Don’t Do Drugs

In a stack of papers called Unorganized.

  • Jun
  • 04
  • 2006

During the year that I took off from teaching, the 2000-2001 school year, this guy named John introduced me to an organizational concept, one best summed up in the following analogy:

Think of a bucket, something the size of, say, a paint can. You’ve got 3 big rocks, several smaller stones, and a bag of sand. How can you fit all of those things into the bucket?

Size Matters

If you pour the sand in first and then the smaller stones, the big rocks won’t fit. Put the big rocks in first and pour the sand in, the smaller stones won’t fit. Basically, if you do anything other than put the larger objects in first, something won’t fit. First come the big rocks, then the smaller stones, and finally the sand. That’s the only order that will allow everything to fit.

The Bigs

The point of all this is that only by doing the big things first can you get everything done. Otherwise, you end up spending too much time on the other things that aren’t as important and there’s not enough time charted out to take care of all those big items. At the start-up where I was working, this became a concept that we’d call The Bigs.

On Mondays, we’d have a meeting to chart out The Bigs for the week, fitting the smaller things around those. Launching a Web site was A Big; moving the server from one corner of the attic to another was not. Sending a pamphlet to the printer was A Big; editing videos of the company jam session last weekend was not. This made it so that we always took care of the most important things, but also allowed us to use our time to get other, less important tasks taken care of.

Rocks, stones, and sand presented a good analogy, one that I should probably apply to teaching more often than I do. To some extent, the novels and essay types that I teach throughout the year are The Bigs. The state standards are The Bigs. Still, I spend a lot of time on the smaller stones and the bag of sand.

While Flipping Channels…

Imagine my surprise one day when I saw some motivational speaker on KQED take out a big water jug filled with, not water, but ping-pong balls. “How many more can I fit in there?” he asked as he shoved a dozen more into the opening. A bag of sand was next. “Can I fit this in?” I smiled, thinking that I knew where he was going. Memories of The Bigs popped back into my head, a practice I had actually forgotten about until I saw the show. Finally, he produced a glass of wine and a bottle of beer. He asked “And what if I pour these things in?” as he proceeded to do so. I figured this was simply a variation on the analogy I had been shown years earlier.

“What’s my point?” the man on TV asked. I knew what his point was, but I decided to humor him and kept watching.

“My point is there’s always time for a glass of wine or a beer with friends.”


Are You Kidding?

No, seriously, that’s exactly what he said. That was really his point. And he honestly felt that he built up to the point of spending time with friends. I tried to grab the remote, but my hysterical laughter made it hard focus. My girlfriend, she was laughing too, shaking her head back and forth, staring at the man trying so hard to make his life-altering revelation clear to his TV audience.

This guy really thought that he followed his demonstration to its logical conclusion by extolling the virtues of time spent in good company, that somehow ping-pong-sand-beer-wine soup made that truth so clear and obvious. Yet he missed the real lesson of the demonstration entirely.

What’s my point? It’s pretty clear, isn’t it? My point is there’s always time for me to write another blog entry and for you to read it.

Oh. And don’t do drugs. Seriously.

Comments are closed.