“Big Rocks” Matter More than Ever: Be Productive in a Noisy World

big rocksOne of the greatest productivity skills that I’ve learned in the last 10 years has been to put the “big rocks” into my weekly schedule first. Developed by Stephen Covey in his book, First Things First, the concept is that you need to put your most important activities into your weekly schedule first. These “big rocks” take up the most space, but also are large because they’re the most important functions you do.

And now it’s more important than ever to do this.

Our noisy and busy world wants to fill our week with sand and pebbles, less important functions that can easily fill our time and take up room.  At the end of the week, the important matters are then left undone …. or when we have time to do them we’re so beat up and tired that we easily put them off.

Which is why we then stress and press to be productive in meaningful ways.

What 4-6 functions this week are most important for you?  Schedule them first and then leave a bit of room for the pebbles and sand that come along. Leave some margins (one of my words for 2013) in your life for relationships, reflection (and under-discussed component for personal growth and effective leadership), and even rest.  But, first things first…. the big rocks.

Here are the big rocks I put in for a healthy week:

  1. Spiritual renewal – morning Bible and devotional reading and prayer.  This crucial part of my day, often early and accompanied by Casi Cielo or Intelligentsia coffee (2 of the 3 best coffees in my world), is probably the most important thing I do.  This practice helps to remind me that my day is not about me and, strangely, I’m a nicer person to be around when this is a regular component.
  2. Physical exercise – my 3 times each week where I’m doing what’s necessary to maintain physical health.  Which usually means CrossFit with colleagues at work. I’m becoming a bit of an apologist for this as necessary, especially when teamed with proper nutrition and sleep.
  3. Creative time – Since my job is being a resource person through teaching, speaking and writing, I need (rather large) spaces to develop that content. I’ve learned that if I’m not developing a project of some sort and exercising my creativity, I’m not exercising my main gifting.  So, I make sure I’m creating on a regular basis in a way that’s matching my mission and calling.
  4. Focused work – Another part of my job is to give leadership and oversight to multiple groups.  Since I think leaders lead from the middle, these are crucial to schedule in my weekly schedule and make sure the creative side doesn’t overrun the administration.
  5. Grunt work – Every job has elements that aren’t what we especially like to do, but we have to do them.  So, I put those on the schedule and make sure I’m ready to sit down (or stand up) and do them at those times … whether I feel like it or not (a crucial skill needed to be productive).  The nice thing about this rock is when it’s over it doesn’t loom over your head.

Now you Covey devotees have noted that I treated the big rocks slightly differently and haven’t listed them as what we do in relationship to others.  Others of you can see that family isn’t on the list.  Anyone who has been around us for any period of time knows that family is a given and is an even bigger rock than these five.  Also you may note that I’ve used (purposefully) fairly generic titles.

Again, I can’t emphasize any more how important I think this productivity tool is for leaders, parents, students, and managers.  Our world presses in so tight, social media steals so much time in the work place, and we can’t take advantage of the ample leisure time that we have because our work has spilled over to do poor self-management.

Join me today and put the “big rocks” in your week’s schedule first.