Time Management Crash Course - Lesson 6

Get Your Big Rocks in First

Welcome to lesson 6 of our crash time management course.

Here I talk about how to protect your vital few from the trivial many. 

Video 1 (of 1) : The Big Rock Story

Homework from this lesson

  1. Try to pre-protect your calendar with placeholders for big rock time. Make recurrent meetings with yourself to action your big rock activity.
  • You should look to do this in the morning if you are able.
  • Time block no more than 2 hours for each calendar slot. 

Level 6: Text summary

Protecting time in advance through a process called time-locking can be a game changing behavior. Time-locking means carving out a specified period of time to devote to an important task that demands your best energy and undivided attention. It basically means that you are disciplining yourself to have no interruptions unless of course there is a real emergency. 

Why is time-locking so important to your priority areas. Let me tell you the big rock story.

In the big rock story which I would like to attributed to Stephen Covey and Hyrum Smith, a time management consultant is giving a talk to a group of students and the time management consultant proceeds to bring out jar which he fills with big rocks.  

The time management consultant asks the students “Is my jar full now?”

There’s always one ‘goody two shoes’ student in the class who says “Sir, your jar is full!”. 

The time management consultant says it’s not and he pulls out a bag of pebbles from underneath the table and pours the pebbles into the jar. Those pebbles fall between all the big rocks and he asks “Is the jar full now?” 

The students starting to cotton onto the story say “probably not”. 

Sure enough the time management consultant brings out a bag of sand and pours the sand into the jar. The sand falls between all the big rocks and all the tiny pebbles. He asks “Is my jar full now?”

The students again think probably not and sure enough the time management consultant brings out a cup of water and pours the water into the jar and the water fills right to the top of the jar. The time management consultant says to the students “my jar is now full!” 

What is the moral of the story?

The same ‘goody two shoes’ student says “Sir, the moral of the story is that no matter how full your day you can always fit more in.”

The time management consultant says “that’s not the moral of the story, the moral of the story is that if I had firstly filled up my jar with the same amount of water, and then I put the sand in, so the sand would fall to the bottom of the jar and the water would rise a little. Then I put in the pebbles. The pebbles fall on top of the sand. The water rises a bit more. And then I pour in the big rocks and the water now rises to the top….the moral of the story is that if we fill up the jar or our day with all the little stuff – the sand the water the pebbles - then we are not going to get our big rocks in” 

Your big rocks are those priority areas that you identified in the quarterly plan - whether it’s in the personal space or the work space. In the personal space your big rocks might be spending time with the family, it might be the pursuit of your own health goals or well-being. In the workplace it will be the pursuit of those activities that you are being measured on - that align hopefully with your KPIs. 

What this story demonstrates is that if we don’t get those big rocks in first then we risk the trivial many - the sand the water the pebbles - crowding out those things that are most important. 

From a calendar management point of view you’ve already drawn up your quarterly worksheet plan, now what would be a good step to do is to actually think about how much time you need to be dedicating in your big rocks and try to protect that time into your calendar.

So there are two actions that come out of this story.

  1. Try to pre-protect your calendar with placeholders for big rock time. In the weekly plan we will get much more specific about how we spend that time and will go through a robust process to do that.
  2. The second takeaway is that if we don’t get these into the calendar first, big rocks, then we risk being at the mercy of the trivial. Now the consequence of this is that we don’t get to spend our time on the stuff that matters and that’s a bit of a problem because these big rocks are the things we procrastinate on. We don’t tend to procrastinate on the little stuff, the sand or the pebbles, they tend to be easy. They tend to be things we like. They tend to be things that are short and have a short time frame. What we do procrastinate on are the big stuff. So by getting them into the calendar and pre-protecting the time means that we are far more likely to do them.

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