Urgent, Important? First things first!
I can certainly relate to Sarah’s feeling that there are too many big rocks for the bucket of our life, as she mentioned in a comment. In early 2003, my bucket seemed to overflow. I felt then that I had to find a way to make it all work. Achieving my goals was too important to me and my test (which if I passed would lead to a national teacher certification; only 40% of test takers passed) was only one of many goals. I was really trying to be superwoman—just as I imagine many of you work at being superteens. I thought I was prioritizing but ooohh---a to-do list with 20 items all the time!!!
What I struck me one day when I found myself in tears because I had not met a school deadline, was that I was not always prioritizing by what would help me meet my goals. Urgent “stuff” kept happening and I was always responding to that. Does that sound familiar?
That night I sat down and broke my test review into manageable chunks (I had 2 months until the test; I divided the topics into sessions for those two months) and put them into my planner. I did that first because the goal to pass the test was so important. And I planned to turn off instant message, not answer the phone, or have the TV on during the review sessions. I had tried to plan before but was always interrupted by the phone or my students on instant message with questions about our studies and I found that I didn’t accomplish half as much then.
Then I looked at my other rocks, and categorized them: vital, important, or nice. Then I took the vital rocks and categorized them again: vital, important, or nice. So my house wasn’t very clean during the process, and we didn’t have gourmet dinners. But the laundry was done and we had quickie suppers. My student’s work was graded but I didn’t plan any big field trips or projects during that time. I set aside a time every second night to evaluate their work. As I look back now, I prioritized, and then prioritized again. I did a mental daily check of my goals and made every effort not to be dragged down by urgent if it didn’t help me achieve my goals.
Of course, I had to be flexible at times. I couldn’t always follow the plan exactly. But since I knew where I was going and I had planned for time to get there, my review was accomplished by “the day”.
I truly believe, that with good preparation and putting first things first, you'll too feel that great rush of a job well done, and a goal achieved when you learn your scores. I share these experiences, knowing that you are planning and reviewing, but wondering is there one little piece here you could use to help you on your way? Or can you point us to some tips that are really helping you manage the rocks and put first things first?