Rocks photo

Rocking your priorities for a more fulfilling life

Do you often find yourself struggling to make time for the things that are most important to you such as family, self care, your spiritual practice, passion projects, etc, but spend a whole lot of time on things you ‘have’ to do but don’t value as much?

Our modern world has us scrambling to tick off our Things To Do (TTD) lists. Things like work, and shopping and attending to emails and social media, and paying the bills, dusting and doing the laundry, and taking the car for a service, and playing taxi for your kids…

Now I know we ‘have’ to work if we want to eat, but Australians are working longer and harder than ever before, and it seems the TTD list is getting longer and harder too. Will the earth really spin out of orbit if we don’t respond to a work email at 7.30pm at night?

These days, we can easily fall into the trap of reacting to all the stimuli in our lives (work demands, social media demands, advertising demands, kids’ demands…) rather than responding. I know, because this was me a few years ago, and I admit is still me at lot of the time, but I’m getting better at it.

When I was working a 60-hour a week job (and then some) and trying to be Wonder Woman (she was always my favourite super gal) to all and sundry, I found that anything I really loved to do or that gave me joy was relegated to the end of a very long list of ‘to dos’. And as you’d expect I never got ‘to do’ any of it because there was no time left, or I was simply too exhausted from ticking off everything else on my list.

Since I quit the 9-5 (although it never is 9-5 right?) I have been identifying what’s really important to me – what I value – what gives me joy – and I’ve been trying to move these things way up the list!

The third habit of Stephen Covey’s best-selling book 7 Habits of Highly Effective People is to Put First Things First®. He illustrates this with a well-known story about ‘big rocks’.

The gist of it is if you put all the big rocks into a jar and then add pebbles and sand and then water you can fit all the elements in, but if you start with the water then add the sand and pebbles, and then try to fit the big rocks in they won’t fit.

The animated video below doesn’t include the water, but it gives you the idea.

What this shows is that by prioritising your big rocks – what’s important to you – and getting those things done first – you will become more productive, more fulfilled and reduce time-wasters and unnecessary tasks.

The key is to know what is truly important to you.

Here’s an exercise to help you identify your big rocks.

Draw 6 big rocks on a piece of paper or in your journal and label each rock: Spirit, Soul, Heart, Mind, Body, Space.  

You can do a relaxing meditation before doing this exercise or just close you eyes for a few moments and breathe in and out slowly a few times to create a space of stillness.

Since I quit the 9-5 (although it never is 9-5 right?) I have been identifying what’s really important to me – what I value – what gives me joy – and I’ve been trying to move these things way up the list!

Now with each of your big rocks visualise – What is it that my Spirit desires? What is it that my Soul desires, my Heart, my Mind, my Body, my Space…

For me my Spirit is my spiritual practice, my soul is my Soul Song – my creative expression and contribution to the world, my heart is my connection/relationships, my mind is my intellect and learning, knowledge and wisdom, my body is my physical and emotional bodies and my space is my material and energetic world.

You can use these labels and definitions or come up with your own.

Here are my ‘big rocks’ below:

The big rocks don’t have to be set in stone (mind the pun)! They can change as you want them to. For instance, this month I’m focusing on decluttering my space but next month it might be creating a resort-style bedroom retreat (see last week’s post).

You can also go on and do this exercise with the pebbles (next important/necessary things), sand (less important things) and water (trivial things and timewasters) to see where you are spending most of your time.

And on the topic of time – prioritising your big rocks doesn’t mean you have to give the largest amount of time to them – it simply means putting them first.

For example, a 10 minute meditation before getting up in the morning, taking a singing lesson or a class or two of yoga each week, having dinner at the table with your kids at night, a monthly Reiki or massage treatment, may not add up to the same amount of time as the 8 hours a day you might spend at work or other activities, but it doesn’t need to.

When you focus on putting first things first they fill up your teapot and allow you to more effectively manage the pebbles and the sand and even the occasional water activity, because, hey, we all need to check out occasionally.

Don’t forget you don’t have to fill up you whole jar with things to do. This article from Renée Fishman challenges the whole notion of the big rocks saying we need to create space in our lives.

I agree wholeheartedly with this concept – that’s why some of my big rocks create that space through meditation and stillness.

The idea here is not to schedule every minute of your life, just to ensure you have your rocks on right i.e. your priorities in order.

Here’s some reflection starters to help you identify and prioritise your own big rocks.


  • What are your big rocks?
  • How can you re-prioritise your schedule to put first things first?
  • What pebble, sand and water activities can you eliminate or reduce to create space for your big rocks?
  • How can you check in on your progress to see if you are putting your big rocks first? (Hint: Diary/phone reminders are always helpful for me)

Let me know how you go with this exercise and your progress in the comments below or via my Facebook page.

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