Monday, April 20, 2009

Big Rocks First

A couple big pieces of my yearly schedule are falling into place this week and it reminded me of an interesting piece of Spam someone sent me a long, long time ago. It stuck in my head because it has some good solid rock packing advice in it. One of the important events that I need to schedule for 2009 is a rock run to collect more material before next winter.

Anyhow, the Spam -- I'll paraphrase it:

A motivational speaker is in front of an audience to talk about time management techniques and he has a big glass jar and a pile of fist-sized cobbles sitting on a table. He takes the rocks and puts them in the jar one at a time until he can't put any more in, and asks the audience; "Is the jar full?"

Everyone says "yes."

He pulls out a bag of gravel and pours the pebbles into the jar and they jiggle down between the big rocks and he asks again; "Is the jar full now?"

The audience is starting to catch on and say "um.. no probably not..."

Next he pours sand into the jar and shakes it until the sand fills it up to the top. He sets a glass of water on the table and asks the audience; "How about now?"

Everyone says "No!" and he pours the glass of water into the jar, filling it completely.

When he asks the audience what this illustrates, someone says "If you really look, you can always find more space to fit something in."

And the speaker replies, "No, it shows that if you don't put your big rocks in first, you'll never get them in."


I think that's good advice, and you can apply it to all sorts of things in your life that need planning. I'm probably biased towards rock-based metaphors and the reason that I haven't forgotten it is that I'm always packing or repacking boxes of rocks. But as an analogy, its a useful way to visualize any problem that needs a bit of planning, from setting up a booth at a craft show to planning your annual schedule. Sometimes its good to stop and think about what the "big rocks" are in your life and make sure that you've made them the priority.

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