Deciding What Your Big Rocks Are

What Should I do First?

This past week as I was writing in my journal, I was considering what the day’s priorities were. What were the most important things to focus on today, if I’m going to achieve my goals? As I thought I wrote…

What are the big rocks that I need to put in the jar first?

I read about this time/priority analogy several years ago in Steven Covey’s book, Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. I hadn’t thought about this for some time and I don’t know why I thought of it then. I assume it’s due to the recent attention being giving to accomplishing my goals for the coming year.

Here’s how this story goes:

One day this expert was speaking to a group of business students and, to drive home a point, used an illustration I’m sure those students will never forget. After I share it with you, you’ll never forget it either.

As this man stood in front of the group of high-powered over-achievers he said, “Okay, time for a quiz.” Then he pulled out a one-gallon, wide-mouthed mason jar and set it on a table in front of him. Then he produced about a dozen fist-sized rocks and carefully placed them, one at a time, into the jar.

When the jar was filled to the top and no more rocks would fit inside, he asked, “Is this jar full?” Everyone in the class said, “Yes.” Then he said, “Really?” He reached under the table and pulled out a bucket of gravel. Then he dumped some gravel in and shook the jar causing pieces of gravel to work themselves down into the spaces between the big rocks.

Then he smiled and asked the group once more, “Is the jar full?” By this time the class was onto him. “Probably not,” one of them answered. “Good!” he replied. And he reached under the table and brought out a bucket of sand. He started dumping the sand in and it went into all the spaces left between the rocks and the gravel. Once more he asked the question, “Is this jar full?”

“No!” the class shouted. Once again he said, “Good!” Then he grabbed a pitcher of water and began to pour it in until the jar was filled to the brim. Then he looked up at the class and asked, “What is the point of this illustration?”

One eager beaver raised his hand and said, “The point is, no matter how full your schedule is, if you try really hard, you can always fit some more things into it!”

“No,” the speaker replied, “that’s not the point. The truth this illustration teaches us is:

If you don’t put the big rocks in first, you’ll never get them in at all.”

Dr. Steven R. Covey, First Things First

I love this big rock example of prioritizing our actions. Too often we approach time as though there’s no limit. My time management budget certainly makes it clear that this is not the case. (currently I’m over my time limit for the year, by 746 hours)

As I study this time management spreadsheet it gives me a much clearer picture of where my time is getting spent and a way to determine what rocks should be put in first and what ones should be left out. There are so many great things to choose from but if I’m going to be the most productive, I need focused intensity on the big rocks that help me to achieve my goals.  

What are the big rocks in your life?

Growing in your faith? Spending more time with your family? Serving your customers better? Paying off debt? Taking better care of yourself physically and mentally? Helping with community projects?

Here are three short video examples of how putting the big rocks in first matters. The first explains this perspective well.

Put the Big Rocks in First

Time Management & the Jar of Life

Jar of Life

It’s Time for Laser Like Focus

The word "Goal" with a dart hitting the center of a target on the letter "o"

Learn from the Past, Look to the Future, Live in the Present

Over the past few weeks, we’ve looked at determining where you want your life to go and a plan for how to get there. It’s easy to get caught up in all the noise and not know which way to go.

One thing is for sure, if you don’t move, you’ll never get there!

The first week we looked at the importance of having a clear direction. We compared a life GPS, “Goal Prioritization System, to a GPS used for reaching your destination in your vehicle. You need to start with your why.

The next week’s focus was how to determine “where there is”. This involves opening ourselves up to those big dreams that come by opening our heart to hear the still small voice of our Creator.

Third was cleaning up your dreams and making them a vision. It’s the action of giving dreams some form and a description. In this post I shared some of my big dreams and the process of turning them into a vision.

Last week we went into how to set goals so that you will have a way to measure your progress along the way. The first three weeks were more thinking and planning. This is critical to knowing the destination. In the fourth post we move into the action part of the system.

Now it’s time to get to the PRIORITIZATION part of the Goal Prioritization System.

To be able to reach the destination, we need to prioritize which things need done in what order, we need to be clear on our MISSION. A mission is a clear assignment to be carried out if we are going to achieve our VISION.

