Big Rocks First!

Hola Todos!

I have a handful of expressions – sayings I repeat to myself often and one of these expressions I call “BIG Rocks FIRST.”  When I was in my doctoral program circa 1998 and completely overwhelmed with my tasks at hand, I got this goofy email that just stopped me in my tracks. It became my mantra – a way for me to organize all my work activities.  It forced me to think big and more importantly to think long term and plan ahead.  In short, it works for me so give it a thought today.


Dr. Dan-o


Big Rocks FIRST

A while back I was reading about an expert on subject of time management.  One day this expert was speaking to a group of business students and, to drive home a point, used an illustration I’m sure those students will never forget.  After I share it with you, you’ll
never forget it either.  As this man stood in front of the group of high-powered overachievers he said, “Okay, time for a quiz.”  Then he pulled out a one-gallon, wide-mouthed mason jar and set it on a table in front of him.  Then he produced about a dozen fist-sized rocks and carefully placed them, one at a time, into the jar.  When the jar was
filled to the top and no more rocks would fit inside, he asked, “Is this jar full?”

Everyone in the class said, “Yes.”  Then he said, “Really?”  He reached under the table and pulled out a bucket of gravel.  Then he dumped some gravel in and shook the jar causing pieces of gravel to work themselves down into the spaces between the big rocks.  Then he smiled and asked the group once more, “Is the jar full?”

By this time the class was onto him.  “Probably not,” one of them answered.  “Good!” he replied.  And he reached under the table and brought out a bucket of sand.  He started dumping the sand in and it went into all the spaces left between the rocks and the gravel.

Once more he asked the question, “Is this jar full?”  “No!” the class  shouted.  Once again he said, “Good!”  Then he grabbed a pitcher of water and began to pour it in until the jar was filled to the brim. Then he looked up at the class and asked, “What is the point
of this illustration?”

One eager beaver raised his hand and said, “The point is, no matter how full your schedule is, if you try really hard, you can always fit some more things into it!”

“No,” the speaker replied,” that’s not the point.  The truth this illustration teaches us is: If you don’t put the big rocks in first, you’ll never get them in at all.”

The title of this letter is The “Big Rocks” of Life.  What are the big rocks in your life?  A project that YOU want to accomplish?  Time with your loved ones?  Your faith, your education, your finances?  A cause?  Teaching or mentoring others? Remember to put these BIG ROCKS in first or you’ll never get them in at all.

So, tonight when you are reflecting on this short story, ask yourself this question:  What are the “big rocks” in my life or business? Then, put those in your jar tomorrow.


11 thoughts on “Big Rocks First!

  1. I’ve heard this story before but never with the insight of big rocks first. Great advice for young and not-so-young anymore. Thanks!

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