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Do you wish you had more time to do things you love, to be with your children, your life partner&ldots; and maybe with yourself, too? Do you wish you had the energy to cook healthy meals for yourself – or to exercise? Are you always too stressed to meditate or pray (or whatever makes you feel at peace)?

Then here’s a clever exercise thought out by a time management specialist. I invite you to follow these instructions in your mind:

Start by taking a glass bowl and gathering some big rocks, smaller rocks, some sand, and water, too. Now, fill your bowl with the big rocks, until you cannot fit a single one in it. Look at your bowl&ldots; would you say that  it is full? Yes it is, right? Then, add the smaller rocks to the big rocks –  as many as you can. Now, is your bowl full? Well, yes, it is&ldots;Continue by putting in as much sand as you can in the bowl&ldots; is it full yet? Or will it be full when you will have poured some water?

Lesson #1 is: We can always do more, add more to our schedule or to-do list.

Lesson #2 is: We have to put in the big rocks first (our priorities). We cannot incorporate them to the bowl after  the other (smaller) elements –  our non-priorities.

Many of us would like to find a way to squeeze into our days everything we want to do (trying to push the big rocks in a sand-filled schedule). We really want to play a new instrument, to exercise, or to write a book (for example), yet we do not always have the time or the energy to take the first step. We feel like the circumstances are more powerful than we are. Why is that? And how do we prioritize our&ldots; priorities?

First and foremost, we have to evaluate if our priorities really are  priorities. There is a major difference between wishes and choices&ldots; You may wish to spend a half-hour every day reading one of those 500-page biographies you love so much&ldots; But if you aren’t doing it, you haven’t really chosen  it – it’s not a priority. Why? Maybe you have a hard time relaxing after work,  maybe you feel you should always be doing something "useful" and reading makes you feel guilty. The bottom line is that something is blocking you. Hmmm, maybe you don’t even like reading that much, after all&ldots;

What motivates your wishes, or your choices? Sometimes we like the idea of a certain activity, but we don’t like doing it that much. Sometimes we want the results, but dislike the process (exercise, anyone?). Sometimes we want to do things because they are valued by others around us. Or we think we "should" be doing this and that, even when it is not a necessity.

If you don’t have time to do what you wish you would do, ask yourself, "Will this specific action contribute something rich and precious to my life? If I die in one year, will I be happy I did this?" If not, and if you’re under no obligation (like paying the bills), I have a suggestion for you: stop wanting to do it – you’re wasting your energy, and irritating yourself.

We accumulate dust in our houses, in our cars, on our clothes, but we accumulate dust in our schedules as well. We hang on not only to old habits, but also to old objectives. Our priorities change, our needs change – sometimes abruptly – and we don’t always adjust. We stopped studying Spanish 10 years ago and we keep trying to go back to it; we imagine going to Mexico and communicating easily with the locals, we imagine impressing our friends (and ourselves) when we’ll speak this lovely language&ldots; but we never find the time or energy to study it. Maybe we don’t really want or need to speak Spanish perfectly, after all&ldots; Or maybe we don’t really need to do the laundry every other day&ldots; maybe we can stop volunteering at our children’s school if we don’t get much out of it anymore.

When we dust our schedule (and our outdated objectives), we make room, we create space for those effervescent priorities that correspond exactly to what we need, at that precise moment; we free ourselves from activities and wishes that do not serve us anymore. Nothing is a true waste of time, of course, but some choices are far more constructive, and fun, than others. You may not be able to order a chicken tortilla and a green salad with the dressing on the side if you go to Mexico. You may not become a size 0 and fit in your wedding dress, or tuxedo. You may not have 10 clean towels piled up all the time. But changing your standards, your expectations, and your objectives, will make you feel like there is room for you in your schedule – and in your life. What would you change in your life if you assumed that living was meant to be a lot of fun?

This Personal Development article was written by Marie-Pier Charron on 3/30/2005

Marie-Pier Charron, life coach, is founder of Implosions, and editor of a monthly newsletter filled with practical tips and powerful self-growth strategies. To get your own free subscription, visit her at