Rocks in a Jar

October 30, 2011 — Posted by Al Shalloway

I heard this story years ago at a Stephen Covey time management seminar.

The instructor held up a big, open-mouthed jar. On the table were lots of rocks. He started picking up the rocks and carefully placed them in the jar until no more would fit. He then asked the attendees who thought the jar was full?

Most people raised their hands.

He then reached under the table and pulled out a box of small rocks. He started placing these rocks into the jar until no more of them would fit. Again he asked the attendees who thought the jar was full?

Only a few people raised their hands this time.

He then reached under the table and pulled out a bag containing sand and poured the sand into the jar until no more would fit. Again he asked the attendees who thought the jar was full?

No one raised their hands, obviously thinking another trick lay in store.

He then reached under the table and pulled out a pitcher of water and filled the jar with water until it could take no more.

He then asked - "Can anyone tell me the lesson of this?"

One attendee responded - "that no matter how much you're doing you can always do more?"

The instructor chuckled and said - "no. It's that you must put the big things in your life first. The smaller things will find a way in on their own. But if you don't put in the big things first, they won't fit in later."

I believe this is not just true of the things we do in life but is also true of the tasks we take on in our teams. The big things, those that require the greatest number of people who are the hardest to coordinate, should be scheduled (or pulled) first. The easier tasks come later.

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About the author | Al Shalloway

Al Shalloway is the founder and CEO of Net Objectives. With over 40 years of experience, Alan is an industry thought leader in Lean, Kanban, product portfolio management, SAFe, Scrum and agile design.



        

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