I could swear I saw this done in the 80's, but my Google-search seems to attribute this anecdote (mostly) to Stephen Covey. Either way, it's a good lesson.
In First Things First, Stephen Covey tells a story that one of his associates heard at a seminar. The seminar presenter pulled out a wide-mouth gallon jar and placed it next to a pile of fist-sized rocks. After filling the jar to the top with rocks, he asked, "Is the jar full?"
The group replied, "Yes."
He then got some gravel from under the table and added it to the jar. The speaker jiggled the jar until the gravel filled the spaces between the rocks. Again, he asked, "Is the jar full?"
This time, the group replied, "Probably not."
The speaker then added some sand and asked, "Is the jar full?"
"No!" shouted the group.
Finally, the speaker filled the jar to the brim with water and asked the group the point of this illustration.
Someone replied that you could always fit more things into your life if "you really work at it."
"No," countered the speaker. The point is, if you don't put the big rocks in first, " . . . would you ever have gotten any of them in?"
As you start the new year, think of the "big rocks" in your life as the things you can do to make this a healthier and happier year for yourself and others. When making decisions during the moments, days and months of the year ahead, ask: "Is this a big rock?"
Say "yes" to your "big rocks" first. Don't feel you need to explain each "no" when the smaller gravel and sand try to fill your time. "No" can be a complete sentence!
I get a fair amount done every week. And that includes a fair amount of that slack, do-nothing, hang-out-together time that the Dynamo and I enjoy together. I don't tightly schedule *anything*, but I do keep my Big Rocks few, and make them my priority.
1000 words a day on the novel.
Say something sweet to, do something sweet for and generally enjoy the Tiny Dynamo.
Read an hour or two a night.
Work enough to keep the doors open.
That's it, really. Just those few things. The smaller stuff, the gravel, fits in easy enough: surfing the net, painting for fun, writing the odd blog post, drinks with friends, etc. Like sand and water, the *really* small stuff has to fit in where it can. I don't sweat it.
I know some of you are thinking about your bigger job commitements, the time that children eat up, that sort of thing. Cool. Those are your Big Rocks, and they do deserve your time. And if your job is a Bigger Rock for you than your writing, expect the appropriate results.
You'll need to go slower, or to push some sand out of the way.
Right now, CS Harris is writing despite some serious, and unavoidable, upheavals. I have faith in her. After all, this is the same woman who wrote Why Mermaids Sing in the middle of Katrina. Now me, I tend to think, "Oh no, XYZ popped up and I won't get what I need to done." Then I think of Candy and feel inspired. I drop some other, smaller rock and get back to work.
I'll offer three important tips:
1. Get the must-do stuff done first. Little fires ignite all day long. If nothing else, they're going to take some energy to put out. It's easy to end up too tired at day's end to do your best. Some folks are exceptions to this, your mileage may vary.
2. Clarity. Be clear and honest with yourself about the size of those Big Rocks. Sometimes, the answers may be a little painful, but in my book a little pain's better than decades of lingering hollow misery and nagging doubt caused by living an untrue life.
3. Focus. The fewer Big Rocks you have, the easier it is to focus on them. A person with only ONE priority in life is (yes, likely to appear slightly deranged, but also) virtually unstoppable. A person with five #1 issues is a fool.
As always, take what you like and leave the rest.
And let's see, on Day... hm, Day 38 (had to take off my shoes to count that one), the Full Throttle Daily Wordcount-O-Meter stands at 40,900 words. And I'm one scene away from my Great Big Tentpole Plot Development. Fun!