pebble or sand.

Do it

That is all.

This is something I have struggled with. I got involved in this little farm game and then one day had this life-changing epiphany. If I spent less time virtual farming and creating the imaginary farm I so longed for in real life and more time working toward that goal, I might actually have it one day. When I start a game of solitaire on the computer in between articles, I have to think, what else could I do during that 10 or 15 minutes that might actually contribute something good to the world? There is nothing wrong with some downtime and leisure, as long as we get our rocks in there first.

I have now developed a routine in the morning to get my day off to a good start. Prayer, scripture study, some family history, maybe a hymn to get me into a positive and more directed frame of mind, a good breakfast and then on to pounding the keyboard. I’m thankful for object lessons such as this that really drive the message home.

One more note: this would be a wonderful after dinner or family night message for your children. It is really important that we teach them early how to set good priorities.

Becky Lyn Rickman

Becky Lyn is an author and a 35+ year (most of the time) single mom.