How Dealing With The Big Rocks First Helps You To Achieve Your Dreams

How Dealing With The Big Rocks First Helps You To Achieve Your Dreams

There is a story that is often told in Time Management Circles. It is often credited to Steven Covey, and it goes like this…

One day an expert was giving a presentation to a class of MBA students about managing their priorities. To illustrate his point, he placed a one-gallon wide-mouth glass jar on the counter.  He then placed a handful of fist sized rocks into the jar. We he couldn’t fit anymore rocks in the jar, he asked, “Is it full?” The class enthusiastically responded “YES!” To which the expert replied “not yet.”

He then reached under the counter and grabbed a bag of gravel. He added the gravel too the jar, and tapped it down until it filled all of the spaces between the rocks,  and he couldn’t fit anymore in the jar.  Again he asked, “Is it full?” and again the class responded “YES.” He again told them that it wasn’t full yet.

Smiling, he reached under the counter again, and this time pulled out a bag of sand. He used the sand to fill all of the spaces between the rocks and the gravel. When he couldn’t pour anymore sand into the jar, he asked once again, “Is it full?” This time the class was sure that the jar was full, and they replied, “Yes, it is full!” The the man opened his water bottle, poured it into the jar until it was ready to overflow, and said, “It is full now!”

The Moral Of The Story

The moral of the story is that you must focus on your “big rocks” first, if you want too make sure that you accomplish the things that are most important to you. The minor things in your life will always fill in the blank spaces between your big rocks.

Unfortunately, some of us spend too much time on the sand and water, and never seem to find the time for what matters most – our “big rocks.” Don’t spend the next few years focused on your sand and water, start to focus on your big rocks today.

Another point that is often missed in this story is that, eventually the jar is full! If you were to try to put more water into the jar it would overflow. The same is true for your life, you only have 168 hours in a week.

Over-scheduling yourself will always lead to missed opportunities, conflicts, overwhelm and fatigue – all signs that your jar is overflowing. When this happens, and it will, it is time to step back and evaluate how you are filling your jar. As long as you are putting the big rocks in first, you will be on the path to success in life.

What Are Your Big Rocks?

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? Teaching or mentoring others? If you don’t schedule these “big rocks”  you’ll never get them all in.

How To Manage Your Big Rocks

1. Choose your “big rocks.” The best way to do this is to know your priorities. If you are not sure of your priorities start here. You should have 3-5 things that are a priority to you this year. Once you have developed your list of priorities, list them in a Word document, Spreadsheet, or simply write them on a sheet of paper.

2. Know your “Why.” Knowing what your “big rocks” are is the key achieving your dreams, but knowing your “why” is the key to staying motivated too achieve them. Why do you want to be a better husband? Why do you want to be a better father? Why do you want to earn some extra income? Why are you willing to make sacrifices that you need to make to make it all happen? Identifying your “why” helps you to stay motivated, and it gives you the ability to say no to those things that don’t help make your “why” happen. Think about your “why” for each of you “big rocks” and add it to your list directly below each of your “big rocks.”

3. Ask yourself what things that you need to accomplish this year for you make progress on your each of your “big rocks.” What things would help you become a better husband and father? What things would improve your finances? What can you do to improve your career? You might even want to discuss this with your spouse, children, and/or your boss. Write each of your answers under your related “big rock. “ This doesn’t have to be a comprehensive list, but try to capture at least one next action for each or your “big rocks.”

4. Place each of these items on your calendar before you schedule any other activities. You might even want to schedule important dates while you are at it. For example, your wife and children’s birthdays, your anniversary, and any other dates that are important too you. Once you have scheduled your “big rocks”, your gravel, sand, and water will fill in the blank spaces on your calendar.

5. Check your calendar at the beginning of each day (or the night before) to make sure that you schedule your most important activities for the day, before everything else gets in the way.

6. Review your calendar and your to-do list on a regular basis too make sure that you are on track to accomplish your “big rocks.” This will help to ensure that you accomplishing the things that truly matter to you.

How do you manage your time? Are you getting the big rocks in, or are you filling your days with sand and water – the endless distractions and minor tasks that take up time but don’t advance your goals? Take some time today to identify your big rocks.

How can you manage your big rocks more effectively? Comment below.


Photo credit: Damian Bakarcic


Photo Credit: Irwin Scott

Steve Spring

Steve is the founder of Live Your Life On Purpose, where his goal is to help others transform their health, minds, and relationships. A former management consultant and executive coach, Steve is also a Christ-follower, husband, dad, and entrepreneur who loves his family, friends and helping others live their life on purpose.