Big rocks first

There’s an illustration going around – I don’t know who first thought of it – that sees a professor teaching high-flying management trainees about priorities.

He takes a huge glass jar and places a load of large stones in it.  “Is the jar full?” he asks the class. “Yes,” they chorus in reply, at which he takes a handful of pebbles and drops them in.

“Is it full now?” he asks again.  The “Yes” is a little more hesitant this time, and rightly so, because the professor then takes a couple of handfuls of gravel and drops them in, then some sand,  a cup of water and finally some icing sugar (powdered sugar).

The point he’s trying to make is, when organising your time (and the same could be said of your finances), put the big things in first, otherwise you’ll never fit them in. 

Unfortunately, it seems to me that the way he did this actually illustrates what one of his students suggested – that no matter how full your schedule might look, you can always squeeze something else in.

A better use of the same tools, in my opinion, would be to have all those items on a tray and try to fit them in, from smallest to greatest.  There would be no way he could fit the big rocks in, and the point would be made much more powerfully – especially if he then repeated it with the same quantities but in reverse order.  But I think you get it anyway.

Why am I telling you this today?  It’s by way of explaining why this post is shorter than usual.  I’m studying for my Masters degree, and there have been lots of ‘big rocks’ popping up trying to knock me off track.  This blog is a smaller rock.  I think it’s important, but not enough to spend a lot of time on when my MA is calling, so I’m off to work on that. (I’m writing this on Tuesday evening to post tomorrow.)

If you’re a leader, you probably already know about the need to prioritise, if you’re an aspiring leader, it’s one of the things that’s easy to forget, so learn it now – you won’t regret it, and neither will your family!

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