Art of conscious self-development

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How to increase productivity? Big rocks first!

How to increase productivity? Big rocks first!

It often happens to me that all day long I keep myself occupied with small tasks that even though are effective and useful do not give me enough satisfaction. Then, I look back and I realize that I have not done anything that would bring me closer to my long-term goals. If you have also experienced it, I want you to find out how this happens and how you can change it. In order to understand a certain concept better, I will describe here an interesting story.

One old, experienced professor decided one day to show his students how to effectively make a time schedule. For this purpose, during the lecture on that subject he said the following to his students.
– Let’s start with an experiment.
From under the desk, which separates him from the rest of the students ,he takes a huge jar and puts on top of it. Then, he takes about ten rocks, the size of a large fist, and starts  filling the jar up with them. Once it is filled with the rocks to the brim and he can’t fit anything else in the jar, he addresses the students:
– Is the jar already full?
The students answer with one voice:
– Yes, it is!
The professor looks at them carefully and takes from under the desk another smaller jar filled with tiny pebbles. He carefully pours the pebbles into the jar and shakes it. The pebbles fall into the spaces between rocks and the jar is full again. There is no more room for more pebbles. The professor asks again:
– Is now the jar full?
Uncertain students answer again:
– Probably it is… At this moment the professor takes from under the desk a sackful of sand and pours a handful of sand into the jar and the grains fall into the spaces between the tiny pebbles. Once the jar is filled up, he asks his students.
– And now?
This time the students don’t fall for the trick and reply:
– No!
And as expected, the professors takes a bottle of water and pours in into the jar.

What is the moral of this anecdote? If you don’t fill up your jar with the big rocks in the first place, soon there will be no room for them. Filling up your day with smaller tasks makes it impossible for you to get around to doing the important greater things.  So ask yourself – what are the big rocks in your life? Are these dreams, business, passion, personal development or maybe spending time with your friends?  Determine what your priorities are. Reflect on what you want to do in your life and what your long-term goals are. Once you know your big rocks, read on and learn how to get around to them in the most efficient way.

Big rocks are tasks that we push back from week to week. We lack the time to do them as it is filled up with pebbles, sand and water – the things that are much less important. See what you can do in order to prioritize those tasks that are really significant.

On Sunday evening or Monday morning make a list of tasks that you want to accomplish this week. Choose the tasks that are important to you in respect to what you want to achieve in your life. They should not be related merely to work and studies but also to your goals and dreams. Thanks to it you will always know what tasks you scheduled for yourself.

– In the beginning, keep the list short – one task per day. With time, you may get better at judging how many big rocks you can do in a week. During the first few days do not overdo the amount of tasks.

– Think of how exactly the whole day will look like. Look for 1-2 hour breaks during which you can get around to your big rocks. Write out precisely the time when you will do the task. Give yourself enough time to do it, so that you’re not too busy to concentrate on it. If you think that a given break is not long enough to get it done – find another one.

If after scheduling the big rocks there is still some time left every day, do not fill in the rest of it with any other tasks. Always leave yourself some free additional time as some tasks tend to take more time than expected. Leave some room for the incoming urgent things that, although are not necessarily important, will have to be dealt with.

If it is possible, place your big rocks as the very first thing in the morning. That is the part of a day for the big tasks to be undertaken as then we are full of energy and motivation. Later in the day some unexpected things may happen that will force us to push the big rocks back in the week.

Be proud of yourself if you succeed in applying this method. At the end of every week check out how many big rocks you got done.  If not all of them, ask yourself why. Have you had too little time and motivation? Or maybe you have wasted your time again on pebbles and sand? Be happy, however, about every single rock that you can cross out form your list. It is your big success!

As you can see, productivity is not about doing a great amount of tasks in the shortest time possible. Productivity is about effectively getting the important ones done. Sure you can get busy with doing all the little things, but what will you really achieve from undertaking them? So, let’s get down to work! The big rocks are waiting!


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