Ex-lawyer turned relationship coach

The Only Way To Get On Top Of Things

Stephen Covey has done much good for the world with his work on productivity. But he’s also sold many of us on a fantasy: that we can do everything we want as long as we do it in the right order.

Baloney. But oodles of us fell for it all the same.

Stephen convinced us of this improbable life-hack with his famous rocks in the jar story.

A story in which someone is challenged to fill a large glass jar with a few large rocks, some pebbles and a bunch of sand. Naturally, the contender fails miserably.

Next, the person issuing the challenge demonstrates the answer: first go in the rocks, then the pebbles and finally the sand. That way the small things can fit inside the gaps of the bigger things.

Elementary but powerful stuff. 

If you focus on the important things first, you have enough time for the less important things later. Do you approach your tasks in a different way? Then you won’t get around to the things that matter.

Sounds good. But it’s completely bogus.

If you’ve ever read anything about productivity, you already know about focusing on what matters first. This means you also know that it doesn’t work.

You probably rarely get around to doing everything you want.

Not because you forget to start with the rocks, but because you have too many rocks to fit into your glass jar.

So it’s not a matter of what goes in first, it’s a matter of deciding what counts as a rock.

What do you value beyond all else?

As Derek Sivers said in his book Anything You Want:

“When deciding whether to do something, if you feel anything less than ‘Wow! That would be amazing! Absolutely! Hell yeah!’—then say ‘no.’

When you say ‘no’ to most things, you leave room in your life to throw yourself completely into that rare thing that makes you say “HELL YEAH!”

[…] If you’re not saying “HELL YEAH!” about it, say ‘no.’

We’re all busy. We’ve all taken on too much. Saying yes to less is the way out.”

If you can’t get on top of things, no matter how many productivity tricks you use, it’s probably not possible. So stop trying. Do less.

By Jeroen Elsing
Ex-lawyer turned relationship coach