Big Rocks: My All-Time Favourite Productivity Tip
There are degrees of busyness. Crazy busy, I believe, belongs only to people in the workforce. They are the ones with a zillion things to do at both work and home, often with few people available to help in either location. If you are working and you don’t know about Big Rocks, read on. It could be a sanity saver.
Retirees, I haven’t forgotten you. Our busyness is of a different order, but no less pressing or real to us. I’ve noticed lately that we are working hard to align our actions with our intentions, and that requires taking a good look at how we spend our time. I created my RAW NEWS framework so that I spend time being creative instead of just talking about it. Janis has shortened her GratiTuesday posts so she has time for her ‘passionette’ of photography. And Donna is reducing time spent on her computer so she can prioritize the relationships and activities that bring meaning to her life.
Big Rocks: What It Is
January, the month of intentions, goals and dogged determination, is the perfect time to learn about or remember Big Rocks thinking. Here it is in a classic four minute video from the master himself, the late Stephen Covey.
Big Rocks: What It Isn’t
Dozens of online sites tell the Big Rocks story all wrong. They have a professor showing a class a jar of Big Rocks, asking if the jar is full. Then they add pebbles, sand and water to prove that even more can fit in the jar. No, no, no!
Big Rocks is about understanding that if you don’t prioritize the actions that move you toward your intentions or your goals, they are never going to happen.
To avoid simply working harder and faster so that we can do everything, we need another step beyond Big Rock thinking. Covey provides this in his excellent book First Things First.
Don’t say you don’t have enough time. You have exactly the same number of hours per day that were given to Helen Keller, Pasteur, Michelangelo, Mother Teresa, Leonardo da Vinci, Thomas Jefferson, and Albert Einstein.H. Jackson Brown, Jr.
The Eisenhower Matrix
The Eisenhower matrix is based on a quote attributed to the 34th President of the United States, Dwight D. Eisenhower. Eisenhower is reputed to have said,
“I have two kinds of problems, the urgent and the important. The urgent are not important and the important are never urgent.”
The matrix has four quadrants:
Covey mentions Q2 in the video. It’s his belief that time spent in Q2 is where we’re going to experience the greatest sense of fulfillment because Q2 is the place for focusing on plans and actions related to our Big Rocks.
There are two reasons we don’t tend to spend much time in Q2:
1. If we are unclear about our intentions and don’t know what’s truly important to us;
2. It is human nature to focus on whatever is in front of us at the moment. Our technology devices are exacerbating this problem because the frequency and immediacy of updates from work, friends and the media makes everything seem urgent even when it isn’t.
Sometimes, we have no choice but to spend time in Q1. Examples often given for this category include a fire in the kitchen, a looming tax deadline, and a crying baby. Any one of those is undoubtedly both urgent and important. When Q1 tasks arise, we have to give them our immediate attention and respond.
Q3, the urgent but not important category, is often filled with tasks that help other people achieve their goals. It includes most text messages, some emails, and lots of interruptions and distractions. In the workplace, it is also the place where you’d put most requests from co-workers.
And finally Q4 describes all of those tasks we default to when we’re exhausted battling Q1 and Q3 tasks. Some typical examples of Q4 tasks might include watching television, surfing the web mindlessly, or scrolling through social media feeds.
How to Use the Eisenhower Matrix
In a perfect world, at least according to Eisenhower aficionados, here’s what you’d do with activities or tasks you listed in each of the four quadrants:
But let’s be real, folks. If helping other people achieve their goals is important to you, there’s nothing wrong with spending time in Q3. And if binge watching Game of Thrones or scrolling your social media feed makes you feel good, it’s your life and your decision.
The bad news is time flies. The good news is you’re the pilot.Michael Altshule
To me, the value of the Eisenhower Matrix isn’t in turning us into planning puritans. It is a tool to help us choose to live more intentionally by recognizing which activities support those intentions and which ones don’t. If a day feels really wonderful, chances are good that we’ve spent a lot of time in Q2. On the other hand, if we get to the end of the day and are upset that we accomplished very little that was important to us, we can look to see where we were spending our time and make any necessary changes.
Were you familiar with Big Rocks and/or the Eisenhower Matrix? Do you see value in either or both at this point in your life?