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Share What You Learned
Manage your time or others will do it for you
By Harvey Mackay
I'll never forget an important time management lesson I learned in a
seminar many years ago . . . especially how the instructor
illustrated the point.
"Okay, time for a quiz," he said, as he pulled out a one-gallon
wide-mouthed mason jar and set it on the desk 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 the jar full?"
Everyone in the seminar 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.
This caused pieces of gravel to work themselves down into the spaces
between the big rocks. Then he asked the group again, "Is the jar
By this time the class was onto him. "Probably not," we answered.
"Good!" he replied as 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 really try hard, you can always
fit some things into it."
"No," the instructor replied. "The point is if you don't put the big
rocks in first, you'll never get them in at all."
So, today, tonight, or in the morning when you are reflecting on
this story, ask yourself: What are the 'big rocks' in my life or
business? Then, be sure to put those in your jar first.
And by the way, you get the same size jar as everyone else. No
What changes from person to person is the size of each rock. I've
got a couple boulders in my jar: family first, always. Things like
friends, my company, my speaking/writing "hobby," maintaining my
network, my volunteer commitments, my health, and my religion all
take up a lot of space. The gravel is all the stuff that takes up
more than a few minutes but doesn't necessarily happen every day,
like a committee assignment, a vacation, learning new software ...
you get the idea.
And now, the sand. You can decide whether to be that 98-pound
weakling who gets sand kicked at him, or the creator of a
spectacular sand castle. The sand is the yes/no stuff that
absolutely has to fit around everything else after it's in the jar.
A little piece of sand in your eye is a big pain, and those are the
ones that get the no-thank-you right off the bat. A little sand on
an icy street is one of life's little pleasures when you live in
snow country as I do. You choose the sand. It's your jar.
In other words, it's your time. Change the rocks, gravel and sand
into hours, minutes and seconds. Then decide what your priorities
are and how much time you'll spend on them. If you don't, someone
else will decide for you and you'll end up with a jar full of heavy,
jagged, nasty shards that nobody could touch without getting stabbed
by another rock. Do you really want to spend your time working on
other people's priorities?
As Benjamin Franklin said, "If we take care of the minutes, the
years will take care of themselves." Good time management is taking
care of the things that matter most to us first and keeping that jar
of rocks in sight all the time.
My friend Lou Holtz has a great formula: W.I.N. -- What's Important
Now? Use some of your precious time to figure out what's important
in your life and you will win.
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