I’m grateful for over 30 years (on and off) of employment with H-E-B Food/Drugs for many reasons. Besides working with awesome Partners (employees throughout Texas and Mexico), I’m especially thankful for the learning and training opportunities that proved so beneficial in life.
Learning and teaching Lean Enterprise and Six Sigma was especially rewarding.
Even today, years after my early retirement, I use these powerful techniques at home, in the RV and with projects.
Eventually earning Six Sigma Black Belt accreditation, I gave presentations across the country at various professional conferences.
At H-E-B, all of my Facilities Management regional offices (for retail stores, gas stations, manufacturing, real estate properties and warehouses) and their field Partners were trained. Some became belt holders of various degrees.
The results in productivity and value were amazing, saving millions of dollars over the years. Efficiency was the name of the game, by destroying waste along the way.
As an introduction to many classes and seminars, I’d present the substantial visual lesson from Stephen Covey’s First Things First “rock parable.”
With a large jar on a table, surrounded by various sizes of rocks, gravel and sand, I’d begin.
“Your life and work has big rocks and little rocks. The size represents the importance and, essentially, what should be prioritized. They all have to fit into your jar.”
I’d pour the little rocks in first and could easily get them all in the jar.
Next, I tried the big rocks, they wouldn’t fit.
Scratching my head, I’d suddenly come up with another idea. This time I put the big rocks in first. Guess what happened?
The little rocks naturally fell into the remaining space allotted. I’d follow up with small bits of gravel and sand, representing inconsequential things people worry about, dwell on or spend far too much time on.
The moral of the story: Always take care of the most important stuff first. Always the big rocks! You can fit nearly everything else (that might be valuable and needed) later.
There are many ways to make sure your big rocks stay front and center.
One popular method is the Eisenhower Box or Matrix. I believe in it so much, that my children, now adults, use it naturally in their own homes and careers.
To use it, mark a piece of paper into four equal boxes or quadrants. Write or separate what needs to be done into one of the four boxes. Quadrant 1 will be top left, Quadrant 2: top right. 3: bottom left.
Quadrant 4: Not urgent and not important
Quadrant 3: Urgent, but not important
Quadrant 2: Important, but not urgent
Quadrant 1: Urgent and important
It becomes clear “urgent and important” items are your immediate priority.
We get into the most trouble when we confuse “urgent, but not important” with “urgent and important.”
Live as much of your life as possible in Quadrant 2 activities: Studying, planning, vacationing, reading, exercising, taking your vitamins and medications properly, nutrition, mitigating, improving, resting, learning, organizing and getting rid of waste, etc.
The most successful and happiest people realize that things are always urgent, but if they only focus on the urgent (or what some may consider urgent but in reality, it’s not), the important will never get accomplished.
A common mistake people make in their planning, work and projects, is spending an inordinate amount of time on little rocks.
Imagine how much better your life, travels, and experiences could be if you weren’t so enamored with the bits of gravel. At a certain point–sooner than later–spending your time more on the little rocks, gravel and sand will give you significantly diminished returns.
That inordinate amount of time can have devastating effects on your “big rocks.” Sometimes it’s better to attend to your true priorities, arrive safely on time or accomplish an important goal, than having a perfect little rock.
In future posts, I’ll present valuable Quadrant 2 type examples and information you can use at home, in your RV, workshop, or office to improve your life.
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