Cindy’s Weekly Wisdom ~ Put Your Big Rocks in First

Cindy’s Weekly Wisdom

More than a dozen years ago, when I was working, a email like the one that follows circulated. It’s probably the only chain email that I’ve found to be truly valuable. I hope you find it meaningful too.

A time management expert stood in front of the group of high-powered 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.”

“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 fill in around the big rocks. Then he 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. 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, “Now is the 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.”

“Maybe that’s true,” the speaker replied, “but that’s not my point. What I want you to see is this: If you don’t put your big rocks in first, you won’t get them in at all.”

What are the “big rocks” in your life? Family? Health? Friends? Volunteer time? I bet it’s not reading home fashion magazines for two hours a day, searching endlessly on YouTube for something that makes you laugh, or hitting the “refresh” button on your Facebook page 6 or 7 times an hour. Yet somehow we find ourselves sucked in by the little things - the gravel (or worse, the water) - while the big rocks sit outside the jar neglected.

Ask yourself, “What are my big rocks?” and remember to put them first, or they won’t get in at all.

Today’s Declutter Item

Way back at the beginning of 365 Less Things I decluttered and repurposed some of my gift wrapping items because I made a pledge to treat friends to outings rather than buy them gift on special occasions and I have convinced my family not to exchange gifts with me anymore. So now I feel confident to declutter most of the remaining portion of my gift wrap stash as they are still sitting there unused after all this time. I will send this lot to the thrift store. In future I will keep a roll of brown paper, which I use to wrap eBay sales, that, with  a little artistic flare, I can decorate up in the event that I do find myself actually giving a physical gift item to someone near and dear.

Gift Bags

Something I Am Grateful For Today

I am forever grateful for the cooperation and understanding of those near and dear to me when it comes to the lifestyle change I have adopted over the last eighteen months. My husband and my son are not only willing but independent declutterers and my friends and family have not only respected but in some cases embraced the changes that I have made to my gift giving/receiving ways.

It matters not how fast I go, I hurry faster when I’m slow

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  1. This story is also known as: There’s Always Room for Beer!
    The change of liquid makes it an ode to relaxation (ah, there’s another big rock) and seeing friends!

  2. Today I was feeling frazzled, stressed, and in pain, so I went outside and threw the ball for my golden retriever. Sometimes, we just need to stop and remember what is important in life.

    Great lesson, Cindy. Wonderful words of wisdom.


  3. Hhmm, very wise, very true. I read it before for priorities as well as for time management (though I did not know the beer version yet). What disturbs me though is how it implies you have to do everything correctly from the beginning on and that later things can’t be changed anymore. That’s so intimidating. I think you can change things at every time. It just get’s more complicated. And maybe messy.

    • Hi Ideealistin! Don’t freak about getting it right at the beggining, because you can, at any time, empty the jar and start over again (you will have to get more water, though, 😀 ). You can always clean the mess as long as you get your priorities right. Remember, as I was told on a comment yesterday, that things always seem more difficult than they really are.

    • Oh, I think we can always stop, back up, and change directions. Certainly each morning there’s a chance to put your big rocks in first.

      Great interview with Bea. Thank you for doing that.

  4. Cindy, this may not be the first time I have seen this but I’m so glad you wrote a post on it so that I am reminded again. I am one who finds it hard to remember these gems, so I’ll take all the reminding I can get.

  5. Oh I love this; it is such a great reminder, to me, to keep priorities in check and not get overwhelmed!

    • Jo and Annabelle, I’m glad you liked it. I think it’s a real gem (or is it a real rock?)