Carve Out Time for What’s Important (Day 14 of 30 Days of Getting Results)


Day 14 - Carve Out Time for Whats Important

“Things which matter most, should never be at the mercy of things which matter least.” – Goethe

Your Outcome: Make time for what’s important.  Spend more time in what really matters in YOUR life, and spend less time in what does not.  As one of my friend’s puts it, “time is all we have.”

Welcome to day 14 of 30 Days of Getting Results, a series of posts where I share with you the art and science of getting more effective results from my book, Getting Results the Agile Way .  In day 13, we learned how to triage our action items with skill to chop our backlogs or overflowing plates down to size.   Today, we learn a vital key to successful and effective time management.  We learn how to make time for what really matters in our life, a day at a time and a moment at a time.

A Lesson in Life for the Best of Your Life
One of the most crucial lessons in life that many people learn the hard way is this:

You don’t have time, you make time.  If you don’t make time for what’s important, it doesn’t happen.

You’ll never get off the treadmill or stop treading water, unless you decide to.  And that’s what this series of posts is all about … helping you get results, enjoy the journey, and make the most of what you’ve got … with skill (versus just hoping for the best  or trying harder or wishful thinking.)

Put in the Big Rocks First
This is a story I first heard from Stephen Covey a long time back that really stuck out for me.  As the story goes, a teacher fills a jar with rocks until no more would fit.  He then asks the class, “Is the jar is full?”  The class says, “Yes.”  The teacher reaches under the table, pulls out some gravel, and adds the gravel to the jar.  The gravel fills the spaces between the rocks.  The teacher asks again, “Is the jar full?” Some nod their head.  The teacher then adds sand to the jar filling up the remaining spaces.  The teacher asks, “Is the jar full?”

The class is on to him now and says, “No.” “Good,” the teacher replies, and he proceeds to pour water into the jar until it’s filled to the brim. The teacher asks, “What’s the point of this illustration?”  One of the students replies that no matter how full your schedule is, you can always fit more things in.  “No,” the teacher responds.  The point is this:

If you don’t make room for the big rocks, you’ll never fit them in.

Make Room for Your Big Rocks Today, Each Day
This is where The Rule of 3 helps.  Are you spending the right amount of time today on those three results or stories that you want to accomplish?  The default pattern is to try and fit them in with all your existing routines.  A more powerful approach is to make time for your three results today and optimize around that.

This might mean disrupting other habits and routines you have, but this is a good thing.  The more you get in the habit of making time for what’s important, the more you’ll get the results you want.   If you’re not getting the results you want you can start asking better questions.  For example, are you investing enough time?  Are you investing the right energy?  Maybe the approach is off.

Just maybe, a different thing happens.  Maybe you start accomplishing the results you *thought* you wanted, but you don’t like what you get.  The grass is NOT always greener.  Now you can step back and ask whether you’re choosing the right outcomes or stories for what YOU really want or really need in your life right now.

What are You Rushing Through For?
Covey teaches us, be efficient with things, but effective with people.  Whenever I see somebody rushing through something or it feels like it’s a drive by dump or exchange, I have to ask:

““What are you rushing through for?”  …

Sometimes it’s because people are late.  Sometimes it’s because they are more focused on the goal, than the journey.  A lot of times, it’s because they simply didn’t  allow themselves to be here now, where this moment is the one that really counts.

It doesn’t mean being slow, unless slow makes sense for the situation.  In fact, I can’t help but to think of John Wooden’s saying, “Be quick – but don’t hurry!”  For me, it reminds me to be deliberate and mindful on how I pace myself.   I can be quick without haste or rushing through things, as if something else is always more important, somewhere else.

3 Ways to Carve Out Time for What’s Important
Take the time to step back and reflect on where you spend your time on a regular basis.  Here are three ways to make time for what’s important:

  1. Reset your day.   You can do a reset for your day by stepping back and asking yourself, “What three results do I want for today?”  For example, one of my outcomes today is, “Enjoy the nice day outside.”  I’m not going to let something else get in the way of missing our fleeting sunny Summer days.
  2. Reset your schedule.     You can do a reset for the week by stepping back and asking yourself, “What three results do I want for this week?” … or “What three stories do I want to light up in my life or make happen for the week?”  You can then fit everything else around that.  You can also simply check whether you’ve made enough time in your schedule on a weekly basis for the things that really count, for you, in your life right now.  It’s not all-or-nothing, and there’s always a way to spend a little more time here, and a little less there, but you might have to get creative.  If you get stuck here, pair up with somebody and ask for their help … you might be surprised how this simple act gives you clarity on your calendar, and how another pair of eyes can really shine the light on ways to get more of what you want.
  3. Invest in your Hot Spots.   However you define your Hot Spots (mind, body, emotions, career, financial, relationships, and fun), you can very deliberately map out what’s important in your life, and you can deliberately invest in your Hot Spots.  I found the single most important factor here is to make time on my weekly schedule for my Hot Spots.  If I’m not getting enough time in a bucket, then I schedule more time.  If I’m putting too much time into one bucket, and not another, then I adjust it.  Once I have enough time in the right buckets, then I make sure I’m investing my best energy and best mindset.  I never want to be in a scenario where I’m always rushing through, because I didn’t make time for it.

And, of course, you can always simply ask yourself, “What are you rushing through for?” and do a reset, at any moment, at any time.

Today’s Assignment

  1. Make time TODAY for something you really want to spend more time in, that’s important for you.  Maybe it’s as simple as feeding the ducks.  Maybe it’s spending time with an old friend.  Maybe it’s spending more time learning about Getting Results the Agile Way 🙂    Who’s to judge?  You’re the judge.  Just remember, you’re the one that lives with the consequences of how you choose to spend your time … each moment, each day, every day.  Be the author of your life, and write your story forward.  No regrets, just choosing your own adventure from here forward.
  2. Step back and ask the tough question, “What are you rushing through for?  If the answer is nothing, then just kick back and enjoy doing whatever you’re doing right here, right now.

