Identifying the “Big Rocks” of Your Business
By Emily Donaldson De Voto PhD
Exceptional Time Management = Excellent use of one’s time with consistent action being taken towards long‐term vision and short‐term goals.Riding the “I’m too busy putting out fires bus.”
Most business owners are crazy busy and are so often overloaded with the daily running of the business they don’t really have time to be making progress towards their long‐term goals or the vision of their business. They feel like the business is running them and not the other way around. The biggest problem with this model is that the company can act up like a toddler, throwing tantrums and taking the up a lot of time from a lot of key people. When this happens who is actively looking out for the business and steering the ship towards the future? No one.
Too many times I’ve heard from heads of businesses that they are “too busy putting out fires” to be spending time working on long-term projects or direction for the company. Well, I can’t give them any more time and neither can anyone else. The only way to turn things around is by using their time more wisely and developing exceptional time management habits.
Exploring the fundamentals of “Big Rocks”
One of the key fundamentals for exceptional time management is the theory of “Big Rocks.” Bare with me through this metaphor… Imagine in front of you there is a beautiful crystal vase. There is also a pile of sand, a pile of gravel and a pile of rocks. Most people run their week by filling up their vases with sand. That makes sense – because sand is used for putting out fires. The problem with this strategy is that now there is only a little room for gravel in the vase and absolutely no room for big rocks.
Let’s talk about sand, gravel and rocks. Sand is what we put on fires – a “fire” comes up, we put sand on it. Sand is reactive in nature. It’s very easy for anyone’s entire week to be filled up with sand. For example, responding to emails and texts as soon as you get them or jumping to work on something that needs urgent attention. Gravel represents weekly appointments and regular responsibilities. For example: signing checks on Thursday, conducting an admin meeting on Tuesday at 2, sales meeting Wed at 10:00, going on new customer appointments, attending a trade show in Newark, etc. Gravel is rarely urgent and just what must get done. Big Rocks are the core focus points in your business that you must consistently pay attention to and make progress on in order for your business grow. Big Rocks are never urgent, hence operating in the world of big rocks is proactive by nature. The big rocks are usually things that most people don’t focus on consistently – but you must in order to grow. Future planning (mission, vision and goals) will help you determine you big rocks for the next 6‐12‐18 months.
Scheduling Your Big Rocks Into Your Already Busy Calendar
The goal is that each week you (and your team) put your big rocks in your vase (calendar) first. This requires scheduling time to work on these non‐urgent action items that will move you closer meeting your benchmarks and achieving your goals. After you put the big rocks in, add the gravel and notice how there is plenty of room for both the big rocks and gravel. Finally, you can add some sand. Right away you will notice that you have less room for sand. It’s okay — because you will need much less sand over time because the time you are scheduling first each week is proactive versus reactive.
More proactive time spent = less reactive time needed.
If you are up for making great strides towards smart growth, spending time doing the things that count the most is key. You will benefit form scheduling time with your core team and figuring out the following:
- Determine your current sand/gravel/big rocks ratio.
- Dump your metaphoric vase out.
- Sit down with your core team and reconnect to your mission.
- Create your vision for the next 7 years, 5 years, 3 years and then 18 months.
- What has to happen in relation to reach or exceed the benchmarks in your vision(s)?
- Create your 6 month and 12 month goals based on your 18‐month vision – THESE ARE YOUR BIG ROCKS.
- Determine who owns (manages completion not necessarily all the tasks) which part of each of the goals.
- Create and use a daily/weekly real‐time update systems so the entire team understand what is happening in relationship to the goals and the benchmarks (google‐docs works great if you need to go low‐budget and simple.)
- Weekly update meeting with core team (live or virtual) to prioritize and determine the next weeks MUST points towards goals.
- Each person commits and schedules those action items in their calendar for the next week.
I worked with a CEO of a company that loved his business and had poured a lot of his heart and soul into it. He desperately wanted to triple the size of the business over the next 5 years and was in a good position to do so. He had the edge in the industry and was a trusted vendor for many people. But, this was no small feat, especially since he spent most of his time dealing with escalated issues due to an unmotivated sales force. When we started this Big Rock conversation, he said he didn’t possibly have the time to focus on anything that didn’t require his immediate attention. After considerable discussion, and convincing on my part, he realized he had to change his strategy of how he fundamentally managed his time in order to reach his goals. After going through the above process with his team, they became totally jazzed. They began taking on much more than they had before. Sales doubled within 3 months, primarily due to an online accountability program we put in place with sales team. They were measuring their efforts daily and working more effectively on what mattered most. The CEO also purchase ongoing coaching for the team (shameless plug) but it made the team feel greatly appreciated and helped keep their performance high over the next 6 months as they were developing the new habits they needed to maintain their growth track.