Big Rocks and Little Rocks

Big Rocks and Little Rocks

We all struggle with prioritizing the big and important things in life and making time and finding the focus to tackle them. For several years, when I was working in the corporate world, I printed this out and hung it up in my office.


It often caught people’s attention and got us started on substantive conversations about their work, identifying priorities, choosing how to manage time and about focusing on the big rocks versus the little rocks.

When faced with a big long list of tasks, most of us naturally gravitate to the quick and easy ones first. And, why not? Finishing off a few things quickly makes you feel good and accomplished in the short term, but is this the right approach for the long term?

You might recall Steven Covey’s story about life’s bucket and if you fill it first with sand, then gravel, you will run out of space for the bigger rocks. However, if you start with the big rocks first, followed by the gravel and finally the sand, there will be plenty of room for it all since the smaller items will fill in the gaps in between the bigger ones.

Seems to make sense in the physical world but how do we apply this to our real life tasks? How do we make sure we are putting the big rocks first when it’s so easy to get side-tracked by the gravel and sand? Nowadays it’s more difficult than ever with so many constant dings, pings, notifications and alerts all constantly clamoring for our attention.

Simply start by prioritizing your daily top three tasks, or BIG ROCKS, for each day. You don’t have to prioritize the little things; they will just naturally fall into place. You don’t need to put eat lunch or check email or go to the bathroom on your list of priorities because you will naturally make the time to take care of those things. It’s the big, important and hard things you need to identify and then find dedicated time to focus on getting done.

TRY THIS OUT: First, evaluate what you are spending your time on? What are the big rocks that you need to tackle? How much time are you currently dedicating to the big rocks versus the little rocks? How can you adjust your schedule or your priorities to make time for the big rocks?

The DONE List

Recently I launched a new to-do list app in the iTunes App Store called priorigami: the art of productivity. The initial product is just a bare-bones MVP designed to test the app and get feedback from users on what works and what doesn’t. Interestingly, the number one requested feature is to add the ability to see completed tasks.

Several articles have been written about the value of keeping an “anti to-do list” or a “done list” as a key motivator and driver of increased productivity. Some people track daily accomplishments and then move on, others keep an active spreadsheet listing everything they have completed. Or, some just focus on their three big goals and track progress against those goals.

Back in 1993, I started keeping a weekly list of achievements. In 2013, I switched to one annual list of major accomplishments. At the start of each new year, I eagerly create my new list and anticipate how it will get filled in over the upcoming 12 months. Every other week or so, I go in and update it.

Here are the categories that I am keeping track of this year:

  • Product Launches
  • Blog Posts
  • Research
  • Books Read
  • Influencer Outreach
  • Networking
  • Training & Development
  • Agreements & Contracts
  • Community Service

Over the years the categories have shifted and morphed based on where I was working and what I was focused on achieving that particular year. The key is to keep track of the things that are most meaningful and important to you in terms of achievement. Think about how you define your own success and how would you measure it.

Not only does the DONE list serve as a motivator, it documents my achievements for future reference. I certainly helped me when I had to write my annual self-assessments. Years later, I have gone back to my lists to confirm key product launch dates. I have been able to quickly find out which training courses or assessments I completed in order to make a recommendation to someone else. I have also gone back to find names of people I had met or networked with so we could reconnect.

These lists have become an incredible historical repository that I find myself referring back to time and time again since as I age, I can no longer just rely on my memory.

TRY THIS OUT:  What did you accomplish today? Write it down. What did you get done this week?  Write it down. How do you feel? Are you amazed by what you were actually able to get done? Or, do you feel you didn’t get enough done? How would you measure your productivity or success based on what you achieved? Use the answers to these questions to help you design a format and a system for your own “Done” list.

5 BIG Benefits of Entrepreneurship

5 BIG Benefits of Entrepreneurship

Three months ago I quit my corporate job to start my own business. During this time, I have come to recognize some of the enormous benefits of entrepreneurship that I was unaware of while in the corporate world.


Instead of reading hundreds of email messages each day, I now have the time to read books and have been able to finish at least one book each week. I have dived deeply into reading productivity books but also some fiction as well. In addition to learning a lot, reading is also insightful, stimulating and relaxing.


Writing emails, status reports or PowerPoint decks is mind-numbing and pretty much worthless in the long run. But through my blog posts and content marketing efforts, I have been able to capture and summarize ideas and concepts that are substantive and hopefully thought-provoking.


With the help of my good friends at TenRocket, I was able to define, develop and launch my new task management app, priorigami: the art of productivity in the iTunes App Store in about a month. It’s simply amazing to see how quickly you can create and innovate when you aren’t designing or deciding by committee.


While most of my days were spent sitting in various meetings, I now prioritize taking a walk in nature. This time has cleared my mind and provided some of the most powerful opportunities to think clearly. I never realized how much I missed having the time, the quiet and the ability to just think.


In this short amount of time, I have a long list of things I have been able to do that I didn’t think I could do by myself. I obtained all of the necessary business licenses and numbers, launched my own Web site and blog, and I even figured out how to redirect my domain by updating the DNS entries — I used to have Ops people who did that kind of stuff for me. I have always said that there’s nothing more gratifying than accomplishing something you thought was impossible.

I am finally experiencing the pleasure of doing deep, meaningful work. So, what’s blocking your path?