Unearthing a better way to prioritize your time, energy

One of the key disciplines in strategic planning is establishing priorities. And one of the most challenging aspects of establishing priorities is the ability to focus first on the most important things.

One of the key disciplines in strategic planning is establishing priorities. And one of the most challenging aspects of establishing priorities is the ability to focus first on the most important things.

In growth companies, the avenues for growth and opportunity seem limitless. Many companies try to chase them all, often falling prey to the ancient proverb, “He who chases two hares, leaves one and loses the other.”

The late Stephen Covey was a master at creating metaphors for leadership concepts. One of his best, about priorities, included an empty jar, pebbles and rocks.

In his workshops, he would set up a table, upon which there were an empty clear jar, another clear jar three-quarters full of pebbles and 12 rocks that represented our most important activities such as “time to sharpen my saw,” “time for relationships and family,” “urgent issue with your best customer” and “second-quarter planning.”

An attendee was then asked to fit the rocks into the jar with the pebbles, without going over the top.

As the attendee works to squeeze in the rocks, Covey would quip, “She is moving the pebbles around under the assumption that will create more room.”

At one point he asks, “Have you ever been too busy driving to stop and get gas?”

The pebbles, of course, are the little things that fill our lives, and the rocks are the most important things that should be getting done.

The problem is we put the pebbles in our “jar” first, absorbing our time and energy, and never giving ourselves the opportunity to get to the rocks.

Covey then tells the attendee that she can work out of a different paradigm to fit all the big rocks.

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