Who knew that a glass jar, some rocks, marbles and sand could have such profound relevance to time management? With these items, Stephen Covey, author of
7 Habits of Highly Effective People, developed an exceptional metaphor to demonstrate the concept. As we go through it, try to envision what it would look like.
The Time Management Metaphor
Imagine you have a big empty glass jar, some rocks, marbles and sand. We start with the empty glass jar which represents one’s schedule. Let’s start by placing the rocks inside of the jar – these represent your topmost priorities. Next, you begin placing the marbles inside the jar – these represent the second highest level of your priorities. You should notice the marbles start to fill the spaces between the rocks. Lastly, add the sand and you’ll notice that it fills all the smaller spaces the marbles couldn’t reach. Accordingly, the sand represents your third level of priorities. Try to imagine what the jar looks like now. You should be picturing a glass jar that is completely full with no room left for air.
However, try to imagine what the jar would look like if we add the items in the opposite order – first the sand, then marbles and lastly, the rocks. What happens is that there is a ton of space left over since the sand sinks to the bottom, and then the marbles and the rocks just sit on top. In fact, all of the rocks probably do not fit in the jar now. So as you can see, if you put all of your lower priorities first, then you’ll run out of space and time for your major ones!
Some more tips for effective time management.
The previous metaphor provides a good introduction to the idea of effective time management. However, we can elaborate on this further in order to help you better manage your time. Consider the following tips.
Always have a daily plan. There is nothing more unproductive than waking up and starting your day without knowing what you’re going to do in that time. Planning the night before or morning of is a habit worth getting used to. This can involve simple to-do lists since they work. Just make sure that you keep these lists short and targeted for each day. Long, never ending lists of tasks can be daunting and amplify your procrastination.
Use a scheduler. Whether this is a calendar, timetable or another organizer of sorts, it’s important for you to use one. This way, you can keep track of all your commitments and deadlines. It will provide you a big picture view of what your week and even month looks like, and it will help you avoid any unpleasant surprises, like missing a deadline.
Complete major activities first. You only have so much prime working energy in a day. Before you wear yourself out on insignificant activities, start your day by completing tasks requiring the most effort and time. This way, you won’t have to worry about scrambling later in the day to make sure it gets completed. You’ll also feel better about getting it done rather than delaying it.
Understand your own productivity. No one knows yourself better than you. Specifically, you’ll want to be aware of your most productive time of day, as well as your best working environment. This way, you can make it as easy as possible to complete tasks when you’ve set time aside to do just that.
Know when to pass. Unfortunately, you won’t be able to say yes to every request or invitation that comes your way. It’s important that you recognize your priorities and limitations to avoid over scheduling your time. This is especially vital to keep your schedule open for top priority activities.
Avoid multi-tasking. When you sit down to focus on something, do exactly that – focus. Multi-tasking is simply a distraction that prevents you from being as productive as you could be. Instead of being distracted by social media and responding immediately to incoming phone calls and emails,set designated time aside for each activity. This will help you avoid interruptions when you are trying to get work done.
So those are six tips that will help you to better manage your time. And one final note to end on – being busy isn’t necessarily being productive.Just because your calendar is constantly full or you seem to never have any spare time doesn’t mean you’re effectively managing your time. You need to make sure that when you sit down to work, work gets done. Don’t fall victim to the common misconception that being busy automatically means you’re getting work done. Being productive while you’re being busy means you’re getting work done.
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