COMMENTARY 788.1: Put the Big Rocks in First

There’s a well-traveled story about a teacher who showed his class a one-gallon jar and a dozen large rocks.

After a little rearranging, he got all the rocks into the jar, filling it to the top. He then dumped a bag of gravel into the jar until the spaces between the rocks were filled. Next he poured sand into the jar, shaking it so the sand filled the spaces between the rocks and the gravel. Finally, he emptied a pitcher of water into it.

“What does this demonstration prove?” he asked.

One student said, “No matter how full your life seems, you can always take on a little more.”

Another said, “Sequence and planning is important to maximizing productivity.”

A third said, “It’s about setting priorities. If you don’t deal with the big rocks first, all you’ll end up with is a jar of wet sand and gravel.”

There’s validity to each response, but the idea of identifying and dealing with the big rocks first is a particularly valuable insight.

We will live fuller and more fulfilling lives if we set our priorities – not only at work but in our life as a whole. Our relationships, work, spiritual life, hobbies, and charitable causes all claim our attention. We have to decide what’s really important.

Too often we surrender control of our days, even the direction of our lives, by letting circumstances or other people determine how we spend our time. Thus, we deal with what comes at us in the order that it comes or with squeaking wheels and demanding people.

Unless we distinguish between the rocks, gravel, sand, and water in our lives, we’re likely to neglect or forget the things that truly matter.

This is Michael Josephson reminding you that character counts.

Comments 1

  1. My understanding is that beer is added last, not water. The demonstration being that no matter what life brings, there is always room for beer . . . .

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