Time Management Article - Protecting the Big Rocks

In this time management article I talk about the importance of not letting the vital few tasks to be at the mercy of the trivial many . Time management is not just about getting things done faster., as Ghandi said "there is more to life than just increasing its speed."

This time management article highlights that it is more important to ensure that you are doing the right things. But the big problem in today's workforce is that you have so much to do and are often overwhelmed that focusing on what matters most seems secondary to keeping your head above the water.

This is why I love the story of the time management professor who was giving a talk to time management students.

In the lecture, the time management professor brings out a large jar and puts it on the table. He pulls out a number of large rocks and proceeds to fill the glass jar.

When the rocks reach the rim of the jar he asks the students:

"Is the jar full yet?" All the students shouted back "Yes!".

"Really!", he said, as he reached into his pocket and pulled out smaller pebbles which he put into the jar.

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He shook the jar causing the pebbles to fall to the bottom and fill the gaps between the larger rocks.

He then asked the students again:

"Is the jar full now?"..."Probably not" replied the students.

"Good" he exclaimed as he reached into his other pocket and pulled out a handful of sand and poured it into the jar, filling the places between the rocks and pebbles.

"Is the jar full now" he asked the students. "No!" came the resounding reply of the students.

"Good" he exclaimed.

This time he reached for the glass of water on the bench and poured it into the jar, until the jar was full to the brim.

What’s the point of this exercise he asked the class?

One student raised her hand and said "that no matter how crowded your schedule, you can always fit more into it".

"No, no, no" replied the professor, the point of this example is that "if you don’t put the big rocks in first then you will not get them all in. If I had filled the jar up with the same amount of water, sand, pebbles...I would only have got half of my big rocks in!"(adapted from Mancini, 2003).

What are your big rocks at work and at home. They are likely to be your key projects, your passions and interests, your health, and family. Your big rocks are those activities that are on the right side of the pareto principle. They are those 20 percent of activities that generate 80 percent of our returns at work and home.

If you don't know what your big rocks are then see these time management exercises or, better still, see your guide to personal goal setting for a more detailed approach to planning.

In his book "10 Natural Laws of Successful Time and Life Management" Hyrum Smith talks about how he told this big rock story to a group of people. Then some six months later he received a letter from a Merrill Lynch executive who was a participant.

Do you procrastinate? Try these tips to overcome procrastination.

In the letter it talks about how after listening to the big rock story he realized he had been procrastinating on one of his big rocks - his estranged relationship with his son which he decided to do something about after the presentation.

Later in the letter it goes on to say that his son had tragically passed away in a car accident and that while he was naturally grieving, as any father would be, he was somewhat at peace that he had some special time with his son.

What big rocks are you procrastinating on?

Your big rocks are often less tangible than the reactive activities (see the time management matrix) that we often spend time on. Because they are less tangible it makes it easier to procrastinate on.

This time management article highlights the importance of putting your big rocks into your weekly planner first.


Because you ensure that your most important things are not at the mercy of the trivial many.

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