Another IPS (Inner Peace Symptom):  a tendency to choose to do what is important to you.  [If you know what’s important to you, you can free up your time to consider how to get THAT just right by letting go of spazzing about your trivia.]

One of the best visual metaphors I’ve ever seen about time management is this one that involves stacking sand, pebbles and big rocks in a jar.

This YouTube video was put together by 7 Big Rocks Productivity System, a company that sells websites and computer hosting services, and was inspired, they say, by Stephen Covey’s classic book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change.

When Stephen Covey first presented this metaphor at a workshop he said the point of it was this:  If you don’t put the big rocks in first, you won’t be able to get them in at all.


The way to turn the metaphor into a practice basically takes four steps:

  • Decide what is important to you. Write them down.  Starter ideas might include spending face-time with family or friends, learning a new skill, putting time and effort into a side-hustle, experimenting with new ideas…whatever.  These are your big rocks.
  • Choose your “jar” – day, week, or month.
  • Place your most important things – your big rocks — within that framework first. What one action will move each of your important things forward?  Put that in your jar.  Make the time for the one action you can take that addresses each of your important things.  The rest of your day or week or month can fill up with other stuff, but you’ve got your big rocks covered.
  • Do the big rock moves first.

Each time you finish each of the important big-rock actions you’ve put in your jar, find the next action that will move that big rock forward.  And so on…repeat, repeat, repeat.


Does it work?  Sort of.  The real is that there will be times when “urgent” trumps “important.”  The manure hits the fan and you’ve got to pull out the buckets and mops and clean up the mess before the stench reaches major proportions.  That one is very likely to take a bunch of time away from your important stuff.

But, once the mess gets cleared up and the mops and buckets are put away, then you can go back to filling your jar with your big rocks and doing the actions you’ve chosen to do.

The little steps you make working on your big rocks do accumulate.  The things that are important to you get done, eventually.  You can call yourself to order when you go off-tangent.


There is one other reason to try this thing.  When you do this, you will have a ready-made system that can help you re-think what is important to you.

If you’ve made the time and the room for the things you call big rocks, but you never complete any of the moves you want to try, it may be an indication that the “big rocks” you’ve chosen really are not yours.  Maybe they are other people’s big rocks that you have adopted as your own.

If the big rocks you’ve targeted are not really yours, you won’t do them, even if you’ve set aside the time for them.  Try to avoid beating yourself up about that.  It’s okay to choose other big rocks if you find that the ones you thought were big for you are really not.

Look at what you’re doing instead.  Maybe that’s where your real big rocks are hidden.  Or maybe you just haven’t found anything yet that is important enough for you to give up the trivia.  Keep looking.

Here’s a poem.  It came in response to a quote by philosopher Alan Cohen, who said in his book WISDOM OF THE HEART, “A friend is someone who knows your song and sings it to you when you’ve forgotten it yourself.”  I have had so many of those.  Lucky, me….


Hey, babe,

Thank you one more time.


I had gotten so caught up

In other-people imperatives,

In their projects, plans and priorities

That had me prancing

Like a Lippazaner stallion

As I drowned in the minutia

That led me to forget

That, for real,

I am not a pretty white stallion

And have never wanted to be;

That had me dancing pretty

Going ’round and ’round

Yet another arena

Head held high.


You sang my song for me,

The one you’ve heard me sing

And you brought me back to me.


So, here I am

Getting back on my dragon

The one I parked in that mountain cave,

The one drowsing in the boring blah,

The one who woke up

When you started singing

My song back to me,

Making me remember

Who I am and why.


Dragon’s in the courtyard

Bugling her impatience with me.

I’d better go now

Before she throws a hissy-fit,

But, I did want to stop by and tell you,

Thanks, eh!

by Netta Kanoho

Picture credit:  Maui Sunrise by Frank DiBona via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0] 



(Click on each of the post titles below and see where it takes you….)


Thanks for your visit.  I’d appreciate it if you’d drop a comment or note below.


  1. Ariel Baradarian says:

    The message from your post is so true. We all have things that we want to do and accomplish in our life. Sometimes though we don’t know how to tackle these challenges and get lost. Your strategy is a real good way of learning how to START to take these things on step by step. Thank you for sharing!

    1. Hey Ariel:

      Thank you for the visit and your comments. Please do come again….

