I was reading James Patterson’s novel this
weekend, Sam’s Letters to Jennifer. Part of the premise of the
book is that the main character, Jennifer, learns about the life of her
grandmother, Sam, through the
letters Sam has left for Jennifer to read.
Jennifer discovers these letters as Sam lies in the hospital in a coma, and the
letters cause Jennifer to reflect both on her life as a child as well as the
current state of her life. In one of Sam’s letters, Jennifer is reminded of her
reluctance to leave her grandmother’s house at the beach at summer’s end when
she was a child. To ease the transition, Sam would send Jennifer to the beach
with a Mason jar to put in sand, stones, rocks and water for Jennifer to take
home part of the beach with her.
I was reminded of the following story as I read
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 he 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 the table
in front of him. He then 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 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 replied. He reached under the table and brought out a bucket of sand.
He started dumping the sand in the jar and it went into all of 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 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 in
"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
The point of this story, just as Jennifer’s grandmother pointed out to Sam in
the book that I read, is that the big rocks are the important things in your
life, and you need to tend to those first. Once you’ve dealt with those,
everything else will fit it around it.
I had forgotten this point several summers ago when my mom and niece were
visiting. The big rocks should have been my time with them; instead I made the
big rocks my business and tried to fit them around my business. Big mistake. By
the end of the week I realized that I would have enjoyed the week so much more,
and they probably would have, too, had I just simply taken the time off to be
with them instead of trying to work for a large portion of the day and then try
and enjoy their company for whatever part of the day remained. The result was
that I simply didn’t have the time to spend with them that I hoped–they got
whatever portion of my day (the stones, sand, and water) that remained.
What are the ‘big rocks’ in your life–your children; your loved ones; your
education; your dreams; a worthy cause; teaching or mentoring others; doing
things that you love; time for yourself; your health; your significant other?
Remember to put these BIG ROCKS in first or you’ll never get them in at all.
If you sweat the little stuff (the gravel, the
sand), then you’ll fill your life with little things you worry about that don’t
really matter, and you’ll never have the real quality time you need to spend on
the big, important stuff (the big rocks). 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? Then, put those in your jar first. You’ll be much
happier in the process.:)
Best-selling author Donna Gunter works with successful business owners who are experts in their fields and established in their industry and are seeking a way to stand out from their competitors. Using her Ideal Clients on Autopilot System©, she helps them determine the exact strategies to generate more qualified leads and better-paying clients with automated systems. This proven system makes all their marketing easier and more effective and they find themselves positioned as the only choice for their clients.