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Focus on the Big Rocks

This story has traveled around the "improvement circuit" for a few years now. Even if you have heard it before, it is still a timely message:

A leading authority once concluded his lecture to a group of high-powered business executives by saying, "Okay, it’s now time for a quiz." He proceeded to pull out a one-gallon, wide-mouthed mason jar and sat it on a table in front of him. Next, he produced about a dozen fist-sized rocks and carefully placed them, one at a time, into the jar. When the jar was filled to the top and no more rocks would fit inside, he asked, "Is this jar full?"

Everyone in the group answered "Yes!"

"Really?" he said. The man reached under the table and pulled out a bucket of gravel. He dumped some gravel in and shook the jar causing pieces of gravel to work themselves down into the spaces between the big rocks.

Then he smiled and asked the group once more, "Is the jar full now?" By now they were on to him. "Probably not," one answered. "Good," he replied. He reached under the table for a second time and brought out a bucket of sand. As he dumped the sand in, it went into all the spaces left between the rocks and the gravel.

Once more he asked the group, "Is the jar full?" "No," they shouted. "Good!" he replied, as he grabbed a pitcher of water and filled the jar to the brim.

Finally, he looked out at the class and asked, "Who can tell me the point of this exercise?" One eager beaver raised his hand and said, "The point is that no matter how full your schedule is, if you try really hard, you can always fit more things into it!"

"No," the speaker replied, "that’s not the point at all. The truth this illustration teaches us is: If you don’t put the big rocks in first, you will never get them in."

To make sure that your "big rocks" are taken care of, check out the Clear Focus Planning process.

Employ thy time well, if thou meanest to get leisure. - Benjamin Franklin

The source of this page is actually a friend of mine, Bill McClelland, who once had it posted on the website. I'm sure the story's been around the block a few times, but it certainly talks to the need to focus on what is important if you want to get those things done.

Related links:

FP's Postings - others like this page on a variety of topics

Unconstrained Thinking - a collection of more polished mutterings and musings, written as a column for APICS chapter newsleters

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