  2. Antonis Christonasis says:

    Inspirational article as always! I love the 7 habits of highly effectice people by Covey. A classic in the personal development field. The jar analogy is powerful indeed. One of the most simple, high impact habits someone should start to boost their productivity and stay focused and on track. It focuses on the most important tasks(known as MITS) and goals, doing it in the most foolproof way possible. That is of course where its power lies after all!

    1. Welcome back, Antonis. Thanks for your comments. Please do come again….

  3. The rocks and jar were a good analogy. I struggle significantly with being able to fit everything into the time I have. It’s hard for me to get motivated sometimes, but when I’m fully committed, I then refuse to make any time for fun. This is something I’m working on and need to sit and reassess my life again. Thanks for the reminder and awesome visual representation.

    1. Hey Eris:

      Thanks for your visit and your comments. I’m glad the post helped. Please do come again….

  4. Hallo there,

    I always like reading your posts because they help keep me in check always which is something that gives me a sense of direction.

    This post has helped me realize a ton of things like family, my personal life and success that I need to work on. Oh, did I mention that the poem was amazing? 🙂

    1. Hey Dave:

      Thanks for the visit and for sharing your thoughts.  I’m glad the post helped and that you like my poem!  

      Please do come again.

  5. Thank you for this inspiring post! It’s always nice to have a reality check and be reminded about prioritizing. It is so important to be able to discern where you need to spend your time and energy in life. My question for you is how do you choose? How do you know what the “big rocks” are in your life?

    Also, I really enjoyed your poem! Keep up the good work!

    1. Ben, thanks for the visit and for sharing your thoughts.  

      The “big rocks” in your life, I think, are the ones that make you feel like you’re flying, that you are doing something that has meaning for you and for those who matter to you.  It can be anything at all and only you can decide what they are.  (My “Big” may not even make a blip on your radar.)

      I’m glad you liked the poem.  Please do come again….

  6. The YouTube video that you share has changed the way that I look at my tasks. It is time for me to go back to the drawing board and go over my priorities and my goal in life. Thanks for that. You can look at the big rocks the other way, think about you put the big rocks in first then you will have the gaps to do the small rocks and the sand along the way. 

    Considering my time and priorities are important thank you for reminding me. Your song is beautiful by the way.

    1. Good on ya, Nuttanee!  You got it!  If you get your actions aligned with your priorities, it can make a world of difference to you.

      Thanks for the visit and for sharing your thoughts.

      Please do come again.

  7. Antarctic Adventures says:

    I, too, have heard of the rock jar when it comes to time management! 

    I am a firm believer that time is an illusion. 

    We make time for the things and the people we want to make time for. It starts with deciding what is important to you! Not anyone else, only YOU. 

    Thanks for sharing!

    1. Thanks for the visit and for sharing your thoughts, Antarctic Adventures.  I do appreciate it.

      Please do come again.

  8. Hi Netta,

    This is so true! I am actually guilty of doing these small distractions first, in my day that I tend to lose time for the more important stuff.

    What works for me is if I write in my calendar that big thing and put a deadline ( like in real jobs ) and I just start even if I’m not inspired to do it and gradually I am able to accomplish it even if it takes me 2 or more days to get it done.

    It will take lots of discipline and focus to really do the most significant things first.


    1. Thanks for your visit and for sharing your story, Marita.  You are so right!  All of us are subject to distractions.  I like your antidote for it.  Putting the big thing on your calendar with a deadline is a big help!

      Please do come again.

  9. Preetam Dutta says:

    Indeed, many of us may not understand at first what we want, and since our society does not teach us to do something new, we traditionally imitate those who have become very successful and then think of their dreams as our goal. 

    As a result, we start with omnipotence, but after a while, we lose interest in that goal and drown ourselves in exhaustion.

    1. Preetam, thanks for your visit and for sharing your thoughts.  You’ve hit on the crux of one of the aspects of our human dilemma.   Each of us has to figure out how to find our own way through this consensus-world of ours — one that works for our own selves as well as for the people around us.

      There are so many possibilities and potentialities and choices that it can get a lot confusing.  It’s a given that we are likely to find many false trails that drain away bits and pieces of ourselves.  There are also a lot of trails that lead to places that nourish us and help to build us up.

      The only strategy I’ve ever found that works for that is to keep noticing when things go right, to keep appreciating what we are doing that rings our chimes and to be patient with ourselves and give ourselves the time and space to keep on dancing.  

      Sometimes butterflies win, ya know.

      Please do come again.


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