A Lesson in a Jar

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

He reached under the table and pulled out a bucket of gravel. Then he dumped some gravel in and shook the jar causing pieces of gravel to work themselves down into the spaces between the big rocks. Then he asked the group once more, “Is the jar full?” By this time the class was onto him. “Probably not,” one of them answered. “Good!” he replied. He reached under the table and brought out a bucket of sand. He started dumping the sand in and it went into all the spaces left between the rocks and the gravel. Once more he asked the question, “Is this jar full?” “No!” the class shouted. Once again he said, “Good!” Then he grabbed a pitcher of water and began to pour it in until the jar was filled to the brim. Then he looked up at the class and asked, “What is the point of this illustration?” One eager beaver raised his hand and said, “The point is, no matter how full your schedule is, if you try really hard, you can always fit some more things into it!” “No,” the speaker replied, “that’s 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.” What are the ‘big rocks’ in your life? Time with your loved ones? Your faith, your education, your dreams? A worthy cause? Teaching or mentoring others?

Remember to put these BIG ROCKS in first or you’ll never get them in at all. So, tonight or in the morning when you are reflecting on this short story, ask yourself this question: What are the ‘big rocks’ in my life or business? Then, put those in your jar first.

5 thoughts on “A Lesson in a Jar”

  1. Very wise words…… there are times when we become so caught up in the small, daily “drama of life” situations that we lose track of what we should really be grateful for.

  2. Completely true and important to think about, because if you don’t know what your priorities are then you get caught up in the unimportant, but urgent stuff, like phone calls, and etc. Stephen Covey suggest a way to recognize your daily errands into these categories (I use a Franklin Planner, which saves my life); First, label each thing A (for the Important and Urgent), B (for the important but not urgent) and C for the unimportant and non-urgent (like taking the trash out lol). Then go through and number all A’s 1,2,3, etc., then B’s, and so on. That way at the end of the day you have the most important things done. Also, a great book on this is “Eat That Frog”, by Brian Tracy. I know I’m going on and on… I’ll shut up now. 😉

  3. Both the ladies have very good points, and I’ll have to tip my hat to you baby on that great analogy. I think that sometime I’m going to have to sit down and lay them big rocks out on the table. But for that, we’ll leave until we are together 😉 But seriously, I think that what you wrote was pretty sound.

  4. What about people in glass houses having those BIG rocks just lying around? Sounds very dangerous!

  5. Actually, I think the last thing they poured in was *beer* and the moral of the story is… there’s *always* time for beer? (at least that’s how *I* heard the story….) 😛

Comments are closed.