I would like to dispel this notion that disabled people sit around all day and watch daytime television. When I worked full-time, I would long for a sick day to sleep late, stay in my pajamas and watch The Price Is Right. I still have that dream. Just because I don’t receive a paycheck doesn’t mean I don’t get stressed or have a problem with time management. I do. Okay, maybe I watch an episode or two of HGTV’s House Hunters over lunch, but that’s it. I wake at 5 a.m., “quit” at 5 p.m. and still feel I don’t have enough hours in the day or days in the week.

The problem became apparent in the last few weeks as I tried to juggle writing a weekly blog, finishing a book and walking Frankie every morning and evening. And let’s not forget that when you’re disabled, everything takes longer. Getting a shower, fixing a meal, transferring to my power chair with an excited pooch at my feet. Everything. I can spend a half-hour pecking out just one email!

So, I started researching organization and was introduced to the concept of “big rocks”  from Stephen R. Covey. He wrote the widely popular The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, first published in 1989. That’s right — 1989. And I’m just now learning about it. Ironic that I never felt the need to be even slightly effective before becoming disabled. (I’d argue that being productive and successful matter more when you’re doing something you love, but that seems like another post.)

Anyway, the idea is to prioritize. Your big rocks are what’s important to you in the overall scheme of things. The big picture. It’s personal. Maybe it’s time spent with family. Maybe it’s giving back — a charity or other service. The point is to get the big rocks in there and not squander away your time on hold with the cable company or reading email jokes.

One of the concepts I picked up during my web surfing is this: you have to follow your compass before you watch the clock. In other words, before you can manage your time, you need to know where you’re going, your priorities and goals. Instead of focusing on what’s urgent, learn what’s important to you. Where you are headed is more important than how fast you are going. Think of the Titanic.  

I thought about my big rocks and came up with three non-negotiables that I simply must make time for. Frankie (if you’ve read some prior posts, you know how much I get out of his walks,) my health (maintaining my current mobility is crucial to my continuing to live independently) and my writing (my passion and purpose.)

As it turned out, that covered two of the seven habits. I don’t know the others yet, so I’m only mildly effective. Habit 3 is putting first things first or prioritizing. In Habit 7, you focus on finding balance between the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual areas of your life. This jives with my big rocks. Physically, I’m taking care of my health and exercise. My mental rock is my writing. And Frankie is a two-for. I cover my emotional needs by having social and meaningful interactions with others (just today I ditched my planned routine and went down to the local coffee shop with him at the invitation of a friend.) I think I successfully cover the spiritual side of things when I commune with nature on our walks and meditate seaside.

What are your big rocks? Think about your compass. And next week, I’ll get into the nitty-gritty of the clock. For now, I’m running out of time to post this.