Student Voice


April 25, 2024




The importance of prioritizing

October 7, 2011

In college, many students find themselves overwhelmed with the multitude of options available. After attending events like the Involvement Fair and Rock the Cause, students return to their room with promotional sheets from dozens of organizations. With this slew of papers, along with posters, peer recommendation, parental advice, and advisor suggestions, in addition to lacking prioritizing skills, students experience difficulties when trying to select their commitments.

Some students decide to play the role of a super-student; they take full course loads, participate in several clubs and organizations, sign up for different events and volunteer opportunities, and work part-time. While many people idolize these students, the students suffer consequences from their over-involvement, such as feeling stressed and overwhelmed, earning poor grades, weakening relationships, and missing classes or meetings. Students with over-involvement, procrastination, or lacking drive problems must learn to prioritize.

One method of prioritizing consists of the Rock Model: listing “large rocks,” “small rocks,” “sand,” and “water” items. Non-negotiable commitments, or large rocks, such as self-care, academics, family, and faith, hold the highest priority. Duties like maintaining friendships, organization involvements, and part-time jobs, qualify as small rocks; they hold importance but remain flexible. Sand consists of matters easily fit into one’s schedule, such as hobbies and interests, and offers more amusement than necessity. Finally, water consists of time-wasting activities such as Internet or channel surfing. While the exact ordering of items changes from person to person, the idea remains simple: create a priority list and make sure to spend time accordingly.

The necessity of determining the importance of actions stems from a variety of subsequent benefits. With prioritization, people complete pressing tasks first and refuse to procrastinate, therefore experiencing many less issues. This hierarchy of time use results in immediate completion of necessary tasks, which concludes with more opportunity for enjoyable activities at the ‘small rock’ and ‘sand’ levels. When one completes ‘large rocks’ without delay, he is refusing to waste energy on unimportant undertakings.

Another way to prioritize uses the Quadrant Model (found on “The Personal Excellence Blog”). This model sorts activities into four categories. The first, “Q-1: Quadrant of Necessity” contains urgent and important tasks such as deadline- driven projects and immediate problems. The second category, “Q-2: Quadrant of Quality and Personal Leadership” consists of non-urgent and important responsibilities such as problem prevention, relationship building, personal development, health improvement, and accomplishing goals. “Q-3: Quadrant of Deception” comes next, containing urgent and none important items such as interruptions, and certain calls, e-mails, and meetings. Finally, “Q-4: Quadrant of Waste” encompasses non-urgent and none important undertakings such as time wasters, like channel or Internet surfing.

This model overlaps the Rock Model in terms of recognizing top and bottom priorities; but, it also goes further by identifying tasks which hold conflicting priority and importance ranks such as Q-3 and Q-2, which often causes people to incorrectly choose where to focus their energy. Most driven college students find themselves stuck the urgent obligations of in Q-1 or Q-3; they endlessly run from one commitment to the next, trying to keep up with their various time commitments. However, students’ actions should fall primarily under Q-2; they should try to use effective measures such as planning ahead and using time wisely to reach long-term goals.

By focusing on and completing “large rock” or “Q-2” responsibilities, students find themselves feeling more centered, focused, and successful. To focus on the imperative components of your life, take a few minutes to list your rocks or quadrants, reflecting on why you placed them in a certain category but not another, and how you can live a better life by focusing on the truly important aspects of your life.

Jaime Haines is an exuberant puppy-lover and “House” addict and plans to use her psychology degree to encourage activism and well-being through counseling, workshops, speeches, and the written word.