Math Puzzles

How to prioritize the things that matter most?


28 December 2020                

Read time: 7 minutes


In today’s generation with the advancement of technology, the kids are very active in all the aspects of their day-to-day life. But it is important to give priority to the things that matter most.

Kid being busy in doing his work

The 21st Century’s Busy Kid

The 21st century is no ordinary time for children to grow up. From scoring an A+ in academics to perfecting that move in their dance class – they’re expected to excel in every aspect of life. The bottom line is – children are busier than ever.

No wonder that it has become imperative for you as a parent to prepare your kid to not only achieve different goals but to do so while remaining stress-free.

Children are often not conscious of the fact that time is a limited resource. They want to do everything that comes their way and thus, frequently miss out on doing the important things in life.

kid in day to day multitasking his work

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How to prioritize the things that matter most?


Reasons why kids pay less attention

Phones and TV screens – you’re not helping us!

Kids getting distracted with the usage of mobile phones

The increasing popularity of technology among children is only adding up to the challenge. A report from the Pew Research Center mentioned that a majority of teenagers feel they spend too much time online.

Another research study by Common Sense Media revealed that teenagers spent an average of nine hours a day online. And the figure was 6 hours for kids who were aged between 8 to 12, and 50 minutes for kids below the age of 8.

Hence, children are not only busier but also way more distracted than before.

Kids watching television and not focusing on the things that are important

The Pickle Jar Theory – an interesting way to learn time management!

Mr. Nair, a retired army officer and the grandfather of Jay, a 10-year-old boy, saw this reality unfold in front of him every day. He watched Jay come back from school and sit in front of the TV. After an hour, it was time for his cricket coaching, and on his way back home, he would go to play in a park too. By the time he came back home and sat down to do homework, he felt very drowsy and his eyes could barely stay open.

So, one day Mr. Nair decided to teach Jay about juggling the various aspects of life through a metaphor that he would never forget!

He got an empty pickle jar. He filled the jar to the brim with golf balls. He then asked Jay –

‘Son, is the jar empty or full?’

Jay was amused and answered with excitement that the jar was empty.

Grandfather took some tiny pebbles out from his pocket and emptied them in the jar. The pebbles filled in the tiny spaces that were left in between the golf balls inside the jar. He asked again –

‘Is the jar empty or full?’

Being sure this time, Jay replied ‘the jar is full now, Grandpa!’

Grandfather now untied a tiny handkerchief knot and revealed sand kept inside it. He poured the sand inside the jar. It went and occupied the voids left in between the pebbles.

Now, Jay was curious to know why Grandfather was demonstrating this experiment.

Grandfather explained that the jar was just like a day in Jay’s life. The golf balls were the things that matter the most to him. He must begin to fill his day with the things that have the highest priority.

Health is the most important, and hence, Jay must eat properly and go to bed on time.

And even then, there is space left in the day to adjust the second most important things, which are represented by the pebbles. After health, academics are the most important. He advised him to finish his homework first and then go to play.

The sand that goes in at the last, represents the things that matter less in life, but are required nevertheless. For example, watching TV or playing video games.

‘What will happen if you fill the jar with sand first’, asked Grandfather.

‘I will not be able to fill the golf balls inside’.

‘Correct!’ exclaimed Grandfather.

‘If you watch TV or play in the park before doing your homework, you will be too tired to do it and will be left with no time. You must do the more important things first and then go to the less important ones and address them. This is called PRIORITIZING.’

What are the benefits of prioritizing?

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, the famous German writer, once said that

important notes to remember

“Things which matter most must never be at the mercy of things which matter least.”

Teaching children the art of prioritizing early in life is one of the greatest stepping stones to success. It not only helps them manage their time but also become more efficient.

  • It reduces stress and increases productivity 
  • It helps you create room to check your errors
  • It gives you more time to relax
  • It helps you avoid procrastination
  • It keeps you motivated

How to prioritize things that really matter?

It is important to make children understand what things are important in life. But which aspects need to be paid attention to and what can be taken as leisure?

Children tend to lose track of time often and keep doing something that they’re enjoying; until someone tells them to stop. Hence, the first step is to gift your child a watch. A watch not only helps them keep track of time but also makes them feel more responsible.

However, do insert some element of fun in this – instead of using an ordinary watch or clock, buy timers that look like toys! (Do a Google search for Pomodoro timer).

Here are some methods by which children can learn the art of prioritizing –

  • Keep an organizer
  • Allotting a time-limit for leisure activities
  • A To-Do List
  • Differentiate between attention-intensive and non-intensive tasks

1. Keep an organizer: A planner/organizer with the sole purpose of managing time should be maintained. Right after coming home from school, children can take 5 minutes to jot down the important tasks to be finished that day (like project work, homework, preparation for an upcoming test).

Also, it is important to make time management activities fun – kids can use crayons and use bright colors to make visual schedules of tasks and activities. No need to write football or cricket – just draw them! And why use notepads? Simply use stickers to mark special dates and events on the calendar.

2. Allotting a time-limit for leisure activities: a limit can be set to leisure activities like playing video games or watching TV, in order to make children focus on the more important aspects of life.

3. A To-Do List: Stick a To-Do list on the fridge or cupboard and strike things off it once they’re done. This will give children a push of encouragement to finish the next item on the list.

Do list that kids need to prepare to prioritize

4. Differentiate between attention-intensive and non-intensive tasks: Children should be taught to differentiate between jobs that require more energy and attention and those that can be done even in a semi-tired state.

For example, to prepare for an upcoming test, a fresh mind is required. Hence, watching TV must be avoided before that. Also, a power nap preceding the study session can make the process more efficient. Similarly, playing football requires energy and therefore, it becomes imperative to consume energy-rich food and take ample rest prior to the play-session.


This blog mainly focuses on how to prioritize things that really matter in day to day life of a child. Kids get distracted in a lot of things so it important that they prepare a checklist of important things that need to be done and go accordingly.

Parents do play an important role in guiding their children Discuss the most important steps of tasks. What must be done before any other step can be done. Show kids photos, and ask for their opinions about what they found to be the most important detail or big idea. Make to-do lists to help kids plan and prioritize.

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Frequently Asked Questions  

How do you prioritize your activities?

  • Use a priority matrix. Take all of your tasks and assign each a priority based on this priority matrix from Steven Covey
  • Use relative prioritization
  • Make a prioritized task list for today
  • Focus on your Most Important Tasks (MITs) 
  • Pick a single thing to focus on
  • Find your 20% task

How do I order my priorities?

  • Figure Out What's Most Important To You. Before you can set your priorities, you need to figure out exactly what they are
  • Create An Action Plan
  • Designate Specific Time Slots For Tasks
  • Determine How You Want To Live Your Life
  • Talk To A Mentor
  • Map Out Your Daily Tasks
  • Eliminate Distractions
  • Take Time To Reflect

How do you prioritize yourself?

  • Step back. Take everybody in your life out of the equation and look at yourself and where you are in relation to your own goals
  • Prioritize. You are the most important thing in your life
  • Reevaluate. Ask yourself why you are doing something that you're doing

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