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Setting priorities A.K.A. Big Rocks

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blog setting prioritiesOne of the most important questions I continually hear parents ask is “How can I manage all the demands of my time, now that my family is growing and life is overly complex? There never seems to be time to fit everything in, and by the end of the week, tempers flare and everyone is just worn out”.  The following story was first published in a book titled First Things First by Stephen R. Covey in the early ’90s.  I think it can be helpful to anyone at any stage of life.

Big Rocks

One day, an expert in time management was speaking to a group of business students and, to drive home a point, used an illustration those students will never forget.  As he stood in front of the group of high-powered overachievers he said, "Okay, time for a quiz" and he pulled out a one-gallon, wide-mouth mason jar and set it on the table in front of him.

He also produced about a dozen fist-sized rocks and carefully placed them, one at a time, into the jar. When the jar was filled to the top and no more rocks would fit inside, he asked, "Is this jar full?"

Everyone in the class yelled, "Yes."  The time management expert replied, "Really?"  He reached under the table and pulled out a bucket of gravel. He dumped some gravel in and shook the jar causing pieces of gravel to work themselves down into the spaces between the big rocks. He then asked the group once more, "Is the jar full?"

By this time the class was on to him.  "Probably not," one of them answered. "Good!" he replied.  He reached under the table and brought out a bucket of sand.  He started dumping the sand in the jar and it went into all of the spaces left between the rocks and the gravel. Once more he asked the question, "Is this jars full?"

"No!" the class shouted.  Once again he said, "Good."  Then he grabbed a pitcher of water and began to pour it in until the jar was filled to the brim. Then he looked at the class and asked, "What is the point of this illustration?"

One eager beaver raised his hand and said, "The point is, no matter how full your schedule is, if you try really hard you can always fit some more things in it!"  "No," the speaker replied, "that's not the point.

The truth this illustration teaches us is:

If you don't put the big rocks in first, you'll never get them in at all."

What are the 'big rocks' in your life, time with your loved ones, your faith, your education, your dreams, a worthy cause, teaching or mentoring others?  Remember to put these BIG ROCKS in first or you'll never get them in at all.

So, tonight, or in the morning, when you are reflecting on this short story, ask yourself this question: What are the 'big rocks' in my life?

Then, put those in your jar first.

My three boys are all men now …time flies… much too fast, especially when we are not paying attention. Take the time to slow down, look and be mindful of the love surrounding you. There are no guarantees life will remain constant. I sincerely hope that my organizing articles have helped in some small way to build a stronger family connection.

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Guest Friday, 22 June 2018

Dear Amy-

We are happy to write you about Eileen Koff.

Both of us are musicians and teachers; Dorothea Cook is a violinist who teaches in the Community Music Programs at Stony Brook University, at the Knox School, and has a private violin teaching studio; Peter Winkler is a composer and professor in the music department at Stony Brook.

We live in an old house filled with the residue of many years of family life. We had read many books about organizing, but we really needed the hands-on experience of working with a wise and thoughtful professional to turn our good intentions into reality.

We met Eileen Koff at an open house at Innovative Nutrition, the health store in Setauket, and quickly decided that she was what we had been looking for.

Eileen doesn't do your organizing for you. She is a teacher, and a very good one.

One of her important lessons is that it's not just about organizing things. We are learning from her that to be organized, you have to understand yourself, your values, what you love, and what your true priorities are. Sorting all that out isn't always easy, and it can require some serious soul-searching.

The organizing process involves both tangible and intangible things; it involves time-management as well as decisions about what to throw out, what to keep, and where things go.

Like all good teachers, Eileen can sometimes makes you a bit uncomfortable, as she challenges your old habits and ways of doing things. But as she says, it takes the eyes of a stranger to help you see your surroundings as they truly are.

The transformation of our house will not happen overnight, but Eileen is teaching us skills that we will be using for many years to come. Best,

-- Dorothea Cook and Peter Winkler