At work last week I overheard someone chatting in the lunchroom about a friend she admired. He had held down a job while finishing a master’s degree and still found time to maintain a few other impressive commitments … and she couldn’t figure out how he did it.
I was almost about to answer, but it would have been both rude and intrusive … not to mention presumptuous, since I don’t know her friend at all. However, here’s how I think he did it.
1. Big rocks first
Having worked for the Franklin Covey Company for a few years, I’m certainly familiar with the big rocks hypothesis: in life you fit the big things in first, and the small things second. It’s intuitively correct, but it’s something we all lose sight of. Putting the big things in our schedules first ensures that they happen … and the little things will fall where they may. If they don’t happen, it’s no huge loss … as long as the most important parts of our life have been attended to.
The real challenge here, of course, is ruthless prioritization. Dropping things we somewhat want but are not passionate about can be difficult, especially when they involve expectations from others. But without prioritization, everything seems important, and the urgent things that demand your attention will drive out the important things.
2. Consequences second
Once you’ve set your priorities: go for it. One of the things that the woman I briefly overheard said is that she always spent so long considering all the pros and cons of a decision that she never actually made one.
Make a decision – most of them are not ones that will impact your life for years and decades – and move on. Endless deliberation generally does not improve the quality of the decision, plus it often has a negative impact on your subsequent satisfaction with the results of your choice. Decide and move, and keep making course corrections as you go.
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Now, of course, I’m trying to apply that to my life as well. That’s the real trick: advice is easy to give and hard to take.
Even your own!