Escape Those Pesky Time Bandits – Fill Up On Big Rocks

In today’s highly competitive business environment, working additional hours doesn’t guarantee that your business will be more successful or that your career will prosper. The only way that you can be successful today is to become more productive, efficient, and effective, not just busy.
— Jeffrey J. Mayer

We all want to accomplish great things with our lives.

That is why as each year draws to a close, most of us gear up for the New Year with myriad resolutions swirling around our skull. It is part of our entrenched cycle of renewal.

But this practice of setting New Year Resolutions can backfire on us.

You see, many people start off early in life making these resolutions with a great deal of enthusiasm every January 1st.

But then, alas, Procrastination, Apathy, Inertia and Nuisances, which form the acrostic PAIN, cause us to dump most of our resolutions in our always-full wastepaper basket of shipwrecked dreams.

Every time that happens, we die a little bit inside because we’ve broken yet another promise to ourselves.

Has that happened to you already? Do you want next year’s resolutions to be different? Then this is what I suggest:

Make very, very, very few promises to yourself, but keep them all!


To do so, I urge you today to decide to do one thing consistently every day of the next full calendar year. (I’ll tell you what that one thing is in a moment.)

I promise, if you do this, your effectiveness - as a person, a parent, a worker, a boss, an employee, or anything else - will shoot upward at lightspeed.

Here is what I would like you to do in this two-pronged approach:

First, acknowledge your tendency to want to clear away small things first before you begin on big things.

Second, do the exact opposite and force yourself to clear big things before starting on small ones.

The best way to determine if something is a big or small thing in your life is to identify direct consequences. There are no consequences to taking a nap you don’t need or watching that fourth sitcom of the evening. There are huge consequences to going for a romantic dinner with your spouse or finishing that vital project at work.

The great Leonardo Da Vinci once observed:

“God sells us all things at the price of labour.” I actually don’t believe that literally. Some things, like salvation, God gives freely; but that’s the topic of a very different type of article!

So, getting back to Leonardo’s observation, we find it contains a jewel of truth. To accomplish anything of real worth, we must be willing to do the work.

But work for work’s sake, meaning busy-ness and endless activity, is pointless. There has to be a point to all of our incessant running around. There must be some method to our madness.

There is: We should work ONLY on those things that are of true value to us.

If you have a problem choosing which activities to act on first, then my e-book 5 Steps to a Saner Life includes an especially easy-to-read section (STEP 3: SELECT) that will help you choose the truly important over the merely urgent.

You can quickly purchase and download your own copy of this great e-book by returning to the main page of, and scrolling down to the E-bookstore section.

Knowing how to select the tasks we do is crucial. You see, we are bombarded by an endless flow of little nuisances that fill our working hours just as gravel and sand can rapidly fill a big glass jar.

As we deal with these tiny irritants, we keep putting off working on important activities that can be likened to big, chunky rocks.

Several leaders in personal effectiveness, most notably Stephen Covey, have talked about the need to put the big rocks into the big glass ‘jars’ of our work days or work weeks. Once we do that, there will still then be space to pour in some less important gravel and sand through the gaps, later, should we want to!

But, but, but... if we do it in reverse and keep the big, important rocks outside, undone, as we first deal with the gravel and sand because we lack the discipline to focus on what is more important, we will find that there is not enough space to fit everything in.

That, by the way, is why so many of us reach the end of our work day exhausted, yet unable to remember what on earth we’ve done. This sense of unfulfilled potential eats at us like a vicious, gnawing rodent.

If we are not careful, all we’ll succeed in doing is to fill most of our lives with insipid, pointless acts that add up to zilch!

So, as you contemplate a change of strategy to give new life to your next batch of New Year resolutions, I urge you to do the following:

First, to get some practice for that grand task of making next year’s New Year resolutions count, why don’t you make just one non-New Year resolution today.

If that confuses you, let me explain myself. The way I see it, there is a 99.7% chance you are reading this on a day other than January 1st! Therefore, the odds favour suggesting this non-New Year resolution setting strategy.

Second, schedule your days, weeks and months as far ahead as is practical. And fill them up, but not completely, with big and important activities initially.

Third, after you have worked as much on those big rock projects as you want for the day, then and only then, if you want, use what time is left over to finish whatever is truly necessary among the swarm of niggling tasks that swirl about each day!

Pick those tasks carefully on the basis of which have the best consequences if done well. And don’t feel bad about not being able to finish off everything.

The truth is you can never do it all, anyway. And since, like me, you are a master procrastinator, there is a sensible way to rein in and steer that tendency to good use!

Master teacher Brian Tracy talks about the need to procrastinate intelligently. By this he essentially suggests we delay – and then delay some more! – starting work on the small, niggling tasks that have no or low future consequences.

If they are truly small tasks with hardly any consequences, they’ll simply disappear after a while. Remember, there is nothing worse than doing something well that doesn’t need to be done at all!

So, in closing, I hope you’ll adopt my recommended approach of ‘big rock planning’. And, frankly, if you’re wise, you won’t wait for the calendar to change to put this powerful suggestion into practice.

If you get started straight away, you’ll find that nothing else at all will ever be as effective in banishing P-A-I-N (Procrastination (of the wrong sort), Apathy, Inertia and Nuisances) from your daily schedule.

That’s a goal worth shooting for!