One day, an expert in time management was speaking to a group of business students and,
to drive home a point, used an illustration those students will never forget. As he stood in
front of the group of high-powered overachievers, he said, “Okay, time for a quiz.”
He then pulled out a one-gallon, wide-mouth Mason jar and set it on the table in front of
him. Then he produced about a dozen fist-sized rocks and carefully placed them, one by
one, 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 space between the big rocks. Then he asked the group once more. “Is this jar
By this time the class was on to 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 the jar and it went into all of the paces 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 the expert in time-management looked 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 in it.”
“No,” the speaker replied, “that’s not the point.” The truth this illustration teaches us is
this: If you don’t put the big rocks in first, you’ll never get them in at all. What are the big
rocks in your life? Your children. Your loved ones. Your education. Your dreams. A worthy
cause. Teaching or mentoring others. Doing things that you love. Time for yourself. Your
health. Your significant other. Remember to put these BIG ROCKS in first, or you’ll never
get them in at all.”
If you sweat the little stuff (i.e., the gravel, the sand) then you’ll fill your life with little
things you worry about that don’t really matter, and you’ll never have the real quality time
you need to spend on the big, important stuff (the big rocks). So, tonight, or in the morning,
when you are reflecting on this short story, ask yourself this question: What are the “big rocks” in
my life? Then, put those in your jar first.