My purpose, “Help people find solutions for building their dreams through better business systems, quality construction projects and life lessons.”, is my why. This is what the still small voice spoke to my heart. My vision was shared in the week before lasts post. This is my where.

We have our WHY and our WHERE the mission is the HOW.

Our mission:

Bridge the gap between construction companies and customers.We do this by providing construction businesses with systems and training to make their companies more efficient and effective while educating customers in what to expect throughout the entire construction process.

With our vision and our mission, we know where we’re going and how we’re going to get there.

We’ve looked back and reviewed what we did wrong and what we did right. We can’t change the past…we can only learn from it and move forward. In the infamous words of Franco Bertollini in Gumball Rally

“What’s behind me is not important.”

Life is like this movie. The drivers start out with a purpose and know their destination. Each team determines what the best plan is for them. As they race across the country they are faced with choices along the way, some planned for and some not. They may have to make split second decisions that will alter their route. But if they are going to achieve their VISION, those decisions need to be based on their MISSION.

We’ve learned from what we been through up to this point. We need to be flexibly rigid. Flexible when it comes to the future because we don’t know what is around the next corner. Rigid in decisions we make, based on our mission. All we can control is this moment we’re in right now. Learn from the past, look to the future, live in the present.

If our focus is on a clear MISSION, the choices in the present become easier.

How Do I Get from Here to There?

With a Clear Understanding of Your Life’s GPS

A friend and I were recently discussing the sense of out-of-control overwhelm that we were both experiencing. There are so many important, valuable, worthwhile things to do. How will I ever get them all done?

My to-do-list is so long there’s not enough time to read it…let alone do it.

I’m tired of being stuck in this rut and am looking for a way out. Some of the things on our lists were classes and trainings. These should be something to help, but too often just becomes another thing on the list.

Most of us want a clearer direction, but don’t know what that is.

I’ve been thinking about this since our discussion…not to mention studying about it. As I was researching ways to better achieve goals it became clear that there isn’t any real difference in any of them. Sure, there are small nuanced differences but they’re really all the same.

Sometimes the same thing we heard several times before resonates with us this time. Who knows why? It may be the presenter, or the form of presentation, or maybe it’s just timing, who knows? An example of this recently is when I was going through Mark Shinnerer’s, Vision Building course and his comparison of a GPS to a life plan. There really are a lot of similarities in life planning and a GPS.

One thing that’s critical to achieving goals is in prioritization.

This is one of the places I struggle most. When looking at that huge long list of all those important, valuable, worthwhile things to do. Where do I start? This is where accomplishment gets lost. Too much time spent trying to decide.

Here are some GPS similarities:

When going from here to there, using a Global Positioning System, we put in the destination we want to go, and it gives us optional routes to get there. When planning to go from here to there in life’s journey we need to use a Goal Prioritization System. This system will help us determine the path we will take to reach our purpose destination.

  • Determine where you want to go before you start – Knowing where you want to go will make the trip more productive. This doesn’t mean that you can’t change the destination later, but it takes away from forward progress.
  • Choose which of the routes you’re going to take – There are options of shorter and more direct or longer and more scenic. There’s no right or wrong, just choose one and get started. As you are on your way you can change your mind and the GPS will reroute you.
  • Unexpected things out of your control happen – You may encounter road work or a flat tire. These things require some adjustment to your schedule and/or possibly your route. Remember these things happening are out of your control, but how you react to them isn’t.
  • Unplanned things that are in your control – When in route you may encounter scenic stops. You can choose whether to take the time to slow down and smell the roses. You might also come across someone who has had trouble. Stopping or not is also a choice you get to make.

Once you have a clear vision of your destination it’s up to you to get in gear and step on the gas, otherwise you will just sit there thinking about what might have been.

If you don’t move forward you will never reach your destination.

Why Do We Put Things Off Until the Last Minute?

This Seems to Be Especially Prevalent in The Construction Industry

I was visiting with some people recently about the disappointing number of companies signing up for the upcoming Blueprint for Building a Better Proposal workshop. I’ve seen the results of poor communication between contractor and customer. This workshop would help with this problem.

Every one of the people I was talking with said the same thing. “They’re contractors, they’re not going to sign up until the last minute. I wouldn’t be surprised if they just show up.”

