Monday, November 16, 2009

The Big Rocks Go First

I heard a story once about a college professor. He brought a large jar, rocks of various sizes, and sand to class. He challenged his students to get all of the rocks and sand into the jar.

Some put the sand in first and the smaller stones, but found they wouldn't all fit. Others tried varying combinations. After numerous failures, the professor instructed the class. "You always put the big rocks in first. Then you put the smaller stones and sand. If you reverse that process, the big rocks won't fit."

What a life lesson for us! Make time for the big stuff, and then add all the smaller tasks. Over the past weeks, I've made a quality decision to get the most important things done first. My morning devotions and writing 3,000 words are given top priority. No longer are they the items that are way down on my to-do list. They get done. Period.

Some days, because of an appointment or life interrupting, the writing gets moved to the afternoon. I end up squeezing my writing time into my partially filled jar, trying my patience and my resolve. Some of us have full-time jobs, families, and church commitments that take up a chunk of our time. Our writing may be one of the smaller stones added after the big rocks are put in the jar.

Where does writing fit in your life? Is it one of the large rocks, a smaller stone, or sand that filters between all the crevices?

46 comments:

Jody Hedlund said...

Oh I LOVE this analogy, Susan! My writing has developed into a Big Rock. It wasn't always that way, but over the past year has grown, and now I need to give it top priority!

sherrinda said...

My husband has used this object lesson in his sermon before and it really is eye opening! I have been so guilty of this in my writing. I don't know if it is fear holding me back or life or just plain laziness. But I know I need to re-prioritize. Thanks for the reminder, Susan!

Jessica said...

I've heard this before and it is really true! Now hopefully the big rocks I choose are the right ones. LOL

Donna M. Kohlstrom said...

Susan, thanks for reminding me of this story.

Sometimes I'm trying to take handfuls of each and shove them into the jar! Doesn't work well! I'm trying to get priorities in line and let go of some of the boulders that weigh me down.

My day starts with a cup of tea, bible and devotional and then it's time for hubby and pets before I get down to writing.

Cindy said...

It sounds like you've made a good decision after really evaluating what's important to you.

Writing is one of my top priorities at this point in my life. But at the same time, I think I'm ranking many other things up there as well and I need to work through and find which are my big rocks right now and which are the little ones.

Thank you for this post, it really made me think!

Kristen Torres-Toro said...

It's a smaller piece--which means that sometimes it doesn't happen. That doesn't mean it isn't priority, it just is what life is right now. I'm working on re-structuring it.

Karen Lange said...

I consider writing to be one of my large rocks, but sometimes the days turn out otherwise:) The Lord is showing me more about organizing, staying focused, and being productive. Thanks for sharing this, Susan:) Blessings!

Deborah said...

hmmm...good questions. Much of the time, my writing is the sand, but lately it's at least the smaller stones. With homeschooling and foster children coming and going, it really has to compete to be a big rock...maybe one day.

Ava Walker Jenkins said...

Very visual and helpful post. Lately, writing would have to be more like the sand, an afterthought, attempted only after all of the those other stones like job, family, church, groceries, etc. get done. Sadly, I don't see it changing any time soon.
Great to hear about your happy state of mind and getting your priorities to line up.

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Jody -

I think you brought up a great point. Our priorities shift as the seasons of life change. Depending on how supportive our families are, our writing piority level either grows or shrinks.

At the moment, my writing is one of the big rocks. When I get a full-time job, it will have to take a less prominent place in my schedule.

Blessings,
Susan :)

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Sherrinda -

The analogy isn't new, but it certainly fits the situation. :)

I found I spent way more time surfing the Internet than required. By committing to writing a certain number of words per day, my production has jumped.

All the other rocks and sand get squeezed in between. :)

Blessings,
Susan

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Jess -

This powerful illustration stuck in my mind and wouldn't let go. It's affected every area of my life.

When I'm tempted to veg out in front of the TV, I grab a book instead. I not only have the pleasure of reading, but also prepare for a book recommendation.

The priorities we set depend on our family, work, and church commitments. I'm confident you'll make the right choices. :)

Blessings,
Susan

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Donna -

My devotional time is my top priority. Occasionally, I miss it, and it shows. I know I can't be an effective writer without that time with the Lord.

At the present time, I get between a 1/2 hour and an hour devotional time. Then I write from 9:00 A.M. to 1:00 P.M., 5 days a week. The rest of the rocks and sand have to fit into the remainder of the day.

Blessings,
Susan :)

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Cindy -

I love these analogies because they make me see things in a different light. It's good to re-evaluate our priorities from time to time.

Blessings,
Susan :)

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Kristen -

I understand so well. When my late husband battled leukemia, my writing amounted to a daily email update for friends and family.

May the Lord give you direction for your life and your writing.

Blessings,
Susan :)

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Karen -

While establishing and sticking to a routine is important, life happens. If we're too rigid, we break. If we're too flexible, we never accomplish our goals.

Blessings,
Susan :)

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Ava -

Even writing 100 words per day can move your project forward. It gives you a forward momentum.

Perhaps you can suggest your family give you the gift of writing time.

Blessings,
Susan :)

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Deborah -

I went to moderate your comment, and it disappeared. Please re-post if you have time. Sorry.

Blessings,
Susan

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Deborah -

You'd be surprised how much sand you can get between all the stones. How about carrying a pad around when you're waiting in the doctor's office, riding in the car, while the kids are reading their lessons or doing homework?

