You’ve probably heard the metaphor.
If you have a container, and you have some sand, pebbles, and big rocks, what order should you add them in order to get the most material into the container?
If you add the sand first, there won’t be any room for the rocks. If you start with the pebbles, you can fill in the crevices with sand, but there won’t be any room for the big rocks.
But if you put the big rocks in first, then you can add the pebbles, and then the sand, to fill in all the gaps.
The metaphor here is usually about assessing your time management or attention: take care of your big rocks — your most important things — first, and the rest will fit in around the edges.
What are the big rocks in your business?
I love a tidy metaphor like that. But really taking it to heart and putting it into action requires a little self-reflection:
What are your big rocks in your business?
For most of us, the first things that come to mind might be things like: delivery (products, client work, etc.), sales, admin, marketing, and so on.
Everybody’s big rocks are going to look a little bit different based on your business and your role, but I want to challenge your assumptions.
Mike Michalowicz shares an exercise in his book, Clockwork: Get 6 Post-It notes and write down what you think your most important big rocks are. Then, remove one.
Until you’re down to one that is your MOST IMPORTANT task in your business.
Many people when they do this exercise the first time will end up with sales as their most important task — because, without sales, there’s no business, right?
But how do you get sales?
Well, the answer for most businesses is: marketing. We have to do some kind of marketing and promotion in order to attract the people to sell to.
OK, so then marketing is our most important task, right? (Says the marketer!)
But how do you create effective marketing?
You could pour more money into it — buying more ads, hiring someone to make your designs more beautiful, A/B test everything looking for better headlines, and on and on.
OR, you could work on creating a better message.
Most people go a mile wide and an inch deep with their content. They have maybe one or two key brand messages that they share over and over again, and in between they regurgitate other people’s ideas and quotes.
(NO SHAME; loads of people do this.)
But if you want to stand out, you have to do something different.
And in order to do something different, you have to put effort into your message.
If one of your big rocks is your message…
So, if one of your big rocks is your message — which supports your marketing, which drives more sales — you have to actually spend time and energy on crafting that message.
You have to make crafting a unique and valuable message a priority.
But, hands up if you find it hard to make the time to do the work to make your deep work, your content and messaging, a priority?
This deep work falls into quadrant two of Stephen Covey’s time management matrix: the Important but Not Urgent square.
A graphic of the four quadrants labeled Urgent and Not Urgent across the top and Important, Not Important on the left side.
And too often, things in that quadrant fall to the bottom of our to do list — or fall off it completely.
(That’s because we’re living from quadrant one — important and urgent— and quadrant three — not important but urgent.)
Lack of attention to this big rock is costing you.
When we live in those urgent quadrants, it means that our attention is pinging around all the time with what other people want from us, because urgency often originates from other people’s expectations.
The kind of deep work that is necessary to create your own unique intellectual property and become a thought leader in your space is not urgent. It doesn’t ping, ding, buzz, or beep.
But this kind of content is vital to a certain kind of business and visionary CEO. If you want to really change the world, you have to communicate about your vision. If you want to grow and scale, you have to reach more people. If you want to disrupt an industry, you’ve got to have content that makes waves.
But if you are NOT focusing time and attention on doing the deep work, making space for big thinking, and then converting that into intellectual property and content that will position you as a thought leader, you’re hampering your business’ growth.
You’re putting a damper on your important message and mission.
And, maybe most importantly, you’re not reaching the people you can help.
You already know this… the key is implementing.
When I mentioned that I had a new idea for a group that would help visionary CEOs finally block out time and get support and accountability to create this kind of deeper content and messaging — the reaction has been immediate.
OMG, I need that!
This is exactly my problem — I need somebody to DRAG my ideas out of me!
I’m so busy, I don’t even KNOW what my opinions are…
What’s interesting about this to me is that they KNOW this is a problem.
Chances are, if it’s your problem, you know it too.
And, chances are, you feel like you don’t have the time and energy for this because your content has been meh and underperforming in the past, which has drained your energy and your confidence.
You know what you have to do; you know you need to dedicate time and energy to the deep thinking and creating that message and content that will help you stand out and position you as the go-to expert in your niche.
It’s a matter of making it a priority. (That’s part of why I’m making it a group experience: because we often need collaboration, support, and accountability to move the dial on this kind of work.)
Simple. Not easy.
But vitally important.