Getting Priorities right story… and its extension

This is a story about getting your priorities right. This story has been told in many books and in many conferences. Here it is..

Start with a bucket, some big rocks enough to fill it, some small stones, some sand and water.
Put the big rocks in the bucket – is it full?

Put the small stones in around the big rocks – is it full?

Put the sand in and give it a shake – is it full?

Put the water in. Now it’s full.

The point is: unless you put the big rocks in first, you won’t get them in at all.

In other words: Plan time-slots for your big issues before anything else, or the inevitable sand and water issues will fill up your days and you won’t fit the big issues in (a big issue doesn’t necessarily have to be a work task – it could be your child’s sports-day, or a holiday).

While I thought that the above story was fascinating, every time I heard this story I felt that something was missing. Last week during my 1-1 with one of my mentors, it suddently hit me and it was clear what was missing. Here are my $.02 on this topic.

If we want to look at the analogy – bucket would be the time available and all the other things rocks, sand, water would mean all the tasks that we need to get done within the available time. What was missing I think was step zero. This is where the person has to carefully think what are all the tasks that he needs to do and what are all the tasks he is NOT the right person to do. Sometimes they are best to be handed off to someone (delegate or outsource) and what would remain is those absolute MUST tasks that he has to do.

This way, he gains higher leverage than before.

Most often, when we see a set of tasks in front of us, the first tendency is to go right into our “To Do” lists and start updating the list with the tasks. I think we need to step back and decide whether some tasks should be in our “To Do” list or someone else’s “To Do” list.