Big Rocks Before Little Ones

We’ve all heard this analogy, right? Every day, you have a pile of tasks — also known as rocks — to get through. You have to move those rocks from point A to point B. The biggest rocks are going to be the hardest to move — heavy and bulky. So you grab them first, right?

No. No you don’t. You grab the small or mid-size rocks. Hey, they’re easier to move. Why not start there? You move several small rocks, and a few medium ones, and have a very busy day of rock-moving.

Then you reach the end of your very busy day and realize you have not moved those one or two really big rocks that needed moving. And you just don’t have it in you.

I am a champion small-rock mover. The little stuff on the list is just easier to get done and check off. I will happily start by moving the smallest rocks, and some days never even identify what the biggest rock is that I could move. That large task, that thing that will have a big effect, is often out there, lurking large. So I’ve made a little resolution about which rock I am going to tackle first each day: The biggy. This is the rock I wake up thinking about, hopefully not at 4:00 a.m. but it is definitely in my head when the alarm goes off at 6:00 a.m. The big task may not be all that hard; it just has outsized effect on how the rest of a day, or a project, or even a week will go.

This morning the big rock was very clear to me; I knew exactly what that task was. By getting it done before 10:30 am, I cleared my head for other tasks, smaller rocks. I will probably get to the end of the day with a bit more energy, too. It just took my clear thinking — either yesterday evening at the end of the day, or first thing this morning — about which big rock should be first to go. We’ll see how I reform my approach, but for now, I am counting today as a win.