Lesson 1 - Focus on the "Big Rocks"

Start With The Big Rocks

"I just can't fit it all in!"

Those were the words my client told me over the phone.

Frustrated and agitated, he was lamenting the increasing toll his recent promotion was taking on him. The commutes were longer, the workdays were more exhausting, the stress was mounting.

"Was the pay increase really worth this?" he continued. "Sure, the pay is great, but what's the point if I can't enjoy it. Worse than that, I barely see my family anymore!"

Perhaps you can relate.

Maybe you've had one of the "crazy weeks." (Wait...isn't every week like that???)

My advice remains the same now as it was then: start with the big rocks.

Determine Your Big Rocks

I remember hearing of a study once that examined the student's ability to properly fill an aquarium full of rocks. There were various sizes of rocks from tiny pebbles to larger foundational rocks.

As the story goes (at least as it was reported to me), the college students started dumping rocks, starting with the small one first to fill the bottom evenly.

By the time they got to the big rocks, not everything would fit.

In contrast to this, the kindergarten students started with the big rocks and everything looking messy. But, as they poured each successively smaller version of rocks in, they filled all the gaps.

The result? The college students "failed" the experiment by not fitting in all of their assigned rocks. In contrast to this, the kindergarten students passed because all of the rocks fit.

And while dozens of life lessons could be learned from this, this is why I push my clients to start with the big rocks.

When we start with the big rocks of life, we end up having room for everything. Work is undoubtedly an important part of life, but is it our biggest rock? Probably not. (At least it shouldn't be...)

Family, self-care, personal growth, and close relationships are all things that should take up the foundation of who we are. Hobbies and work probably come next. Small rocks include the minor areas of life that take up some time but should never take too much.

As we gain clarity on what our big rocks are, we can easily see what is out of balance with our life pace.

Learning From My Kids

One of the things I've learned to implement is a lesson from my four children. If I leave the house and I hear, "Bye, dad! I can't wait to see you later!" there is a good chance that things are going well. If, on the other hand, I hear, "Noooooo. Daddy, don't go!" followed by weeping and gnashing of teeth, I know that my priorities for work are starting to take up too much time.

In those moments, I work diligently to reshape my schedule to spend more time with my family.

Thankfully, I'm getting better at this and starting to hear those sounds of disappointment less.

But it all starts with having clarity.

  • Clarity on the key values for my life.
  • Conviction on what matters most.
  • Commitment to live a life shaped by honoring my values more than worldly demands.

But I can only do that when I start with the big rocks.

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Question For Discussion: What might be something you would say to someone struggling with work-life balance? Leave a comment below!


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