Big Rocks

Most everyone agrees that life-balance is a worthy goal, but making progress is difficult.

Before retirement, I had the type of job where a visit to the restroom made me late for my next meeting. 

Perhaps you can relate! 

The common excuse for not exercising or doing other things to achieve life balance is, “I don’t have time!”

This is usually true, and always wrong!

I learned that at a seminar thirty years ago, the most valuable training of my career.  

The seminar was on time management. Once we found our seats, the trainer introduced the topic by displayed a gallon-size glass container she said represented the hours in our day!” She started filling it with grapefruit-sized rocks. When full, she asked if our day was similarly occupied. We, of course, agreed. 

Then, in a condescending voice, she pointed out there was plenty of room left in our day. To prove her point, she started pouring sand into the jar from a bag she pulled from her backpack. The sand sifted down between the rocks filling it to the top.

“See what I mean,” she said. We gloomily agreed that we probably could fit more into our day if we were better organized. 

“So is it full now,” she asked? 

“Well yes,” we replied, seeing that the jar was clearly full.

“Wrong,” she exclaimed and began pouring water from a pitcher sitting on the table into the jar until it was completely full. 

“So, what have you learned,” she inquired?

One of my colleagues raised her hand, and sheepishly admitted that super-organized people always accomplished more in a day than generally thought possible.

“Wrong!” she screamed! “What I taught you was, when filling a jar with big rocks, sand, and water, you better put the big rocks in first!” 

Then came the most critical question of the seminar.  

“Do you know what the big rocks are in your life?” 

I had to admit I did not! 

But from that day forward, I decided to correct that! 

Here are the “big rocks” I defined for my life as a result of attending that seminar thirty years ago. 

Big Rocks

1. Be Strong; in mind, in body, and in spirit. 

2. Put Family before work.

3. Be involved in causes greater than myself 

4. Make learning a life-long obsession.

5. Live in the present. 

I make sure my big rocks come first, so they aren’t crowded out by the inevitable sand and water that disguises itself as important priorities. Practices supporting my big rocks are an integral part of my life.

It turns out the seminar I attended all those years ago wasn’t really about time management. It was about something far more important! 

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7 Replies to “Big Rocks”

  1. Tim—– Big Rocks is right on and your chosen 5 sound great to me….It really helps bring balance to one’s life and when you know you are working the Big Rocks well, a lot of the unneeded stress in life just seems to readjust itself.
    Thanks for giving us our Sunday Thoughts !!


  2. I have always remembered your Big Rocks story, including the punch line. Thanks for teaching it to me so that I could incorporate into my life and now to others through your blog. Such a simple story that has helped me more than you’ll ever know.


  3. Was this the seminar that Warren organized and all you senior leaders got portfolios that held index-sized organizer cards?


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