The Empty Container, a reblog from Zen Habits by Leo Babauta

John and I use the shorthand of referring to our “big rocks” — what are the priority items in our lives that we should attend to before anything else?

It’s a term we borrowed from this story about putting the big rocks in the jar first or there won’t be room:

This post from Zen Habits is a great reminder to manage your life intentionally, to make sure the big rocks go in first, instead of trying to prune unnecessary items out later. It’s especially important to think of your schedule that way as we head into the often-manic holiday season, to choose what goes in wisely.

Our lives get so complicated not overnight but gradually.

The complications creep up on us, one insignificant step at a time.

Today I order something online, tomorrow someone gives me a gift, then I get a free giveaway, then I decide I need some new tools. One item at a time, the clutter accumulates, because I’m not constantly purging the old.

Today I say yes to an email request, tomorrow I say yes to a party invitation, then I get asked to a quick cup of coffee, then I decide to be a part of a project. One yes at a time, and soon my life is full and I don’t know how I got so busy.

I look at a news site, then a social media site, then my email, then read an interesting article, then watch an online video someone sent me … and soon my day is gone, and I didn’t get much done, and my life gets eaten away in minuscule bites.

How do we protect against this feature creep, this complication creep? We have to take a step back, regularly.

Instead of thinking, “How can I get rid of this complicated mess?” … let’s ask, “What if I started with a blank slate?”

What would you do if your life was a blank slate?

If it were an empty container, with limited space, what would you put in it?

For me, I might put in some play time and reading time with my kids; coffee time and exercise time with my wife; some long walks and talks with good friends and close relatives; work that matters to me and that helps others; continual learning; and time alone to meditate and spend with my thoughts and a good book.

Those are the things that I’d put into my empty container, because they feel right to me. What would you choose?

Once we’ve figured that out, we know what belongs in the container … now we just need to constantly look at things and activities and requests and tasks, and ask: “Is this one of my container items?”

Leo Babauta says his entire blog, and all his e-books, are uncopyrighted (since January 2008).

“That means I’ve put them in the public domain, and released my copyright on all these works.

There is no need to email me for permission — use my content however you want! Email it, share it, reprint it with or without credit. Change it around, put in a bunch of swear words and attribute them to me. It’s OK.”


Categories: health and well being, lifestyle

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1 reply


  1. Resolve to do less in 2015 | Newvine Growing

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