Ever heard of the phrase “plan the big rocks first”?!? No, nor had I.


Photo by Tina Nord from Pexels

But apparently it’s a thing.

Like a Stephen Covey of how to be productive fame type thing. It’s big in business and management.

Planning using big rocks first

I really like the story they use for it. A teacher filled a jar with big rocks and then asked the class if any more could fit in the jar. They all said no. So he took pebbles and put them in the jar. They fit around the rocks and filled up more space.

The teacher then asked if any more could fit in. Again the class said no. So he took sand and poured it into the jar. And of course it fit around the rocks and pebbles and filled up more of the space nicely.

Again he asked if any more could fit in. This time, less voices said no, but there were not really any “yes” either. This time he took water and poured it in. And it filled all the tiny little spaces that were left.

Now the teacher asked if he could have fit the items into the jar in a different order. The class had got the point by then and answered “no!”

I love this take on it!!

SO the idea is that for planning if we put in the big things first, then the medium things, we can fit the smaller things around them. But if we put the smaller things in first then there will be no space for the big things without mess of some kind as it all overflows!

How does that work in our family when we want to organize calm? Well, we can decide what the things are that we really want to happen and plan time for them.

Let’s break that down a bit.

Deciding what is important

Often the urgent stuff can push out the important things. I don’t know about you, but I would count the important but not urgent as being things like building family relationships.

Making time for dates with my husband, for example, tend to get pushed out of the calendar… if they even got put in there to being with!

Some people have dates with their kids too. It is usually a time when the kids get one-on-one focused time with a parent. Often the kids plan it or are involved in planning it.

This is something we are considering this year as we realize how much time we spend focusing on our son because of his special needs. So maybe planning date time with our daughter should be one of our priorities.

I would recommend spending time deciding on what is important for you. What do you really want to make sure it happens? If it helps you could use the printable I made as part of my post on deciding what on your to-do list is important. You can find the printable here.

Then those things that you have decided are important become your “big rocks”.

Plan your big rocks first

Put the things that you have just decided are important into a planner or calendar to make sure they happen. Something like these ones I made for you here could be good!

I have seen some people say that Stephen Covey got it wrong with his talk about big rocks. Mostly since it means filling your jar so full that there is no room for anything else. While I understand what they are saying, I suggest making time for space to do very little one of the big rocks, or at least some pebbles!

To be honest, I don’t think I could improve on how Leo Babauta of Zen Habits talked about this as well. He has a list about how to approach it that is amazing. But it is written for business type productivity… and I want to apply it our to family lives.

planning using big rocks first

So really I am just giving you the info and the ideas and hoping they help you with planning what is really important to you and your family!

Good luck planning!

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