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Time Management and Your Big Rocks

Aug 17, 2007
In Steven Covey's excellent book, "The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People" he tells a well-worn story about the use of time.

In the story, some professor guy (I think) stands at the front of a class, with a big jar. In the jar, first of all he puts some big rocks, and asks the class, "Is it full now".

Mostly they say, "Yes".

Then he gets some smaller rocks and these fit in quite nicely too, just between the big rocks. Again, he asks the same question, "Is it full now?"

The group, a little more suspicious say, "Yes", because it seems to be.

He then gets out a bag of sand and surprise, surprise, those tiny grains of sand squeeze down beside the smaller rocks, filling up the tinier spaces. "Full?", he asks.

"Sure", say the increasingly dubious bunch of students in the audience.

Finally, trump card is the water, smaller than sand, of course and finally, as we aren't getting too sub-molecular about it, the jar is full.

Impressive huh?

The professor then asks,

"What's the moral of the story?"

Of course the class, thinking they've spotted the trick here, say,

"You can always squeeze a bit more in"

A standard and pretty smart reply. The professor, however, is a step a head (all that professorism does it, of course!).

"The moral of the story is that you need to get your big rocks in first, or all that other 'stuff' gets in, way too soon and takes up all the space."

Cool story?

The point of course, relates to managing your time.

What are your 'big rock' things?

Well, for sure it isn't all the little jobs you do. All the fire-fighting (or it may be in the short-term, but that is another day).

The trick is to create spaces, ring-fenced, as they say, to do the good stuff.

In business, this is a list something like this:-

1. Planning for the future
2. Time with your people - good, focused one-on-one time preferably
3. Coaching your people in their work
4. Developing others around you
5. Delegating constructively
6. Creating Succession Plans
7. Building relationships
8. Developing new business opportunities
9. Fixing problems once and for all
10. Making time for a life outside the business

There are more!

Covey and his big rocks eh?

He calls them Quadrant Two activities. If you don't spend time putting these first into your schedule, truth is, you will never fit them in and things will never evolve and grow.
About the Author
2006 Martin Haworth is a Management Coach. He has hundreds more at his website, Coaching Businesses to Success.
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