What happens when you prioritize in reverse

Feb 09, 2023

You might have heard the time management lesson on fitting the sand, pebbles, and rocks into a jar. If you fill it first with the sand, then the pebbles, then the rocks, the rocks don’t all fit because the jar becomes too full. But if you fill it in reverse order, the rocks fit, then the pebbles and sand find their way into the left-over spaces. They almost always do because they’re persistent like that.  

The lesson review

The rocks are your dreams, the stuff that nourishes your soul and brings meaning and immense joy to your life.

The pebbles are things you need to do. Maybe. They may seem critical in the moment but after the fact, not so notable. 

The sand is busyness. When you start to observe, I mean really observe, you’ll notice that so much time is being put into these fillers that lack nourishment and are not even a little bit critical to your mission. 


What mission, you say? To love your life. That mission. 


In practice, it seems hard to sort out what your rocks, pebbles, and sand are… even though I'm sure you really know what they are deep down. 

So how to prioritize? 

First it’s important to remember that the word prioritize is a verb. Priorities are what you DO. What you want are not priorities until you do them. This is why they say that to know someone’s priorities, see what they do, not what they say.

The 3 Most Important Questions

Vishen Lakhiani, author of Code of the Extraordinary Mind, lays out what he calls The 3 Most Important Questions (MIQs):

  1. What do you want to experience in your life?
  2. How do you want to grow?
  3. What do you want to contribute? 

These three questions are 1000% worth taking the time to answer and adopt as your guiding force when deciding what to do next. 


When you Calendar, schedule activities that support your 3 MIQs FIRST. These are your rocks. Your anchor. These are also the items that have lived on your to-do list forever because they don’t ever fit into your day… because you filled your day with pebbles and sand first, and when time miraculously opens up, you only have enough energy to scroll your feed. 


Reverse the order. Have courage. Don’t worry - even when you’re tired, your sand and pebbles will happen if you want them to. It's just the nature of those pesky little things.


You may find issue with this. You may say you don’t have the time; that this is just one more thing to do, you’re already overwhelmed. Remember that eating and brushing, taking on that additional project, and saying yes to the carpool are more things to do. So is taking time off to heal when you’re sick. But you do them because you want to stay alive, healthy, and feeling like a part of the tribe. 


Calendaring your 3 MIQs first will transform your life FAST. The time you spend on this will open up a new world for you and give you power and energy that you didn't know you had. You’ll do much more than survive. And you'll wonder later why you thought it was so hard. The pebbles and the sand... the real freedom comes when you realize that they weren’t as critical of your attention as you thought they were. 




(much like this blog post!)