Manage Your Time or Others Will do it for
By Harvey Mackay
I'll never forget an important time
management lesson I learned in a seminar many
years ago . . . especially how the instructor
illustrated the point.
"Okay, time for a quiz," he said, as he
pulled out a one-gallon wide-mouthed mason jar
and set it on the desk in front of him. Then he
produced about a dozen fist-sized rocks and
carefully placed them, one at a time, into the
When the jar was filled to the top and no more
rocks would fit inside, he asked, "Is the jar
Everyone in the seminar said,
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. This
caused pieces of gravel to work themselves down
into the spaces between the big rocks. Then he
asked the group again, "Is the jar
By this time the class was onto him.
"Probably not," we answered,
"Good!" he replied as 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
"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
One eager beaver raised his hand and said, "The
point is, no matter how full your schedule is, if
you really try hard, you can always fit some
things into it."
"No," the instructor replied. "The point is
if you don't put the big rocks in first, you'll
never get them in at all."
So, today, tonight, or in the morning when
you are reflecting on this story, ask yourself:
What are the 'big rocks' in my life or business?
Then, be sure to put those in your jar
And by the way, you get the same size jar as
everyone else. No exceptions.
What changes from person to person is the size of
each rock. I've got a couple boulders in my jar:
family first, always. Things like friends, my
company, my speaking/writing "hobby," maintaining
my network, my volunteer commitments, my health,
and my religion all take up a lot of space. The
gravel is all the stuff that takes up more than a
few minutes but doesn't necessarily happen every
day, like a committee assignment, a vacation,
learning new software ... you get the
And now, the sand. You can decide whether to
be that 98-pound weakling who gets sand kicked at
him, or the creator of a spectacular sand castle.
The sand is the yes/no stuff that absolutely has
to fit around everything else after it's in the
jar. A little piece of sand in your eye is a big
pain, and those are the ones that get the
no-thank-you right off the bat. A little sand on
an icy street is one of life's little pleasures
when you live in snow country as I do. You choose
the sand. It's your jar.
In other words, it's your time. Change the
rocks, gravel and sand into hours, minutes and
seconds. Then decide what your priorities are and
how much time you'll spend on them. If you don't,
someone else will decide for you and you'll end
up with a jar full of heavy, jagged, nasty shards
that nobody could touch without getting stabbed
by another rock. Do you really want to spend your
time working on other people's
As Benjamin Franklin said, "If we take care of
the minutes, the years will take care of
themselves." Good time management is taking care
of the things that matter most to us first and
keeping that jar of rocks in sight all the
My friend Lou Holtz has a great formula:
W.I.N. -- What's Important Now? Use some of your
precious time to figure out what's important in
your life and you will win.
Mackay's Moral: Hey, even Superman had to work
around the Kryptonite. So can you.
Mackay is author of four New York
Times bestsellers, including his most recent
in 1999, Pushing the Envelope. His first
two books - Swim with the Sharks Without Being
Eaten Alive and Beware the Naked Man Who
Offers You His Shirt -- have been translated
into 35 languages and distributed in 80
countries. He is chairman and chief executive
officer of Mackay Envelope Corp., an $85 million
company he founded at age 26.
Courtesy of Article Resource Association