One of my favorites – the Big Rocks Story

The Big Rocks Story, from Stephen Covey’s First Things First


“One day an expert in time management was speaking to a group of business

students. As he stood in front of the group of high-powered overachievers he

said, `Okay, time for a quiz.’ He then pulled out a one-gallon, wide-mouthed

Mason jar and set it on the table. 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 fi t 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 it to work down into the space between

the big rocks. Then he asked the group once more, ‘Is the jar full?’ By this time

the class was on to him. ‘Probably not,’ one of them answered. ‘Good,’ he



He reached under the table and brought out a bucket of sand and started

dumping the sand into the jar until it filled 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 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 fi t some more things in

it!’ ‘No,’ the speaker replied, `that’s not the point.’


‘The truth this illustration teaches us is that 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? Your children, your loved ones, your education, your dreams, a worthy

cause, teaching others, doing things you love, your health, your mate?

Remember to put these BIG ROCKS in first or you’ll never get them in at

all. If you sweat about the little stuff then you’ll fill your life with little things

and you’ll never have the real quality time you need to spend on the big,

important stuff.’” 

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