Time Management/Resources/Prioritisation

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Prioritising your time

Jar of pebbles

Image courtesy of Alui000

One of the hardest things about managing time is determining priorities, especially when those priorities are associated with activities you really like to do, and other activities that are very low on your list of favorites.

One way of thinking about prioritizing what is important is to think of your time being represented by a jar, and your tasks being either rocks (big, important things), pebbles (things you have to do of less importance), and sand (the small insignificant things).

If you put the sand in the jar first, then you won’t have room for the rocks. The best way to fill the jar, of course, is to put in the rocks first, then the pebbles, and then the sand. By prioritising the important things you have to do with your time, you are able to manage your time more effectively.

For more about this theory of time management, visit this site.

Here are some ideas of categories for setting priorities:

  • activities that are required or essential--things you have to do every day.
  • activities that are required, but that you do periodically at specific periods or intervals.
  • activities that are variable--in other words required or essential, but not occurring at specific times. These activities may or may not lend themselves to allocating specific amounts of time.
  • activities that are important, but not required. These are recommended or advisable things to do, but they can be postponed or rescheduled if necessary.
  • activities that require time for planning, problem solving, reflecting, and thinking.
  • activities that can be classified as unexpected or unplanned events or emergencies.

By using these categories, or categories like these, you can conceptually start with a blank slate, and then "insert" activities according to their priorities.


  • Marc Doesburg, Otago Polytechnic, 2006
  • David McQuillan, Otago Polytechnic, 2007

NOTE: This resource is based on an article produced by the Pennsylvania State University as such any re-use of this article is also bound by the license of the original work.