We Americans are busier than ever before: so many choices, so many expectations ... so much to do, and so little time. But it also seems that we're wasting more time than ever before: facebook, twitter, internet, blogs (oops--did I say that?), Netflix, Hulu, video games, etc. etc. Things like these are all very helpful (especially blogs--well, this one anyway!), but when we're not careful we end up wasting a lot of time on them.
I'm tired of being busy. But I also don't want to waste my life. I want to invest it in things that matter.
I've never found a good way to manage time such that I always finish my to-do list, I'm never stressed out, I'm always on time for everything, and never in a hurry. I'm almost 50 years old, and I've never found it.
But I have discovered a helpful principle made famous by Stephen Covey. Check out this simple illustration:
The jar represents your life--your time. The pebbles and the sand represent all the little things you have to do--the lawn, the dishes, Facebook, e-mail, Facebook, phone calls, Facebook ... The big rocks represent the things you really care about -- the things that line up with your most deeply held values -- the things that matter.
In the first jar, all the little things have gone in first, leaving not enough room for the big rocks (the important things). In the second jar, the big rocks have gone in first. "First Things First" as Stephen Covey would say. The idea is that you put the big rocks in first--i.e., put the most important things on your calendar first. Then you let all the little things fill in around the big rocks. And as you can see in the illustration, when you put the big rocks in first, the other things fit.
In Sunday's message, I asked two questions: 1-Does this really work? and, 2- From a Christian perspective, what are the big rocks?
Second question first: The big rocks are expressed clearly by Jesus in Matthew 22--
"Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind."
AND, "Love your neighbor as yourself."Love God. Love People. If you're a Christ follower, those are the big rocks. So put them in the jar first.
LOVE GOD: Make worship a priority. Spend time alone with God during the week, preferably in the morning.
LOVE PEOPLE: Schedule time with the important people in your life. Don't wait to see what time you get home from work. Don't wait to see how the week goes. Schedule a family day or a date night. Or join a small group and make it a priority to attend every meeting.
Now, for that first question: Does it work? If I put the big rocks in first, does everything else fit in nicely? No, not all the time. Life is hard, and there are seasons when there's just too much to do. But here's the thing: if something's gonna fall out of the jar, don't you want to make sure that it's not the big rocks?
Our natural tendency when things get busy is to push aside the big rocks: God can wait ... family can wait ... I can skip small group this week ... But then we get to the end of the week and our souls are empty because we haven't spent time with God and with the people we care about; and we look back at the week and say, "What was it I was working on, and why did I think it was so important?"
So put the big rocks in first. More often than not, it works (everything else fits). But even if it doesn't, you don't want to miss out on the things that are most important.
* Just in case you're interested:
Here's a link to a video of Stephen Covey himself doing the Big Rocks illustration live:
And here's a page with some different videos, and some advice on mastering the principle: