Big Rocks First!

I love the classic camp devotional (that’s where I saw it first, at least) involving someone trying to fill a glass jar with sand, small rocks, and big rocks.

During round #1, the person pours the sand in the jar. Then he tries to get the small rocks and big rocks to fit. They don’t fit!

During round #2, the person puts in the big rocks first, then the small rocks, then the sand. IT ALL FITS!

Here…watch for yourself…

For the last few years, I have committed to putting in the big rocks first…for my typical weekly schedule. As a principal, so many different tasks and needs arise. My day can get filled with sand, and the big rocks get crowded out. However, if I schedule in the big rocks, then the sand – which is still important stuff – can fill in around the big rocks. Here’s what my “glass jar” looks like…

Of course, life requires some flexibility and adaptability. But first loading the big rocks helps ensure that major tasks get tended to and accomplished!

What are the big rocks in your work? Are you scheduling guaranteed space for them?

8 thoughts on “Big Rocks First!

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  5. Hi Bo,
    I love this analogy for time management and prioritizing.
    Sucheta: have you ever used the 7 Habits for Effective Teens by Sean Covey? That is a great tool which younger students can access easily.
    I have also witnessed another big rock, small rock, sand, analogy to help students, and professionals, establish empathy towards the different sizes of each others’ issues. Basically one person’s big rock may be another person’s sand, but all the same, each persons’ perspective should be respected. Indeed, when the speakers were explaining this metaphor, I turned to a colleague and (wrongly) assumed that their presentation was going to be the one you have described above.
    Either way, both analogies are great visual tools to help us understand the way things work in the world. It could also be said that well organized, efficient, and effective educators… simply rock!

  6. Oh, I love it Bo.

    I wish every principal would schedule their big rocks first. More importantly, I wish every principal would have the skill and savvy to choose the RIGHT big rocks to spend their time on.

    Good stuff, friend. Good stuff indeed.

  7. Hello Bo,
    As always I enjoy your insights and clarity in your message…..This is a great quick little nugget of information that many forget to remember. Most important priorities first. Many many years ago, I had a chance to hear Steven Convey in person and since then I have been using and teaching some of his principles described in 7-Habits. What I see with students is that they haven’t quite figured out their own process of “judging” what the big rock is (or what the big rocks are). So their jar -so to speak- is even half empty in spite of filling it with sand as they have no “rocks” to fill the jar with. Many of the ADHD students I work with consider a project that is 3-weeks away to be such a distant proposition that they don’t feel the need to add that rock into their “jar of planning “as yet……
    I like your message of flexibility and adaptability though. I think that is a key for finding fulfillment.

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