What does your rock jar look like?

June 14, 2010 / Updated: June 14, 2010 / Lena Shore

In First Things First, Stephen Covey tells a story that one of his associates heard at a seminar. The seminar presenter pulled out a wide-mouth gallon jar and placed it next to a pile of fist-sized rocks. After filling the jar to the top with rocks, he asked, “Is the jar full?”

The group replied, “Yes.”

He then got some gravel from under the table and added it to the jar. The speaker jiggled the jar until the gravel filled the spaces between the rocks. Again, he asked, “Is the jar full?”

This time, the group replied, “Probably not.”

The speaker then added some sand and asked, “Is the jar full?”

“No!” shouted the group.

Finally, the speaker filled the jar to the brim with water and asked the group the point of this illustration.

Someone replied that you could always fit more things into your life if “you really work at it.”

“No,” countered the speaker. “The point is, if you don’t put the big rocks in first, would you ever have gotten any of them in?”

This is one of my favorite stories. Periodically I have to remind myself of this story and reevaluate my “big rocks” and make sure to give them first priority.

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Lena Shore

Lena is a full-time freelancer and nerd that specializes in web development, graphic design, and illustration. She enjoys building things, learning new things, pursuing creative endeavors, and giving free advice.


  1. Brenda on July 6, 2010 at 9:16 am


    Thanks for the reminder

    • Lena on July 6, 2010 at 9:21 am

      You are so welcome! I think I also needed this today. LOL. Glad it helped. (:

  2. Brenda on July 6, 2010 at 9:15 am


    I sure needed this today. Thanks for the motivation

  3. Sheryl Roach on July 6, 2010 at 7:28 am

    Just last night, when my list was a mile long of “stuff”, “First Things First” popped into my head. Then this am I open up your newsletter- uncanny! I realize now that stuff is sand, time to find the rocks. Thanks for the reminder 🙂

    • Lena on July 6, 2010 at 7:52 am

      I’m right there with you. Good to be reminded. It’s so easy to get off track. (:

  4. Richard Robertson on June 14, 2010 at 8:11 am

    OMG … I have been putting change in my rock jar.

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