What are the big rocks in your life?

One of the recurring issues in my own life is managing priorities. Even when I am interested in doing something, such as reading a new book, I often put it off for some time because of various other 'urgent' matters. I use quotes on the word 'urgent' because I know that we can always make time for the things that are most important to us if we organize our priorities. Not only can we, but we must.

When I was a child, my father told me the story of a motivational seminar he had attended at work. The speaker brought in a large empty jar and a few containers of materials-- sand, pebbles, small rocks, and big rocks. The speaker poured the sand into the jar to demonstrate how the sand took up so much space that fitting the other items in the jar would be impossible.

He then emptied the jar, putting the sand aside, and talked about how to organize the materials. He said that the big rocks must go in the jar first, then the smaller rocks, then the pebbles, and lastly, the sand. As he spoke, he put the various items in the jar. The big rocks took up a large amount of space, but the small rocks and pebbles easily fit around them. The sand, which had taken up so much space in an empty jar that the big rocks could not fit, was able to fill in all the space around the large rocks, small rocks, and pebbles when it was put in the jar last. The jar was full, but all of the materials fit inside of it.

The speaker said this was a metaphor for life. He said that we must decide what our big rocks are and put them into our jar (life) first. These might be family, work, a favorite sport or hobby, etc. Next are the small rocks, which might be details related to the big rocks. Next are the pebbles, things that matter but not so much as the rocks. Finally is the sand-- all the little items that seem to consume so much of our time and mental space. But the sand must be last; otherwise it will crowd out the larger, more important items.

Although I didn't see the demonstration, the way my father spoke about it, the awareness it brought to him, had a big impression on me. Shortly after that, he started coming home earlier from work and began coaching my brother’s little league baseball team. I could see that it wasn't just an interesting story about something that happened at work, but was instead an important message.

From time to time, I have to take stock and remind myself what my big rocks are. Sometimes it’s an effort to put the sand last but I make an effort to prioritize. How about you? What are the big rocks in your life? Are you putting them in your life first?