Are your tasks rocks, stones or sand?Posted by On November 12, 2015

Many of us are faced with having far too many tasks on our to-do lists. To combat this feeling we either launch ourselves into overdrive and start chasing our tails to get everything done or we succumb and give up, completing nothing.

If you have experienced this feeling I suggest you the read the following story…

An American professor was invited into a corporation to teach a team of top executives how to better manage their time. Because they were busy, they required the training to take a maximum of 60 minutes. The professor decided to be as brief as possible.

He started his lecture with a demonstration. He opened a large box full of grey stones as big as a fist. He put them one after another into the empty pot. When the pot looked full he asked the executives:

“Do you think the pot is full?” “Yes”, they replied.

“Really?” The professor smiled, “let’s have a look”. And he opened a smaller box containing small white stones and started putting them into the pot. They filled the holes in between the grey stones without any problems. The professor repeated his question: “Is the pot full now?”

“Probably not,” one of the managers replied. The professor nodded and opened a third box containing sand which he started to pour into the pot with grey and white stones. When the demonstration was complete he asked his audience:

“What have you learnt from this experiment, ladies and gentlemen?”

One manager says “Even if our diaries look full, we can still fit in some additional activities.” But the professor did not agree.

“No, this experiment demonstrated something else – if we had started with sand we would not be able to fit everything in. You must always start with the most important and heaviest things.”

So taking the professor’s advice consider the following:

  1. Write down your tasks, jobs and duties for the upcoming week or month.
  2. Take each item and consider how important and heavy it is. These questions might help you.
    • What would the consequences be if I did not complete this task?
    • How does this task affect the end goal?
    • What will I achieve if I complete this task?
    • Could someone else be completing this task?
    • Why, would this task be seen as more important than the next task? (Provide 3 valid reasons)
  3. If it is a rock, number it 1. If it’s a stone it gets a 2 and if it’s sand it would fall into the 3 category.
  4. By slotting your tasks into categories you are now able to priorities your tasks.

With the above in mind try to limit yourself to 3 rocks, 3 stones and 3 sand tasks a week.

Nicole Coyne



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Nicole Coyne

Nicole is a certified professional coach as well as a certified trainer, advanced assessor and coach mentor. Based in Auckland, she provides a range of coaching options, from individual business owner and management coaching, group and team coaching workshops to personal coaching. Her coaching practice is aligned to the ICF ethos and ethics. Need to hire a professional coach? Contact Nicole 

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