How to Prioritize Your Life: the Rice and Walnuts Story
Imagine a bowl of raw rice, a bowl of whole walnuts in their shells and a bucket that we’ll put them into.
The grains of rice symbolize everyday, routine tasks – cooking, cleaning, running errands, etc. The walnuts represent bigger life priorities. Those could be learning a new skill, improving relationships, starting a business or any significant project that requires repeated attention and effort.
Our bigger goals tend to take a backseat to our everyday tasks.
We tend to prioritize our routine tasks: imagine the grains of rice going into our bucket first, filling it half-way. If we have time leftover, we’ll tend to our bigger projects: now place the walnuts in the bucket on top of the rice. The problem is that the walnuts don’t all fit in the bucket. They overflow the bucket, because the rice already occupies so much space in the bucket. Many of the walnuts – our big life projects – just don’t fit in, because we’re too busy with our routine tasks.
If our bigger life goals are to be done, we need to make them a priority.
Starting over with an empty bucket, first put in the walnuts. See how they all fit in the bucket now? Next, pour in the rice, the routine tasks. The grains of rice fit into the gaps around the walnuts. Now both the rice and the walnuts fit neatly in the bucket with no overflow.
Give time to what is really meaningful.
When you make bigger life goals a priority, you’ll work on them first and fit your everyday tasks around them. Working on what’s personally meaningful will energize you. You’ll have energy leftover to take care of the routine tasks – or decide that they don’t need as much of your attention as you first thought.
At the end of your life, will you say, I wish I’d cleaned my home more often? Or will you say, I wish I’d spent more time on what really mattered to me?