Managing the "Big Rocks"

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I don’t believe in ‘time management’ because you can’t manage time….it’s always going regardless if you try to ‘manage’ it.  You CAN manage priorities and your energy.” 
– John Maxwell

There is a story about a seminar leader who placed a large jar on a table.  By the side of the jar he placed a bucket of gravel, a bucket of sand, a bucket of water, and three big rocks.  He then challenged his participants to find a way to fit everything on the table into the jar.  
After numerous attempts, it became clear that the only way to successfully fit everything in was to start with the big rocks first.  The gravel filled the gaps between the big rocks, the sand filled the gaps in the gravel, and the water filled the gaps in the sand.

When it comes to managing our priorities, it’s pretty easy to get caught up in the daily gravel, ground down by the sand, and swept away by the water. What can be tricky is finding ways to put first things first – to prioritize the “big rocks” – those things in our life that matter most.
There are essentially 4 types of “big rock” – i.e., 4 priorities that we can choose to focus on in any given moment, allowing the ever-present minutiae of life to fill in the gaps as we go.

Big Rock One – Activities
Sometimes, the most important thing about a day is an activity or set of activities.  If you’re an athlete, you may prioritize exercise; if you’re a salesperson, you may prioritize making calls.  In either case, you are prioritizing the activity over the desired end result.

Big Rock Two – Goals
One of the most potent things you can prioritize are your goals.  What’s the difference making something a goal and making it a priority?  Goals are rarely within our direct control – our priorities always are.

Big Rock Three – Intentions
Sometimes, the most useful thing for us to prioritize is neither an activity nor a goal, but a way of being. These intentions carry on in the background as we engage in activities and pursue our goals. Some useful intentions include “staying present”, “enjoying whatever it is that I am doing”, and “listening and speaking from my heart”.

Big Rock Four – People
As oxygen is to the body, attention is to the spirit. When we make a person our priority, we are committing to give them greatest yet simplest gift we posses – the gift of our full, undivided attention.

1. Do it first
One of the simplest ways to prioritize something is to begin with it – to put it right at the top of the agenda and stick with it until it’s done.  This approach works particularly well with activities and “mini-goals” – i.e. goals that can be completed within the course of a few minutes to a few hours.
2. Do it now
I have yet to meet the person who isn’t blown off course during the course of a day.  In fact, no matter how many post-it note reminders you stick on your computer, fridge, and dashboard, I guarantee you’ll forget about your chosen priorities again and again.  The solution? When you remember, shift your focus and do it now!  This approach is particularly useful when you are prioritizing intentions, and people.
3. Do it often
How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.  How do you prioritize a goal?  By coming back to it again, and again, and again.  This approach is equally useful with activities, goals, intentions, and people.

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