One of my favorite concepts to discuss in a variety of our classes like Survival Boot Camp is the “big rocks” concept. If you’re not familiar with the big rock concept, it’s the idea that the big rocks in your life are your top priorities, such as family, health, relationships, love, and faith, to name a few examples. Then, there are the “little rocks,” which represent tasks that can be distractions, like emails, phone calls, meetings, etc. These little rocks can consume our time and divert our focus from our big rocks. Read more here about the Origin of Big Rocks.

Often, people start with the little rocks, addressing the loudest tasks in the room. However, this exercise helps you identify your big rocks and how to prioritize them first, demonstrating how the little rocks will fill in around the big rocks. This visual representation is a great way to help people see where they may have gotten off track or where they should start with their time.

I had a similar “big rocks” moment when I was working with my business coach, Rita Goodroe from “Rita Made Me Do It!” We were going over my weekly schedule, specifically addressing my Monday schedule. I had a task that seemingly took me all day: our Smart Staffer update, which included a quick video providing staff with insights from training, announcing staffer awards, and various other items like that.

I had identified that this task typically took me all day to complete, and Rita quickly replied, “Well, you don’t have all day; you have one hour.” I sat back, baffled, wondering how I could possibly get a task done in one hour that had taken me all day in the past. Rita quickly replied, “If you give yourself all day to do something, then you’ll take all day to do it.” My mindset shifted, and I stayed diligent to my schedule. Now, it was time to start on my Smart Update, with only an hour to spare. Shockingly, I was able to complete the update within 45 minutes. I was stunned but also a true believer that as humans, we need boundaries and guardrails. If you don’t set them, you’ll take as long as you allow for a task, and your time will be wasted. When you can identify your priorities and schedule around them, you not only feel more in control of your schedule, but you can also make more progress.

I was reminded of a similar scenario when I was working as a leasing consultant on site. Often, the dreaded Monday morning report loomed over my head and consumed most of my Sunday and Monday. How could I apply the same thought processes and time barriers to complete the report in less time? Perhaps I could have reduced a lot of the stress I put on myself weekly.

We have included a time-blocking exercise where you can identify one priority in the morning, one in the afternoon, and one in the evening as an exercise to help you get started in the right direction. One of the best tips I can give you is to be flexible and give yourself grace, especially when starting out and figuring out how to align your priorities. This can be a bit of a journey and something you may need to revisit a couple of times before it feels authentic to you. But once you have it, you know what your big rocks are, and now it’s just a matter of putting them into your schedule and letting the little rocks fill in the open spaces.

The “big rocks” concept can be applied to various facets of the multifamily industry, from the maintenance team to leasing to the corporate office. It is one of the pillars of effective time management and is a great way to gain control of your schedule.

When you feel like you have a handle on your schedule and that your schedule is not controlling you, you’ll feel less stressed, more accomplished, and better able to track your progress regularly, contributing to your job satisfaction and overall mental health.

Here is an exercise you can work through with your team!