Do you feel time is running away with you? Are you frustrated that there are things you wanted/want to do that you never seem to have time for? A renovation project? A trip to Machu Picchu? Retraining as an acupuncturist? A puppy with your name on it at the rescue centre? A story waiting to be written?

If so I now have the answer!

Imagine you have an empty jam jar. Into it you put two or three largish stones, then some smaller pebbles. It now seems pretty full, but you can still add a handful of sand which will filter into the spaces, and there’s even room for you to top up the whole thing with water. Easy.

Now imagine filling the jar in a different way. Put the pebbles in first, then the sand and the water and … oh no… now there’s not enough room for the big stones to fit in.

Someone mentioned this jam jar concept to me at the weekend as a metaphor for life, or, rather, for living. The idea is that the jar holds the time available to us in our daily lives. The big stones represent our major aims/ ambitions /personal projects or, in my case, perhaps, my next (overdue) novel.

The pebbles are the other significant things we have (or want) to do – writing blog posts for example, teaching writing courses, other work commitments, giving talks, publicising previous books, caring for an elderly relative.

The sand represents ‘essential’ day to day tasks – email, FB, Twitter, designing an avatar, picking the kids up from school, shopping, paying bills, walking the dog, stocking up the Kindle, having friends to dinner, keeping fit, going to the latest James Bond film.

The water symbolises all those other insidious (sometimes even invidious) time consuming, unavoidable elements of life like cooking, eating, cleaning, laundry, TV, sleeping, being ill, being tired or mowing the lawn.

How you categorise the elements of your life is a matter of attitude and personal opinion, but the basic idea is that it is all too easy to fill up your jar with pebbles, sand and water, leaving no time/space for the big stones.

If you don’t have any pressing, ‘big stone’ projects then that’s fine, lucky you, but if you do then the moral of the jar is that you should install them into your life, protect their space and fill up the time around them, not instead of them.

Does it work? I don’t know, but it’s always good to acknowledge aims and ambitions and to visualise them working out. As mentioned in a previous post I am as guilty as the next person of falling back on displacement activity. So this afternoon I am going down to the beach to find a suitably large, ‘next novel’ stone, I’ll pop it into a jar, sprinkle in a few pebbles, add a modicum of sand and water and have it sitting on the kitchen table as a reminder of my priorities.

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