Big Rocks Falling From the Sky
In my reading and conversations lately, I have run against several references to “putting the big rocks first”. I first ran across this theory in First Things First: To Live, to Love, to Learn, to Leave a Legacy (aff).
The story goes that you have several piles of stuff: gravel, sand, water, and rocks. The way to get the most in the jar is to put the biggest stuff in first, then add the others in order of decreasing size. Everything will fit. If you fill your jar up with sand and gravel first, though, you will have no room for the rocks.
I believe that when I start seeing things over and over, I need to pay attention (otherwise I will generally get thwacked with the cosmic frying pan). So I’m paying attention. But how do I apply this?
What Are Big Rocks?
The first thing to consider is What Exactly Are The Big Rocks? I guess these would be the things that would have the most impact when done. Or perhaps are the ones that move me toward my goals. (Perhaps those are ways of saying the same thing.) The truth is, I really don’t have any big goals at the moment, other than aligning my life to my beliefs. No dreams of a different career, or a bigger house. No education goals or retirement plans. So I’m not sure of what the big rocks are for me right at this moment. I have some large projects going on, but they mean something only to myself, or a few people at the most.
What Are Small Pebbles?
This one is easy. The small pebbles are the things like laundry and dishes and grocery shopping. Things that don’t matter a bit in the grand scheme of things. One book I read recently suggested that these things shouldn’t be done at all, or should be left to someone else. However, I don’t see that as practical. Firstly, if I left them for someone else in the household to do, they wouldn’t get done. And if I just skipped them, we would end up in a pretty sorry state — hungry and dressed in dirty rags. I came to the conclusion that even though these tasks are not big rocks, they are still important to my overall life. If I am hungry I cannot work effectively. It goes back to the Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.
If I spent all my time working on the big rocks, I would never get to the small stuff, and after a while would not be able to work on the big ones. If I spend all my time on the little stuff (which will expand to fill all available time, given the chance), I will never get to the big ones.
It seems to me that I really have to put both types of rocks in the jar. But it isn’t that one is better than the other.
If I only have room for 3 big rocks in my jar, and fill in the rest of the space with pebbles, that doesn’t make the pebbles less important than the big rocks. I instead choose to look at it from the point that anything I put in my jar has my commitment, regardless of the size. I will do it. And tomorrow I will move on to another empty jar, with possibly a different mixture.
I think the lesson for me to learn here is not to focus on either size of rock exclusively, but to focus on the blend that fills my jar. Once I decide the composition of the jar for the day, I will stick with it. Tomorrow I can change it. Both the big rocks and small pebbles are necessary for my life to be full.