Purposeful Big Rocks (part three)


Part Three: Purposeful Big Rocks

Multiple productivity and time management systems tell me to do the important things first. To really get this into my head, though, I needed the explanation from Zen Habits about Big Rocks.

The Big Rocks are the most important things. The things that are in line with my purpose and the things that stand the best chance of propelling me towards my goals. They are the things that are often easy to put off or hard to start. They are the things that take up a chunk of time that’s hard to find if I am constantly checking emails, paying bills, updating websites, or running to meetings.

Zen Habits explains that if I put all those little “pebble” tasks first, my week will have no room for the Big Rocks. But if I put the Big Rocks into my schedule first, then all the little pebble-y things will just fill in and find space around them.

Getting Things Done comes at the concept in a different, but also useful, way. The GTD system uses “time available” as its second criteria for choosing an action in any given moment. I used to look at my schedule and see two free hours before my next scheduled appointment, and think, “How many items from my to-do list can I cross off in two hours?” I aimed for quantity, because I am easily reinforced by looking at a list with twenty things crossed off.

Now, I look at two available hours and I go find the thing on my to-do list that is going to take two hours, and I do that. And somehow, all those other little tasks have a way of finding themselves tiny time slots where they can get done. My quantity of production hasn’t gone down. But the amount of Big Rocks that I’m getting done has substantially increased. And that means that I am working more and more on the projects that are most in line with my purpose, which is to help people grow and change.

As one of my yoga teachers used to say, “If you make time for yoga, yoga makes time for everything else.”

I find that if I make time for my purpose, my purpose makes time for everything else.

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Laura McGrath, CPCC, is a Toronto-based co-active life coach who helps smart people to live from their hearts. Let's talk! You can subscribe to Ready for Change news to receive thoughtful notes on personal growth, and you can contact Laura to find out if coaching is right for you.

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  1. […] for managing actions is my action management sword: clarity of purpose. I’ve referenced the Big Rocks concept to show that putting my big chunks of purpose work first gives me a structure to get more […]

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