How to get stuff done – helpful hints for those with too much to do and too little time

How to get stuff done – helpful hints for those with too much to do and too little time

So you’re looking to be success and implement all of the career recommendations being given to you.  But unfortunately life gets in the way.  Be it school, work, family or friends.  There doesn’t seem to be enough time to get everything that you want done.  So what can you do?  Here is an illustrative story:

Big Rocks

One of the stories I like to tell is Franklin Covey’s story of the “Big Rocks” (yes, he is of 7 Habits fame).  You can find various articles or Youtube references, but the gist of the story is that someone fills a jar with rocks to the top and asks his class, is it full?  Some say yes.  He continues to fill with gravel and asks again is it full?  More say yes.   He continues to fill with sand and asks again is it full?  Even more say yes.  He continues to fill with water and asks again is it full?  All say yes.  At this point he then asks “what is the point of the story?”.  Someone suggests something along the lines of “no matter how much you have planned for the day, you always have a little more you can it in”.  The speaker answers “No, that isn’t the point.  The point is that if you didn’t start with the big rocks FIRST, then you would have never fit everything in”.

Essentially too many people are focused on the “gravel, sand and water” and tend to those first, where as they should be focusing on getting their “big rocks”.  What might “gravel, sand and water” be?  Email (did you realy need to answer it? and if so, did it have to be right away), most meetings (did you really have to attend it, and if so, could it have been organized to get to the point sooner?), random internet articles and social media posts (will the cat with a cheeseburger really add value to your day?)… any thing that is relatively inconsequential.  What might a big rock be?  Exercise, spending time with family, reading or whatever is meaningful for you.  Making those priorities into “big rocks” and fitting them in is important.  And you don’t have to make year long commitments as well.  Saying that “I’m going to focus on family” doesn’t necessarily mean that you take a leave of absence for a year.  You can prioritize and re-prioritize your big rocks every year, month, week and even day (something like “this Friday afternoon I will take a half day and spend time with my family” and working around all of your commitments to make it happen.  Here are some tips to help you with your “big rocks”:


There is research that visualizing having a thought out time and plan for doing what you want to do greatly increases the probability that it will get done.  Let’s say one of your goals is to you want to read more visualize when you will do it.  30 minutes before bed.  30 minutes during lunch.  Tuesday and Thursday.  Try to be specific.  Then when that time comes, do it!


Not another basketbal reference, but “Next best action”.  Break it down to what you actually have to do next.  If you need to schedule your car for service, maybe the next action is looking up the dealership’s phone number so that you can call it up.  When something is not ambigious and you know exactly how to do it, then it is much more likely to get done.

Front load

For those that love to cram, this will be unnatural to you.  Getting things done early in the day, early in the week, month, year, is better than waiting until the last minute.  Life happens and with it come distractions so if you can get your big rock done, do it before you are hit by some “gravel, sand and water”.

Be a bit selfish (sometimes)

Even with all of these plans, someone is bound to provide you with unwanted distractions.  They might be worthwhile, someone asking for help, but realizing that sometimes it is okay to be a bit selfish.  All you need to do is simply let them know you have other commitments and ask if it can wait for another time.  Sometimes easier said than done, but you’l start realizing that what you’re dealing with might just be “gravel, sand and water”.   Although “being helpful” might turn into a big rock”

Put it into practice

A simple way to put these steps into practice is: in the morning as you get ready (be it brushing your teeth, eating breakfast, getting dressed, or whenever you have a minute to your self), think about the 3 “big rocks” that you have to fit into your day (let’s say exercise, read more, and visit your grand mother).  Visualize when you’d do it during the day (exercise during your lunch hour, read as you’re eating and cooling down, leave work 30 minutes early so that you can travel to grandma’s).

There are all sorts of methods out there to help you get more done, so experiment and find the one that works for you!  And with anything, getting stuff done gets easier with practice!


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