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Want to Be More Productive? Think About Pie

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Many young leaders spend a lot of their time trying to help everyone.  

They double-book themselves, have not learned the meaning of the word “no”, and in turn they consistently put others needs before their own.  What winds up happening are two things:

  1.  The leader gets burnt out, beats her/himself up, and is convinced she/he is not cut out for being a leader.  
  2. Their followers don’t see any progress so they begin to show up less and less.

As a student leader I was like this.

I was over-committed, never said “no”, rarely slept, gained weight, and my academics suffered.  I wanted to be there for everyone.  As a Resident Assistant, I was there for all of my residents at all hours and I was ready to talk with them about whatever whenever and for as long as they needed.  My own schedule didn’t matter and what my body was telling me mattered even less.     


One day, my supervisor pulled me aside after my pattern had repeated itself a number times.  She told me to look at my life as if it was a pie.  I am all about some desserts so I was quickly on board.

She said, cut your pie to where each slice represents an accurate percentage of how much time you devote to different aspects of your life weekly.  Include sleep, studying, time spent with your partner, social life, time in the gym, each of the clubs you’re involved in, classes, and being a resident assistant.  Needless to say, I had a lot of small pieces.  

After seeing my pie she then asked me a question:  Is it fair to you and to others that each of these commitments only gets this small percentage of your energy and time?

If you’re big and sexy like me you know that the best pieces of pie are the large ones.  They are the ones that get you most excited and, though they require the most commitment to finish. It doesn’t feel like work because you really love pie!  

The same should go for the obligations you care the most about on campus.  If you have a title in every organization you’re a part of, that’s a red flag.  If your health and your academics are afterthoughts, that’s a problem. If your partner says they don’t feel like your priority, that’s could be a red flag (in one of many potential directions).

Start cutting your “Priorities Pie” into bigger pieces to give yourself more mental and physical energy to focus on the things you are passionate about and the things you have to (health, family, academics).  

James Robilotta is a professional speaker, improv performer, author and entrepreneur. James is a graduate of the University of North Carolina Wilmington and earned a master’s degree from Clemson University.

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