How Realistic Expectations Help Me Plan My To-Do List With Confidence

Preview: Use these two steps to apply the rocks in the jar analogy to get control of your days and do more of what matters to you.

A common struggle many homeschool parents have is feeling like their job is never done. I’ve heard comments like the following.

  • My biggest struggle is surviving the day-to-day stuff.
  • I feel like once the school half-tos are done, I’m in a race just to get life tasks done.
  • I struggle to keep the household running smoothly, such as meals, cleaning, and shopping.
  • I don’t have a clear picture in my mind of all the things that need to be completed. 

Have you had those thoughts? We have a lot of demands on our time, so how can we get it all done? I like to think about the rocks in the jar analogy as a way of figuring out how to fit it all in.

Use these two steps to apply the rocks in the jar analogy to get control of your days and do more of what matters to you.

Rocks In A Jar Analogy

Consider two images.

First, imagine filling a mason jar halfway full of sand. Then add pebbles and a few larger rocks. Finally, try to add three large rocks to the jar.

It won’t all fit. We couldn’t close the lid if we wanted to. It follows Parkinson’s Law which says that work expands to fill the time allotted. What we put in first will determine how much we can put in. If we don’t have our priorities right, we won’t be able to fit them all in.

Now consider a different approach. This time, place the big rocks first, then the smaller rocks, and finally, the sand. Everything fits. You could even pour water into the jar, and it would fit.

We’ve used the same amount of rocks and sand in both jars. How is it that everything fits into one jar but not the other? The difference is that when we align our life with our priorities, we can get more done. It seems counterintuitive, but it works.

Applying The Rocks In A Jar Analogy

This analogy can be a great visual to help us plan our days. When we intentionally put the most important things first, we have room to do more of what is important to us. I keep this jar on my desk with the sand in first so that the big rocks are sticking out the top as a reminder that I need to honor my priorities. I want to remember this principle as I consider how to fill my days. 

That’s a great analogy, but let’s get practical and talk about two simple steps you can take to apply this principle. 

Step 1: Identify Your Priorities

The first step is to identify your priorities. Consider your answers to the following questions.

  • What are your big rocks?
  • What is important to you?
  • At the end of the day, if you could only accomplish one thing, what would it be?
  • What is important to you and your family?
  • What values do you want to uphold?
  • In what activities do you want to invest your time?
  • What relationships are important to you?
  • How do you want to spend your time?
  • How do you want people to remember you? What do you want them to say at your funeral?

As you think about your answers to these questions and consider what is important, it will become clear where you should focus your energies. Consider doing a core values analysis to identify what’s really important to you.

Step 2: Plan Your Week Around Your Big Rocks

Step two is to plan your week around your big rocks. This might sound overwhelming but take it one step at a time. First, consider your current schedule. Look at your calendar and determine when you need to be out of the house. Then look at what you need to do at home, including your homeschool day.

And then consider if you have time set aside for your big rocks. If not, what change could you make so that you do have time? It doesn’t have to be significant. You can start with small changes. Choose one priority or one big rock, and make a plan for what you want to do and when you will do it. This will probably require that you say no to something else. I love that Craig Groeschel says that we have to say no to the good so that we can say yes to the best.

Your Challenge

Your challenge is to identify at least one big rock in your life. You may know right away what is important to you, and you can identify your big rocks. But if you don’t, that’s okay. You might want to do the core values exercise to help you identify your priorities.

This is the first post in a Take Back Your Days Challenge. Be sure to check out the other posts in this series.

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