Big Rocks

Imagine a large glass jar, maybe 10 gallons. You get some big, melon-sized rocks and you put them in there until you can’t fit any more. Is the jar full?

Well, you can’t fit any more of those rocks in there, but that doesn’t really mean the jar is full. Go ahead and take some gravel and pour it in around the rocks until it reaches the top, maybe shake it a little so everything settles down neatly in there.

But guess what? Still not full.

Some fine sand will pour in nicely around that gravel, filling in every nook and cranny, until now the jar is finally full.

Except… wait, you could pour some water in. Slowly but surely, the water would fill in around the sand until it reached the top of the jar. Now it’s probably full for real, unless there’s something about physics I’m not aware of that lets me fit something in between the water. Maybe you could dissolve some sugar in there without raising the total level of the water?

This is a metaphor about time management, but maybe not the one you’re thinking.

See, the wrong lesson to take from this is that no matter how full your schedule is, you can always fit in more. That might be true, but there’s a cost there – for instance, this very full jar is now very heavy and no light can get through it. That might be an important metaphor about the spiritual burden of too full of a calendar, but that’s not the point I’m making.

The point I’m making is that if you don’t put those big rocks in first, you’ll never ever fit them in. As soon as you start pouring the gravel (let alone the sand or the water), the ship has sailed on getting those big rocks in place.

Put the important things on your calendar first. Do them first. Front-load them. Don’t organize your tasks based on how much time they’ll take or how much you enjoy doing them – organize them based on which ones need to be done. Your total life satisfaction will thank me for it.

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