How to Get Better at Scheduling the «Big Rocks» First!

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At the beginning of a new year, or after significant changes in your everyday life that many of us have experienced lately, is a great time to make plans and clarify your priorities. For leadership teams and Board of Directors it can be the time to renew and adjust strategies, and in my coaching work we focus on setting overall objectives that are in tune with the client’s values.

It always makes me think about the paradigm shift Franklin Covey demonstrates in his story, teaching us to «schedule the big rocks, don’t sort the gravel». If you put “the big rocks”, meaning your most important priorities, first, you will always find time here and there for everyday tasks (“the gravel”), but not the other way around! It might be easier said than done, as “the gravel” tends to seem urgent and therefore «demands» focus, stealing the time and energy from “the big rocks”. Another challenge is when those “big rocks” are not clearly identified. This needs to happen first, whether we speak about developing strategies, setting overall objectives or mapping the values.

Are you personally conscious about your most important priorities (the «big rocks»)? Do you make sure to put them in your calendar first? How about your company’s strategic “big rocks”? As a leader, do you choose KPIs that make sure the employees prioritise these? Being the Chair of the Board, how conscious are you about the company’s “big rocks” when you set the work plan, the annual wheel and agenda for Board meetings?

Another useful tool is Eisenhower’s priority matrix that suggests to map the tasks as important vs. not important and urgent vs. not urgent. Here the focus should be staying as much as possible in quadrant 2, where the tasks are important, but not urgent. These tasks should be in line with the overall objectives, and focusing here you are staying close to the purpose and create most value (More about creating most value out of your time: Focus for Excellence).

An experienced mentor or coach has an array of different tools to help you identify and get extra conscious about prioritising your “big rocks”, or the most important things, be it for yourself or the your company. A coach or mentor can also guide you towards establishing a system of practices and techniques that will help you stick to your priorities over time, leaving you with a feeling of harmony and a sensible progress in line with your / your company’s goals and values.