One day, an expert in time management was speaking to a group of business students. To illustrate an important point, he pulled out a large jar and set it on the table in front of him. He also 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 class said, “Yes.”
The time management expert replied, “Really?” He reached under the table and pulled out a jar of gravel. He dumped some gravel in and shook the jar causing pieces of gravel to work down into the spaces between the big rocks, and continued until the gravel was all in the jar. He then asked the group once more, “Is the jar full?”
By this time the class was on to him. “No?”, they answered.
“Good!”, he replied. He reached under the table and brought out a bag of sand. He started dumping the sand in the jar and it went into all the crevices left between the rocks and gravel. Once more he asked the question, “Is this jar full now?”
“No!”, the class shouted.
Once again he said, “Good.” Then he produced some water and began to pour it in until the jar was filled to the brim and every possible bit of space was full of water, sand, gravel and rocks. Then he looked at the class and said, “Now this jar is full. But what is the point of this exercise?”
One eager beaver raised his hand and said, “The point is, no matter how full your schedule is, if you try really hard you can always fit some more things into it if you just look for the spaces!” The other students murmured approval and agreement.
“No,” the speaker replied, “that’s not it at all. What this illustration teaches us is, if you don’t put the big rocks in first, you’ll never get them in at all. But if you do put them in first, you can then put a lot of other, smaller things in around them. What are the ‘big rocks’ in your life? Your education? Your dreams? Time with your children? Time with your spouse? Time with your friends? Time spent teaching or learning or mentoring others? Time for exercise or music or dancing or yoga? Whatever those things are, remember to put them in FIRST, or you’ll find out you can’t get them in at all.”
So today or tomorrow when you are staring at your day timer and working out your schedule, reflect on this story, and ask yourself, “What do I need space for first? Second? Third?” Then put the big rocks in the jar and leave the rest of your time for the gravel and the sand and the water.
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