First Things First: Spend Time On Things That Matter.

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Note: Although its origin remains unknown, this analogy has been shared in many books and articles. Nonetheless, its message is too important not to share (again).

A professor stands in front of the class and places an empty glass jar on his desk.

‘This here,’ he says, ‘is the jar of life.’

He opens a drawer and gets out a couple of rocks. He fills the glass jar until no more rocks fit in the jar.

‘Is this jar full?’ he asked the class.

One student says ‘yes’. Most others nod in agreement.

The professor gets a handful of pebbles out of his drawer. As he drops them into the jar, the pebbles find their way to the bottom and fill up the empty space in between the rocks.

‘Is this jar full?’ he repeats his question.

The class watches him in silence. No one dares to say ‘yes’.

Out of his drawer the professor takes a handful of sand and pours it into the jar. The sand finds its way in between the pebbles until the jar is filled.

‘Is this jar full?’ he repeats his question once more.

The class concludes now the jar must be full.

In response the professor fills the jar with the bottle of water that was standing on his desk.

‘Now the jar is full.’


The professor could NOT have fit in the same amount of rocks, if he started by filling the jar with water, then sand, then pebbles and finally the rocks. The rocks won’t find their way in between the empty spaces of the pebbles, they would remain lying on top with all the empty space in between them.

In life, it’s important to put first things first.

Do the things that matter, first. Spend your money on the things that matter to you, first. 

If you don’t, you’ll arrive at the end of the day, the end of the month, without having any time (or money) left to spend on the things that really matter.

Start with the big rocks. Identify the things that are important in your life and decide upfront to keep a portion of your time and money separate to work on these things. Then spend whatever there is left on the less important things.

It sounds simple, but most people spend life doing far too much of the things that matter the least. Most people start with the water, the sand and the pebbles. There’s no space left for the rocks.

Ask yourself: how much time do I spend on social media? Will social media make a positive difference in my life, in the long run? Is social media contributing to my goals and dreams? Ask yourself: how much time do I spend watching Netflix? How much time do I spend watching and reading the news?

Looking at the bigger picture, all of these activities are likely the sand and water to your life. Pour less of it in your jar, and when you do – do it after you’ve taken care of your big rocks.

Read a book. Build relationships. Learn a new skill. Create.

Big rocks first.

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About the author

Wesley van der Hoop

Living in The Bahamas, I get excited about digital marketing, writing, traveling, surfing, learning new things, and above all - penguins.

About Wisdom for Goldfish
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