The BIG Rocks in Your Life

By Kellie Hill

Recently I reread a note from Bill Huffman, a Board Member of an organization I worked with many years ago.  I want to share his “Coastal Notes” that he gave to me more than 15 years ago.  You may already know his secret but it’s always a great reflection.

One day an expert on the subject of time management was speaking to a group of business students and, to drive home a point, he used an illustration the students will never forget.  As he stood in front of the group of high-powered overachievers he said, “Okay, time for a quiz.”  He pulled out a one-gallon wide mouthed jar and set it on the table.  He then produced about a dozen fist sized rocks and carefully placed them in the jar.  When the jar was filled and no more rocks would fit inside, he asked, “Is this jar full?”

Everyone in the class said, “Yes.”

To which he replied, “Really?”  Next, he reached under the table, pulled out a bucket of gravel, dumped some of the gravel into the jar and shook the jar causing the gravel to sift down into the spaces between the big rocks.  Then he asked the class once more, “Is the jar full?”

By this time the students were on to him.  “Probably not”, one of them answered.

“Good!” he replied.  Then, again, he reached under the table, and brought out a bucket of sand and began pouring sand into the jar, filling all the remaining spaces left between the rocks and gravel.  For a third time he queried, “Is this jar full?”

“No”, the class shouted.

“Good!” he said.  Finally, he grabbed a pitcher of water and began to pour it in, filling the once empty jar to the brim.  Next, he looked up at the class and asked “What is the point of this illustration?”

One student raised his hand and said, “The point is, no matter how full your schedule is, if you try really hard you can always fit more things into it!”

“No”, the speaker said, “that is not the point.  The truth this illustration teaches us is – If you don’t put the big rocks in first, you’ll never get them in at all.”

So, as I (and hopefully you) reflect, what are the big rocks in your life?  A project you want to accomplish?  Time with your family?  Your faith, your education, your finances?  A cause?  Your health?  Teaching or mentoring others?  More Rotary?

Remember: Put these big rocks in first or you’ll never get them in at all!


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