Stephen Covey recounts the story of an instructor lecturing on time, (First things first, by Stephen Covey, Simon and Schuster, 1994).
At one point the instructor said, Okay, its time for a quiz. He reached under the table and pulled out a wide-mouth gallon jar. He set it on the table next to a platter with some fist-sized rocks on it. How many of those rocks do you think we can get in the jar? he asked.
After we made our guess, he said, Okay, lets find out. He set one rock in the jar
then another. I dont remember how many he got in, but he got the jar full. Then he asked, Is that jar full?
Everybody looked at the rocks and said Yes.
Then he said Ahhh. He reached under the table and pulled out a bucket of gravel. Then he dumped some gravel in and shook the jar and the gravel went in all the little spaces left by the big rocks. Then he grinned and said once more, Is the jar full?
By this time we were on to him. Probably not, we said.
Good! he replied. And he reached under the table and brought out a bucket of sand. He started dumping the sand in and it went in all the little spaces left by the rocks and the gravel. Once more he looked at us and said, Is the jar full? No! we all roared.
He said, Good! and he grabbed a pitcher of water and began to pour it in. He got something like a quart of water in that jar. Then he said, Well, whats the point?
Somebody said, Well, there are gaps, and if you really work at it, you can always fit more into your life.
No, he said, thats not the point. The point is this: if you hadnt put these big rocks in first, would you ever have gotten any of them in?
Allocating resources: Getting the rocks in your jar
When you think forward 3 to 6 months, what are the REALLY IMPORTANT things you want to achieve, the rocks in your jar? (These rocks may be first steps in larger goals visions that may take much longer to complete)
1. List the mix of activities that you need to undertake in the next period of time.
2. Make up a time allocation worksheet or use the one below. Write the list of activities in the spaces in the middle of the worksheet.
3. On the pie chart on the right, under the column Desired State, represent the percentage of time you will need to allocate to each activity if your key objectives are to be successfully achieved.
4. Now review what you have specified as the allocation you would like, and compare it to the time you actually spend on these activities. Using the pie charts on the left hand side of the worksheet, represent the relative amounts of time you are currently spending with respect to each activity.
5. Now list the people with whom you are collaborating in order to undertake these activities on the second half of the worksheet. Note the proportion of your time you would like to spend with them in order to be successful in your activities, and note this on the right side of the worksheet. Compare these percentages with the time you actually spend with each individual, noted on the left side of the worksheet.