New Year’s Day is a perfect opportunity to reflect on and refocus our lives. It doesn’t take long, and the importance of doing it is illustrated in the following story.
A teacher places a glass jar on her table and faces her students. “This is your life,” she says. “It is yours to fill with whatever you wish.”
The teacher takes a bag of rocks and carefully places them one by one in the jar until it is full. “These rocks are the big important things in your life that you will be the most proud of at the end of your days.”
The teacher then scoops out several handfuls of pebbles from a second bag and lets them fall into the jar, shaking the jar slightly so the pebbles fall into and fill the space between the rocks. “These are the secondary things in your life that gives it meaning, but perhaps are not ‘your life’s work’.
The teacher then takes a third bag containing sand and pours it into the jar, filling the space between the pebbles. “Finally, the sand is the little stuff that fills our days, like watching TV or playing games.”
The teacher looks out over her students and asks, “Can you see what would happen if I started with the sand or the pebbles?”
If we start with the big goals of our lives, then the smaller things will move around to fill the space left over, but the reverse is not true. If we start with the sand, then there will be no space left for pebbles or rocks. We all have the same twenty-four hours in a day, but we need to be smart and focused on how we spend them if we want to reach our dreams.
It might sound obvious to focus on the important stuff but many don’t in practice. It is all too easy to idle away the sands of time on Facebook, YouTube or in front of the TV. Similarly, it is easy to focus too much on pleasant but ultimately unimportant ‘busy work’, effectively burying ourselves under a mountain of pebbles. In contrast, the rocks are heavy and thus take time, strength and discipline to budge.
But budge them we shall. Here is how.
Steps for a productive new year
First, identify what your personal rocks are. Which goals do you dream about having completed? What do you want to fill your life with? What would make you the most proud? This is the time to dream big.
Second, pick one or a couple of rocks and set all the others aside. Don’t divide your attention over too many projects or you’ll spread yourself thin, make little progress on any of them and become demotivated. You can switch rocks later, but at any given time, only commit to a few of them.
This is also a good time to identify your pebbles. These are smaller, lighter, quicker goals and projects that you could complete in a few days of work. For completeness, you may also take a second and reflect on the sand you use to fill in the cracks in your time. Hopefully, they are things you love doing and that make you relax or have fun. If you have ‘bad sand’ that is a drain on your energy, then think of how you could get rid of it.
With this exercise done, you are ready to start working. Each day, start working on your rocks for as long as you have the ability or energy. When you are blocked, need some creative time away from your rocks or simply get too tired to go on, switch to your pebbles. Take your mind off the big stuff by finishing off some smaller project. If you don’t feel like picking up a pebble and just need to recharge your batteries, then turn to your sand; relax in front of the TV, go dancing or do something else that you enjoy.
For those who want to see an example of the above as well as for the readers interested in what I am planning to do with 2012, I have included the rocks, pebbles and sand that I identified doing my review. Wish me luck!
- Writing a Book
- I have a dream of being a published author. I began writing a novel a few years ago, but then put it on ice. It is time to defrost the book and give it another try.
- Get a spectacular body
- OK, it doesn’t have to be spectacular, but I would love to feel healthy, confident and, yes, sexy.
- The Modern Nomad blog posts
- I already consider The Modern Nomad one of my rocks. I will continue writing it another year.
- Create web pages for a living
- I want to explore website development as a possibly nomadic career option.
- Learn Spanish
- I was toying with making this a rock, but I had too many of those already. I can just about get by in Spanish, and that is good enough, but I would like to be better.
- The Modern Nomad Optimizations
- This blog works quite well as it stands today, but there is always some more stuff to do with it. This is my perfect pebble in that I can do little improvements that don’t become massive projects and I love tinkering with the site.
- P3 Planet Correspondent
- The Swedish public radio has a travel show called P3 Planet. They have suggested that I become one of their correspondents and submit little radio episodes from wherever I go. It might be fun, I might earn some money and most important, I can raise the profile of this blog.
- Guest Blogging
- I want to grow the readership of The Modern Nomad, and one way of doing that is to write guest posts and articles around the web. (Another is you sharing it with friends and social media.)
- Explore wherever I am and meet new friends
- I will of course keep travelling and explore my different destinations, and hopefully meet many new and fascinating people.
This is all the stuff I do to relax, such as reading, watching TV series, scan Facebook, listen to podcasts and dance.