Let's think creatively. Any suggestions out there?

Blessings,
Susan :)

P.S. For some unknown reason, my system chucked your comment into the trash when I clicked on it. I went digging around and located it.

Becky Lange said...

Right now, writing is the sand that filters in between the cracks. At odd times when the mood strikes, I go at it. I work well with structure - which is why I would like to take some more writing instruction in the near future. I love the feedback and healthy pressure. Thanks for the fresh analogy!

Jill Kemerer said...

Great post. Sometimes I let writing be the sand, and I'm working very hard at keeping it the big rocks. Congrats on your progress!

quietspirit said...

Susan:
Since my writing is partly devotional, my time with Bible reading and devotional and writing seem to blend into a large chunk of time.

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Becky -

Like I said, sand isn't a bad thing. You'd be surprised at how much you can accomplish in little bits of time. The trick is to take advantage of them. :)

Blessings,
Susan

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Jill -

I'm always looking for bits of time. If you watch an hour of TV, you can read several pages of a book during the commercials.

Another task I can accomplish during commercials: clean my bathroom or change the linens on my bed.

Blessings,
Susan :)

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Quiet Spirit -

Excellent point! It's considered a complementary task that serves two purposes: spiritual growth and an integral part of our writing.

Blessings,
Susan :)

Jean Fischer said...

I love this post, Susan. Thank you! My writing is always a big rock, because it's what I do for a living.

Susan Panzica - EternityCafe said...

Susan,
I just shared this analogy on Saturday at a women's fellowship in NYC. How important to prioritize especially at this time of year!
Susan

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Jean -

You're welcome. This subject speaks to so many areas of our lives.

I like anything that helps me keep my priorities in line.

Blessings,
Susan :)

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Susan -

It looks like we're on the same page. :) The story is such a great word picture that I couldn't pass it up.

Blessings,
Susan

Jessica said...

Yikes, 29 comments!!! That's awesome. :-)

Just wanted to let you know that I gave you an award. :-)

Carla Gade said...

Susan, this was a great analogy. I might just keep a jar of rocks on my desk! My writing shifts around, but is a large rock (sometimes it becomes a small rock when needed). I do find that the tasks I do as a writer(actually writing, researching, learning the craft, editing, networking, blogging, interviewing, reviews, reading, etc.) need prioritizing from time to time. I can get easily caught up in the writing world and find myself with little time for actual writing. Go figure!

Jeanette Levellie said...

Oh, I love this, Susan! Writing has become a bigger rock to me in the last year.

I write a tiny bit in the morning, just before going off to work, then spend an hour at night and several hours on the weekends.

Hugs,
Jen
Audience of ONE

Eileen Astels Watson said...

Next to devotions and family, it's one of the big ones. This is an awesome analogy, Susan!! So helpful for us to use when prioritizing. Wouldn't it be neat to write our priorities on various size stones according to where they fit. Then put them in a jar on our desk. I may have to do that some day. Thanks for the idea.

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Jess -

I guess everyone like this subject. LOL!

An award? Oooh, be over there ASAP. :)

Blessings,
Susan

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Carla -

Unlike some writers, I love the whole connecting/marketing thing. Blogging, Facebook, etc. gets my heart racing.

Hmm, not a bad idea to keep a jar of rocks on the desk. What a conversation starter!

Blessings,
Susan :)

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Eileen -

LOL! How about we get a super big jar, so we can fit more rocks? I guess that would be cheating since we only have 24 hours in a day.

Maybe we could write the approximate time commitment on the bigger rocks, as well as the name.

Blessings,
Susan :)

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Jen -

I'll probably have to follow a similar schedule when I get a job. That's why I'm pushing myself to the limit now on manuscript #2.

Blessings,
Susan :)

Heather Sunseri said...

What a fantastic analogy, Susan! Unfortunately, my writing is probably a little rock most times of the year, when I would rather it be a gigantic boulder b/c I enjoy it so much. There are other rocks I must put first at this point in my life. Great post!!!

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Heather -

I wish I could claim it as my own, but I heard it somewhere along the line. :)

Your season will change at some point and allow you more time to write. In the meantime, look for those little smidgens of time that so often escape our notice and use them to write.

Blessings,
Susan

kristen said...

That's a great reminder, Susan. One that I need right now. Thanks!!

kristen said...

That's a great reminder. And I need it right now!! Thanks, Susan

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Kristen -

Welcome to my blog! I post here Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.

Have a great week!

Blessings,
Susan :)

Lily Robinson said...

That's one of my favorite stories. I need a bigger rock to represent my writing. Seems it doesn't get the priority it should.

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Lily -

At the moment, writing is my biggest rock. I've learned that priorities shift at different seasons. Even if my rock becomes sand or a smaller rock because of a changing situation, as long as I get it in the jar, I'll be okay.

Blessings,
Susan :)

Maria I. Morgan said...

Love this post, Susan! What a great lesson to keep forefront of our minds. Discipline in prioritizing the important things in my day is huge. Bible study and exercise come first on my agenda - then my writing. On days when these 3 priorities get out of order or missed, I find myself becoming frustrated! Thanks for the reminder to put those 'big rocks' in first!! God bless!

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Maria -

Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

I need to go back and re-read this post every now and then. It's easy to get off track.

You're so right about feeling out of sorts when the priorities get messed up. The best remedy: re-examine the priorities and see if the season of your life has changed. Then make the appropriate adjustments.

Blessings,
Susan :)