Fitting everything into life

“Let’s start at the very beginning,

A very good place to start”

…are the opening lines to Do-Re-Mi from the Sound of Music.

It seems obvious that the beginning is where to start, and yet sometimes we try and get our priorities in life, the wrong way round. Inadvertently we can put the least important things first and as a result get “stuck in the thick of thin things” As a consequence we find we have no time for what really matters. However it’s a relatively simple fix to reorganise and rethink our priorities. We just have to decide, what really matters to us the most. Now this is a personal thing, I can’t tell you what should matter to you the most, but as an example I can tell you that family relations, providing for my family and my faith are all high priorities to me.

To help illustrate lets look at some images that I used in a presentation some years ago, the printing on the glass may give away exactly how long ago! 🙂

In each image the Glass represents time, either hours in a day, or days in week. The Pebbles represent the aspects of our life that are really important, or should be. Finally the Sand is activities that fill time but are perhaps not critical or life changing. Perhaps they are lifestyle options, rather than life changing.

If we choose to fill our time (the glass) with the least important things (the sand) it starts out well, but we soon find that there is not enough time remaining to fit in what really matters Note in the picture above there appears to be ample time left, but the glass below shows that the important things (the pebbles) overflow and can’t fit into the remaining time.

Lets take stock, write down what we want to achieve and make those things a priority, Perhaps schedule time for them on a calendar. List them and have that list to hand, so they are a prominent area of focus. Share them with a loved one or friend. You could consider them goals. If you are a person of faith make them a subject of prayer.

Now you have decided what is important to you, fill your time (the glass) with the important (pebbles) first. You will see in the picture below everything that matters fits, you have time to complete and achieve.

Now here is the clever part, because you prioritised – even the not so important things (the sand) will also fit into the available time!!! Below exactly the same amount of sand used in the very first picture, has been added. There is even room to spare.

So what has changed? Not a lot except the sand fills the gaps left when added last, rather than being the main event when added first.

I accept that in some ways this analogy over simplifies our problems, but in the 14 years that have passed since the glass was gifted to me. I have always found that life is easier and fits better into the finite amount of time available, when I prioritise what matters most and do that first.

So here is the challenge. Think of 3 things that should be a priority to you, write them down and focus on them.


When I wrote the post, I was focused on the “How” we fit things in to our busy lives. In an exchange of messages with a collegue, he commented on one of the possible reasons “Why” we don’t choose to fit things in.

“I have enjoyed reading your article. Whilst I was doing so, I thought on what makes us act against our priorities if like you say it is not that complicated? My view on this is feelings or in other words, the occasional difficulties in controlling them.

My father drives a 20-year-old Mercedes e-class. One day he was invited to attend the show room for the e-class recent model. He refused. When he was asked why, he said: Because once there I will buy one. So why not to buy? the salesman asked: Because at a distance I can properly stablish my priorities, but when close to the new e-class I cannot.

What was happening with my father is what happens with millions of us when we cannot resist our emotions caused by the calling of marketing and other appeals.

Feelings and its control are what many call emotional intelligence. Whomever has this, rarely betrays their own priorities.”

Laurentino Moreira

This resonated with me, many of us know the principals required to live a balanced life, but we conciously choose not to, for reasons that seem more important. This occurs in work, family social and church settings. We only make changes when we understand what to do and more importantly, want to do it. We have to have a vision of how things can be better in order to make the effort required. So repeat from the first paragraph

“We just have to decide, what really matters to us the most.”

Then do all that is required to make it happen, starting with making it a priority.

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