Later I visited with a few different construction company owners and asked if they were coming to the workshop. Their answers were eerily similar…I’m not sure if I have time. I’ve got a lot of work scheduled. I’m not sure that I can afford to take a day off work. I’ll have to wait and see how things are going.”

Why would this be a problem in construction more than other industries?

I don’t know if it is more of an issue in construction than anywhere else or if it just seems that way because that’s where my focus is. There are a few things that I think contribute to this situation, construction or not.

Why are there so many that aren’t signing up for the workshop?

We’re too busy – We’ve said yes to too many things. We feel pulled in so many different directions. It’s common to hear people say, “I don’t have enough time.” Most of us overbook and then spend most of our time fighting the hottest fire. My argument is –

God has given us enough time…it’s up to us to invest it wisely.

We struggle with prioritizing – I’ve got this important project that I’m working on. It’s more important than learning something new. Every day we are learning in a variety of ways. The question is, which is the better investment, learning from “on the job mistakes” or from someone else’s. On the job mistakes can be very costly.

Learning from what someone else has learned is a good investment.

Not sure if that training is for me – How will you ever know if you don’t check it out? Most of the time our uncertainty is fear. We’re afraid to learn new things. “I’ve managed to get along just fine so far”. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a predesigned system that would improve your communication and increase your accuracy? The question is…

How long can “getting along just fine” be sustained?

I can’t afford it – Things are tight right now. Profits are down. Maybe I can do it next time. What if your out of business before the next time. There is a cost to any kind of schooling formal or otherwise. How long can you afford to not invest in yourself?

Investing in this workshop now, improves your odds for a brighter future.

I don’t know if the construction industry procrastinates more than any other. What I do know is, if you’re in the construction industry, time is running out to invest in yourself and your business. Don’t put it off any longer. Stop procrastinating and get signed up for the Blueprint for Building a Better Proposal workshop.

If you or someone you know would benefit from learning how to do better proposals, sign up here.

Do You Have Your Affairs in Order?

 

 

Having Your Priorities in The Right Place

 

 

“The love of money causes all kinds of evil. Some people have left the faith, because they wanted to get more money, but they have caused themselves much sorrow.”, 1 Timothy 6:10 NCV. Money and wealth are often seen as evil and wrong.


The problem isn’t the money, the problem is the heart.

 


The Leo Tolstoy story, “How Much Land Does a Man Need” is a classic tale of greed. In this story Pahom, a hardworking farmer with a small piece of land. After a series of events he has managed to purchase more and more land, but it’s still not enough. He is then presented with the opportunity to buy some land for a fixed price. He can have as much as he wants but must be able to walk around it in a day. He starts walking quickly around the property as the day goes on, he keeps getting further and further from the starting point. He looks up and realizes the day is coming to an end and he still has a long way to go. He runs hard to get back and just as the sun sets, he collapses at the starting point. Exhausted from his effort he dies. He is buried in a 3’x6’ plot, thus the question is answered.


The rich man who had a great harvest and tears down his barn to build a bigger one in Luke 12:13-41 experiences the same fate. He thinks he can have good things for many years and can “eat, drink and be merry”. This doesn’t work out so well.


Both men are dealing with four of the same issues.

 


1st – Full barns and empty hearts. They both were looking at themselves from man’s perspective rather than God’s. They saw their worth only from a worldly view.


2nd – Overestimation of their own worth. They saw what they had as being from the work of their own hands. They gave none of the credit to God.


3rd – They forgot what their real business was. Like in the Christmas Carole when Jacob Marley come back as a ghost and warns Scrooge. “I wear the chain I forged in life…I made it link by link, and yard by yard; I girded it on my own free will, and of my own free will I wore it.”…”Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence, were my business.”


4th – They forgot about time. They thought they had all the time they wanted…but they didn’t.

 


We all have a limited amount of time and only God knows what that is.


We need to use the time we’re given here to prepare for the eternal. We have a limited amount of time in this life and we need to use it wisely. Pastor Lee pointed out how digital clocks show time as fixed and unmoving and analog clocks with second hands are constantly moving, time is continuously moving.


A very sick man was sitting, with his family. His doctor told him that he didn’t have long to live and that he should get his affairs in order. The man put his arms around his family and said to the doctor, “Sir, my affairs ARE in order.

 

 


Make sure that your affairs are in order.