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How to Get Things Done

December 8, 2008

Filed under: life — Terry Wohlers @ 16:38

Many years ago, I read the classic The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey. Of all the suggestions offered in the book, one stuck with me the most. I call it the Big Rock principle. Our lives are filled with jobs, tasks, meetings, and emails—sometimes an overwhelming number of them. If you are like many people, you sometimes slip into a period where you’re working hard and long hours, but you neglect some of the most important stuff.

Covey points out that if you fill an empty jar with pebbles, it’s impossible to fit big rocks into it. If you first place rocks into the jar, you can fit many small pebbles around them. The idea is that you must concentrate on the big, important projects before the small tasks. If you fall into the trap of dealing with little items, one after another, the day and night can disappear before you know it. And, you don’t feel that you’ve accomplished much—and certainly not what’s important. If I’m not careful, I find myself processing email as it arrives or taking phone calls, rather than staying focused on a critical project. When I maintain focus, I can knock our major chucks of a project and still find time to fit in the little things.

The next time you feel like your day is spent unproductively, ask yourself how you’re spending time. Remind yourself of the Big Rock principle. “Turn off” your email and phone and concentrate, non-stop, on a single activity that’s important. Almost always, you will find time to fit in the smaller tasks and you will gain a greater sense of accomplishment and satisfaction.