Many of us have heard variations of the “Big Rocks” story . . . you know, the one where when you start by putting the little rocks in the container, the big rocks will never fit in, but if you start by placing the big rocks in the container, it is amazing how many little rocks will fit in and around the big rocks, and done this way the container will ultimately hold far more than you might have imagined.
Clearly, the container is our time, and the big rocks are our priorities, which far too often get pushed to the side because we have filled our day up with little rocks . . . those “urgent” matters that peck away at our best intentions until our day is full, and our big rocks sit outside the box. We know this, right?!? Unfortunately, knowing it and doing it are not the same thing. And proudly checking little rocks off our to-do list, while perhaps momentarily satisfying, does nothing to get our big rocks into the container.
What to do? I recently ran across a quote from Stephen Covey, which said, “The key is not to prioritize your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.” Really? Could it be that simple? Ahh, but as we’ve touched on in this blog before, simple and easy are not the same thing. Yes, it is simple . . . just block out time in your schedule for your priorities. Simple, but oh so hard . . .
After all, big rocks are so . . .well . . . big. They can be intimidating. And they’re important, so you want to make sure you do it right. Maybe you’d better think about it a bit longer . . . It’s an easy trap to fall into, and one that results with filling your container with little rocks.
If the key is to put the big rocks in first, then why not start each day by considering what you’re going to do that day related to your priorities? How can you move things forward, even a little bit, on those projects you have identified as most important? Then do that thing, regardless of what else does or doesn’t get done that day (although, as noted above, you’d be surprise what you can fit in when you take tasks in the right order). I’d be willing to bet when you start with your priorities, regardless of what else you accomplish in a day, you will feel far more productive than if you checked off 27 less meaningful items from your list.
Feel free to keep a copy of this blog next to your to-do list as a reminder of what should be at the top of the list . . . or, if that’s too easy to ignore, you could do what I do and literally keep a bowl of rocks on your desk — it may not be subtle, but you’d be amazed at what we accomplish around here!