Big Rocks and Swallowing Frogs

Kermit bobbleheads at Greetings From California
Photo by Loren Javier


Start every day by doing the worst task on your list.

It could be the biggest of your ‘big rocks’  (or “frogs”)  or the thing you’re least looking forward to.

The sense of relief in having polished that one off before 10am is palpable. And everything else that day is of course, easier. It avoids all the resistance that can build and build if you continue to delay and procrastinate, finding yourself over-thinking that one big task throughout the day.


In his book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey tells a story he had heard many years earlier of a teacher in a classroom who pulls out a large  jar and several big rocks from underneath a table.

He fills the jar with the big rocks, screws the lid back on the jar and asks his students, “Is the jar now full?”. “Of course,” say the students, “you’ve just filled it with those big rocks”.

The teacher then reaches back underneath the table and pulls out a bag of small pebbles. Unscrewing the lid of the jar, he pours the pebbles around the larger rocks and fills the jar with the big rocks and the small pebbles. “How about now”, asks the teacher, “Is the jar full?”. Whilst a number of the students reply yes, a fair few are now suspicious of what else the teacher might have underneath his table.

Sure enough, the teacher reaches down and finds a tub of sand, which fills the jar in between the big rocks and the pebbles. Finally, even though the jar is filled with rocks, pebbles and sand, the teacher pours water in and fills the jar to the brim.

The teacher asks his students what they think the lesson might be here. What might this teach us about managing our time? One of the students raises his hand and suggests it means that, “Even though we thought our day was full, there’s always more that we can cram into every day”.

The teacher replied by saying that whilst that may be the case, the real lesson is that if you are going to have any hope of fitting the big rocks into the jar at all, you need to start with them.


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