This morning, I walked into my daughter’s room. She was sitting on the edge of the bed, pondering which earrings to wear today.
There was only a few minutes left before leaving for school, and she still needed to collect her books, pack her laptop, and put on shoes and socks. But these priorities weren’t on her radar yet. They had been entirely eclipsed by the earring selection process.
A time management consultant speaking to a small gathering of young professionals offered the following story to help make a memorable statement about managing priorities.
He held up a Mason jar, and said, "Imagine each of you has a jar exactly like this sitting in front of you and in it, you place these rocks."
One by one, he placed the rocks into the jar. After placing five rocks in the jar, there was room for no more. He held up the jar. "Is it full?" he asked?
Many responded out loud, "Yes."
"Perhaps not quite full," he suggested, as he reached into his pocket and produced a small bag of gravel and began pouring it into the jar. He shook the jar gently from time to time, to help the gravel work its way into the spaces between the large rocks. When the jar would hold no more gravel, the speaker again asked, "Now, is the jar full?"
Not to be fooled twice, many in the class responded, "Probably not."
"You're catching on," he observed as he reached into his other pocket and removed a small bag of sand. As before, he began pouring sand into the jar, shaking the jar a bit so the sand would fill the spaces between the gravel and the rocks. "OK, can we agree that the jar is full now?" he asked.
Expecting that a trick remained up the speaker's sleeve, a young woman blurted out, "Water!"
"You're right, of course," he replied as he produced a glass of water and poured it gently into the jar. The group finally agreed that the jar was at last full.
"Tell me, then," he continued. "What did we just learn?" The same woman responded confidently.
"That no matter how busy you are, there's still room to fit something else into your schedule."
"That's interesting. And there's some truth to it. But there is a much more important lesson we can learn from this. Anyone else care to offer an opinion?"
The room grew quiet.
"This demonstration teaches us that we need to put the Big Rocks in first, or we'll never be able to place even one of them in the jar. The Big Rocks are our metaphor for the important things in our lives or our careers.
"There are many Big and Important Rocks to consider. At home, we have loved ones, friends, community activities, continuing our education, maintaining our health, along with taking time for ourselves. If we let the little things—the sand, the gravel—get into the jar first, they'll fill it up so fast we'll never have time for what's really important. We'll be majoring in minors, constantly distracted from what we truly care about most. Of course, the same can be said for our careers."
So take a moment today and ask yourself, what are my big rocks? Am I majoring in minors, or focusing on a plan?