Identify the Big Rocks Before Focusing on the Sand

Identify the big rocks before focusing on the sand.

You get busy as a leader. Distractions come at you from multiple angles. You can easily become convinced that everything is important. If you aren’t careful, you will either face burnout, termination, failure or all of the above.

We recommend identifying the most important priorities before you get sidetracked by everything else. Identify the big rocks.

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Many talented leadership experts have written on this topic already (Michael Hyatt and Stephen Covey are a couple notable examples). I encourage you to check out what they have written. You’ll be glad you did.

This morning I looked out over the water while exercising and remembered a picture we took while in Green Bay, Wisconsin. The picture contained some large rocks in the foreground and sand/grass/water in the background. It reminded me of the concept to identify the big rocks before focusing on the sand or other issues.

identify the big rocks

This is what immediately popped into my mind:

1) Don’t assume the large rocks are obvious

As a leader I’ve made far too many assumptions about people, priorities, and plans. What if I would have simply clarified each of them? Or even better, what if I would have listened to others as they clarified each?

You likely have assumed some of the big rocks in your life are obvious. There may be members of your team that have no idea what is most important. They may be completely disengaged from work because they have no clue what matters most.

2) Don’t hold the sand tightly at the expense of the big rocks

There are many things competing for your time. What worked for you 3 months ago as your morning routine may not work for you today. When did you last assess your morning routine? Who could help you out?

If you hold onto the low priority projects at the expense of what matters, you’ll eventually lose the opportunity to do either one. At minimum you’ll let many people down by your misdirected focus.

3) Don’t attack the big rocks alone

After you identify the big rocks, attacking them will often require the input of multiple people. Ask for help on what is most important.

Today I spoke with an executive who couldn’t decide if his company should engage in a strategic planning process. Unfortunately he saw this decision as his to be made alone. In actuality, he should listen to his senior leaders and potentially influence the decision of the team. If handled in this manner, I think the buy-in on the front end would have been higher, various people would have already offered to help, and he likely would feel less pressure.

Are you making your decisions alone? Try engaging others around you by seeking to attack the big rocks as a team. Trust me…your results will exceed what you could have accomplished alone.

Identify the Big Rocks