Put in the Big Rocks: How to Do Things that Matter Most Before it’s too Late
It’s heartbreaking to waste yourself on small rocks – things that matter less – while neglecting things that matter more.
Stephen R. Covey taught leaders to put in the “Big Rock” first.
It’s harder than you think to focus on priorities because urgencies displace priorities.
4 reasons small rocks displace BIG ROCKS:
#1. We haven’t identified our Big Rocks.
Yesterday I had a conversation with J. Douglas Holladay that got me asking, “What are leadership’s BIG ROCKS?”
- Choose what’s important; don’t let others choose for you.
- Use self-care as a tool that frees you to serve others.
- Choose your attitude. Never let your attitude be a response to your circumstances.
- Find ways to do what you love in service to others.
The BIG ROCKS: https://youtu.be/H5r5p-LHHn8 (1:40)
#2. We think Big Rocks require dramatic action.
We wrongly believe that Big Rocks require dramatic action.
Self-care is as simple as getting up from your desk once an hour and taking a five-minute walk. But the seduction of dramatic action invites us to buy a gym membership that never gets used.
How might you distill BIG ROCKS into small actions?
#3. Speed makes urgencies seductive.
Small rocks capture attention because they’re completed quickly.
Big Rocks take more time, energy, and brainpower than small rocks. It’s quicker to resolve a small issue than build lasting relationships. At least it seems that way.
#4. BIG ROCKS are quiet. Small rocks are noisy.
Maintaining your car is a BIG ROCK, but it’s quiet. You were supposed to change the oil last month, but your car runs fine. You’ll do it next month.
By the time a BIG ROCK get’s noisy, you’ve neglected it too long.
It’s easier to attend to BIG ROCKS before they get noisy. This is especially true of relationships.
What are the BIG ROCKS?
How might leaders give BIG ROCKS proper attention?
J. Douglas Holladay is co-founder of Park Avenue Equity Partners, L.P., Founder of PathNorth, Former member of the White House Staff, advisor to several Presidents, and author of, Rethinking Success.
I’m a fan of Doug’s book: Rethinking Success.
Thanks Dan! I really needed this today, especially 1.3 “Choose your attitude. Never let your attitude be a response to your circumstances.”
Thanks Jamie. It’s challenging to realize that attitude is completely within our control, at least for me.
“How might you distill BIG ROCKS into small actions?” – aha the Chip and Dan Heath shrink the task advice. Nice. 🙂
Thanks Stuart. Your comment reminded me of, Nudge, by Thaler and Sustein.
I think if we fashion “Big” with “importance” it becomes scalable in a sense of planning.
Ironically the notepad that “J. Douglas Holladay” shows is something I have learned to aid me in my planning as well. There was a time we think its all manageable in our minds, well its nice to have a pair of suspenders to keep things up and organized. We all have the days our minds are bombarded, so its nice to have a system that let’s us organize beyond our mind, with our mind and the squeaky wheel process becomes easier to control. If its meant to be tomorrow schedule it, if it needs done today, make it happen.
Thanks Tim. The power of writing things down includes more freedom for our brains. Some how getting it out of my head seems to make life simpler.
While I was familiar with Big Rocks, just watching the Covey video you embedded was powerful. The shift in my mind that big rocks don’t require dramatic action is my big 🙂 take away today.
Thanks Kris. So glad you found that useful. It’s a classic. I wish you well.
PS…that’s a pretty BIG takeaway.
I wish that I could post memes on your website… There is a pretty hilarious one that pretty much sums up my own weakness when it comes to BIG rocks versus small rocks and time management in general.
Hopefully my description of the meme will be sufficient:
It is a photo of a bear chasing a man. The bear is labeled “Something I’ve been putting off for weeks that wouldn’t take longer than 15 minutes to complete” the man running away says “me”.
I just felt so validated when I saw it because it showed to me that other people struggle with avoidance like I do sometimes tool… enough that there is a meme out there will 1000s of likes. This meme also made me sit down and write down all of those “little BIG” tasks that I have been putting off. I have tackled many of them this week. I hope you may search and find this meme a light pick me up but also a valid problem we have sometimes.
Brilliant. Thanks Shelby. Your description is awesome and helpful.
Choose your attitude. Never let your attitude be a response to your circumstances. This is what drives everything that I do and I thank Grandma Elizabeth for introducing “positive thinking” to me at an early age with all of Norman Vincent Peale’s books, Guidepost Magazine, Readers Digest and most importantly her “faith”. When I remember (and its getting to 100% now) to “choose my attitude” I am content on the challenges I face.
Thanks Roger. It’s so great that you had such a positive influence. I think many people need to overcome their heritage. You just need to live into it.
My office attempted to use this philosophy for years, however somehow we still remained inundated in the monotonous small rocks of every day life. We have recently had a change that small rocks are delegated to middle management while the big rocks (future oriented things) are delegated to the CEO. So far this is working, only time will tell.
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Thanks for this great piece of wisdom. Fits right in with the 80/20 rule. Tackle the 20% that gives you 80% of the results.
This aligns perfectly with a prior blog on the do-want mentality of desire. It’s rarely possible to myopically focus on on what you want; the noise is the distraction! Too often, the distraction becomes the focus as I fall into firefighting mode. The do-want mentality allows one to decide if the action is critical to the bigger picture. I tend to realign my to-do list each day, putting the most critical items first in the day (and blocking time free from distraction like email, phone, text, online messages, etc.) when needed. Busy does not equate to productive! Choose wisely, as if you had a limited amount of time….because you do!
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