My Related Posts

Photo by Philms.


  1. J. D. I really like this reminder especially “Covey teaches us, be efficient with things, but effective with people.” Overall, I love your emphasis on enjoying the process!

  2. JD,
    As much as I think I’m doing a lot of this stuff – seeing it written out here is really very powerful. And it reminds me that I really don’t always hit the mark in what I want to do. So, great to read this today!

    And – I have always loved that story from Stephen Covey, too…

  3. I never heart that Steven Covey story before and I love it. We have to do the important stuff first (big rocks) other wise we don’t get great work accomplished.

    I know I sometimes rush to get home from work. I think that by weaving in and out I’m saving time. When in reality I come home more stressed to my family. I’ve learned to just relax with my commute home and now I walk in the door happy and ready to play.

  4. JD, I loved that analogy to “Make Room for Your Big Rocks.” Brilliant!

    This just makes so much sense. It has me thinking that if I choose to do the smaller tasks first, the bigger more important tasks weigh on my mind and the smaller tasks take longer than they might have.

  5. @ Sandra — Thank you. The journey is the key!

    @ Lance — It’s also forcing me to take some of these skills a bit deeper. It’s one thing to do it for myself, but it’s another to be able to explain it as simply as possible and help other people get results. It’s a challenge, but it’s so worth it. Once everybody is freed up from their day-to-day grind, we can all go play some kickball.

    @ Karl — You made time for what you value and that’s what counts. It might seem like such a little thing, and yet you reduced your frustration on a daily basis and improved the quality of your life for yourself and your family — way to go!

    @ Davina — It’s so true. It’s way too easy to let all the little tasks get in the way of the big stuff, especially if we don’t have boundaries or limits in place. Interestingly, prioritizing the big stuff actually makes room for the small stuff too.

  6. Right on!
    I was using Covey’s Important/Urgent quadrant and it was super helpful.
    Great rundown, JD.

  7. Hi JD .. I’d heard the rock story before, perhaps not realising Steven Covey related it, but the way you’ve presented it .. really hit home .. we have to get the big rocks in first .. otherwise they’ll never fit – how true.

    Having had to deal with so much in recent years, and having had to move out of my house, while my mother was in hospital etc .. has highlighted to me – that I needed the rocks dealt with and probably not much more .. simply because there were lots of other things going on too.

    In my previous life as such .. I was rushing around trying to be all things to all people and exhausting myself in the process .. now I have to protect me.

    I do talk to myself to remember this moment as now … and realise that I need to put the mind chatter away and concentrate on the task at hand, or enjoy the time with my mother – just being with her & giving her that benefit of me being peaceful and not anxious to do other things (while she can’t do anything for herself – not even hear now .. which is really frustrating and sad) ..

    Thanks JD .. these lessons are so helpful & albeit I’m not settled I’m taking ideas forward and working towards a more productive and hot spotted future .. while retaining a sense of self, and when I move into my own place again the reset of the schedule will help hugely – not so much travelling and more settlement .. great lessons for us all – Hilary

  8. @ Hilary — You’re right — protecting yourself is job number one. We can’t take care of other people if we can’t take care of ourselves.

    Today’s ever-changing landscape is especially tough. That’s why I’m trying to share some of the hard-core skills as best I can to help even the playing field.

  9. Few years ago, I was physically active and fit (going to the gym, taking yoga/zumba/strength training classes, playing racquetball, etc) and yet suffered from tons of stress related physical symptoms. I put work and fun before heath then. Many life changes later…, I am finally back to a health conscious life. Not a perfect one though.

    A right knee injury (last September) resulted in a left hip issue and a severe lower back pain. I actually didn’t notice how bad it all was until I got back on exercising last month. My flexibility on the left hip was less than the half of my right side… Because I’d been very flexible, the stiffness and deep pain was alarming.

    I started seeing a sports massage therapist last month. She recommended me to see a chiropractor, so I started seeing a chiropractor this month. …a long story short, HEALTH is one of the big stones that let us know if we are not taking care of it. I am just glad that I started working out (HOT SPOT!) and made appointment right away with the therapists and doctors (HEALTH, Another HOT SPOT!). I acted quickly because it was on my radar… I cancelled other appointments to put the priority on them both.

    There are things we put off until “later,” but it’s toll is unknown until we experience what it takes to get what we had before… I am so looking forward to getting rid of the hip issue and getting my flexibility back. Feeling hopeful here 🙂 Thank you for the advice on “choose to.” I added your advice on my Must/Should/Could list as their reminders.

    • I’m glad you are focusing on your health.

      We need our bodies to go the distance.

      I started reinvesting in my body, after a few unexpected setbacks.

      I’m finally making significant progress, using the following programs:
      – Debbie Siebers Slim in 6 (builds strong core)
      – Chalene Extreme (builds overall strength + agility)
      – Power 90 (changes up the routine)
      – P90X3 (takes agility, balance, flexibility, and strength to the extreme)

      I’ll elaborate in a future post, but the main points are:
      – I wanted to “fix” past injuries by building strength and flexiblity around the injuries
      – I wanted to focus on building lean muscle
      – I wanted something I could easily do from my living room
      – I wanted amazing results backed by good science and techniques
      – I wanted world-class instructors that keep me motivated

      I actually took it slowly though. The key is feeling the movements rather than going through the motions, and slowing down to speed up. I learned a lot each time, and I continue to learn a lot each day.

      Most importantly, I’m healing things by growing stronger.

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