Big Rocks First

I recently started working on my 2013 calendar… have you? I’ve found over the years that unless I start thinking about the new year at least 6 months in advance, I spend a lot of time trying to catch up and make things work once the new year begins. My process is neither complicated nor original but it works for  me.

Many of you may have heard Stephen Covey talk about time and priority management. One of my favorite illustrations is when Covey takes a large jar and begins by filling it up about halfway with very small rocks. He says these rocks represent the day-to-day time demands such as meetings, emails, distractions, etc. I guess today he’d include text messages, Facebook and Twitter.
Then, he pulls out a half dozen larger rocks – each one about the size of a tennis ball. These represent the important things in our lives… one is for our health, one is for our family, one is for our friends, one is for our faith, etc.
He then tries to put these important things in the jar on top of the small rocks he had previously placed there. You guessed it, there’s not room for all the rocks! This is a powerful metaphor for your life and mine. How often have you felt there just wasn’t enough time to get everything done? But, the story doesn’t end there…
Next, he says, “Let’s try that again.” He empties all the rocks from the jar. He then places the big rocks in first. “Now, let’s see if we have room for some of those small rocks,” he says. As he begins to pour the small rocks into the jar, a miracle occurs – they all fit! Yes, he has to shake the jar a bit to use every nook and cranny, but they all fit. I did this illustration in India in front of a couple of thousand leaders and at this moment in the demonstraton, the place erupted in applause. It was magical.
This principle of the Big Rocks First has made quite an impact in my life. For many years, I’ve tried to put the big rocks in my life on the calendar first. If, from time to time, there’s not room for everything, at least it’s the small rocks that don’t fit.
So, as it relates to my calendar for 2013, here are some of the big rocks I’ve already put on the calendar:

  • Vacation with my family
  • Personal Development (TED Conference; The Leadership Summit)
  • Important Meetings
  • Key Deadlines
  • Focus Days

As leaders, our time is our primary currency. Where we invest this limited capital makes a tremendous difference. I hope this illustration will help you think deliberately about your big rocks. What are they? Does your calendar reflect your priorities? Start now, so that 2013 will be your most successful year yet! [GLS_Shield]
What are the big rocks for 2013 that you need to put on your calendar now?

Leave a comment



Michael Nichols

8 years ago

Great reminder Mark. I’m working ahead on next year also – here’s my process: http://www.michaelnichols.org/annual-time-block/.

Daniel

8 years ago

Your guidance on “big rocks” has been transformational. THANKS!

mark

8 years ago

Thanks for the feedback. Stay in touch! Mark

David Sparks

8 years ago

Vacations and family holidays are two items that are on my list. I’m still new to this concept and have been developing mine off of Michael Nichols’ and Michael Hyatt’s thought processes.
I’m curious about your “Focus Days”.

Kent Julian

8 years ago

First off, check this out…great minds think alike: http://www.liveitforward.com/put-the-big-rocks-in-first/ (you’ll love the video!) Second, I have personally found that investing in ourselves through true leisure is one of the most important keys to success in life. It refreshes, adds aroma, and brings amazing pleasure that only gets better and sweeter when we share it with the most important people in our lives. Great reminder, Mark!

mark

8 years ago

Thank you Kent! You are correct. I’m probably going to blog about this in the future. I fear that leaders at all levels miss the truth of your comment. Thank you for the reminder!

mark

8 years ago

Thanks, Nettie, for all you do to help share this site with the world!

Gillian Russell

8 years ago

Have started already, putting the small jobs into piles and listing the large. Priorities – family, home and garden, hopefull the rest will fit in. Even doing Birthday cards at the beginning of each month as they can get left out in the rush.
Thank you for the tip. A picture of a cup of stones is taped to the fridge front, reminding one of priorities when under stress. .

mark

8 years ago

Thanks for your comment! I’m glad I could pass along the Big Rocks First idea. Mark

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