Only a few short decades ago, social scientists reasoned that because of productivity advances, more and more work could be done in fewer and fewer hours and American society would soon become a leisure society. The anticipated leisure society would be characterized by such remarkable innovations as 30 hour work weeks, only six months of work per year, or retirement at age 38. Needless to say, we have not seen these predictions materialize. We are now working longer hours than we have for several decades.
Far from being that leisure society we were expected to be, we have become a seemingly more frantic, active, busy, distracted and hard-working society. We regularly hear parishioners raise concerns about balancing the demands of their lives. They are committed to the work they do for their employers, but also to the families they love, the volunteer work they believe in, and the church work that inspires them. How are they to balance it all?
We recently found an article by Steve Grose about balancing life’s demands that offers a compelling suggestion. Grose claims that it is possible to accommodate life’s most important components, and still have room for many other aspects of life, provided we prioritize well. Here is the illustration he used to prove the point. Imagine you have a very large empty glass jar. Put enough golf balls in the jar to reach to the rim. Is it full? Not yet. Pour pebbles into the jar and let the pebbles settle in among the golf balls. Is the jar full? Not yet. Pour a box of sand into the jar and the sand will take up spaces left open by the balls and pebbles. Is the jar full? Not yet. Now take a large cup of coffee and pour it into the jar. The coffee will fill in all the remaining open spaces. Now the jar is full.
What does this little experiment demonstrate? Grose tells us that the empty glass jar is our lives, waiting to be filled with the choices we make about our time and energy expenditures. The golf balls are the most important things, so they go in first … things like our families, friends, health and faith. Even if we had nothing else in our lives, these components would make our lives seem full. But we can add other things items among these very important ones. The pebbles in the jar represent other things that matter, like our jobs, our houses and our cars. Even adding these, we have room for more. The sand we add is the unimportant but interesting stuff of life: the amusements and entertainments. Provided we add life’s components in this order, we can manage to have them all. But if we start by filling our jar of time with the sand and pebbles (the less critical or even trivial aspects of life), we will never find room for the biggest and most important components.
And what does the cup of coffee represent, you may ask? Well – there’s always room in even the busiest life for a cup of coffee with a friend.
So how are you filling the time of your life? It’s never too late to reprioritize and refill your life in new ways. And it’s never too late to squeeze in a little time with a friend.