Words By Tara Wagner

The Jar Of Life Strategy: How To Manage Your Time Effectively In Life And Business (With Examples)


Are you struggling with time management in your business? 

Learning how to manage time effectively doesn’t come down to a bunch of time management tips. 

It comes down to how to prioritize and approach time to begin with. And the Jar of Life/Big Rocks Theory is the #1 approach that WORKS.

Watch this video on prioritizing and time management or scroll down if you prefer to read.

The Jar of Life Strategy: How To Manage Your Time Effectively in Life and Business (With Examples)

How to effectively manage your time and priorities

This topic comes up constantly in the Breakthrough Boss Inner Circle and is one of the first things I help members master in their life and business: how to manage time (and make more of it for what matters) with the Jar of Life strategy.

In the video we talk about:

  • What are Big Rocks
  • What are Small Rocks or Pebbles
  • What is Water in your Jar of Life
  • plus more on time management and prioritizing…

I’m walking you through a life-changing mindset shift and approach that literally changes EVERYTHING. Yes, it feels unrealistic. But the proof is in the PRACTICE of it. 

Scroll up to watch it above or head on over to YouTube to check it out there along with more time-saving strategies and tips.

P.S. I’ve talked about this in other videos, but never as in-depth as it deserves, so here you go!

P.P.S. This is one of the most important things I can possibly teach you. Trust me. Try it. You won’t regret prioritizing what matters. Ever.

If you are struggling to figure out how to manage time, how to make time for what matters, how to keep your priorities actual priorities and you’re starting to feel frustrated or overwhelmed because you’re juggling it all and you’re watching the really important stuff fall through the cracks.

Number one it’s not your fault and number two I want to teach you how to manage time effectively using the Jar of Life so that you can feel aligned and in the flow and clear and focused on what does matter, not distracted by what doesn’t.

I’m Tara Wagner, breakthrough coach and lifelong entrepreneur, I help fellow entrepreneurs take back their time, make more money, and feel great so they can crush their goals not their soul.

If that sounds like your jam be sure to give me a thumbs up and check out the other videos on my channel, also be sure to check out my free 5 Day Get Out Of Your Own Way challenge and hop on the wait list for the next one coming soon.

What is the Jar of Life?
So what is the Jar of Life and how do we use it to manage our time effectively? This is a conversation that comes up in my Inner Circle all the time it’s something I’ve talked about on this channel before but we need to do a dedicated video just to this topic. I’m going to tell you a little story, the Jar of Life was first told by Stephen Covey in the book First Things First and the story goes a little something like this:

“An expert was speaking to a group of students, he placed a jar on the table in front of him and filled it with large rocks then he asked the students if they thought the jar was full to which they all replied, of course. So he then pulled out a container of small pebbles and poured them into the jar, shaking it around a little bit so that the pebbles fell into the spaces between the big rocks then he asked them again is the jar full now to which they replied, yes now it really is.

Then he pulled out a container of sand and did the same as the pebbles pouring it in shaking it around until they filled the cracks between the pebbles and again he asked is the jar full, by now they were catching on and they replied with no. So he pulled out a glass of water and poured it in the jar as well then he asked, “If this jar is your life, what’s my point of this illustration?” To which one student answered the point is no matter how full your life is if you try really hard you can always fit some more things into it.

No, that is not the point. The jar is your life. It’s how you spend your days, your weeks, your months it’s how you plan and spend your time. The real point is if you don’t put the big rocks in first you don’t have room for them at all. Said another way, if we prioritize what doesn’t actually matter first, we don’t have room for what does. Hit that like button if this resonates with you even though you know it’s easier said than done.

But this is exactly what most people do, we prioritize the little things, we prioritize other people’s agendas, we prioritize the distractions and then we complain because we don’t have time for our health, for our family, for our big goals and dreams, the things that we want to accomplish in our life. It simply comes down to how we’re planning out our time, how we’re managing our time, what we’re putting in our schedule how we’re putting it in our schedule.

But here’s the real kicker in order to understand what your Big Rocks are you need to first understand what your goals are, what your vision is, starting with the end in mind, where do you want to end up? Because that will determine the Big Rocks you need to be prioritizing now. How you spend your time is how you spend your life so however you want to see your life go, the direction you want to take it or where you want to be able to end up at the end of your life is determined today by what you are doing.

Examples of: Big Rocks vs. Pebbles vs. Sand vs. Water
So let’s talk about some examples of Big Rocks versus Pebbles versus Sand versus Water to help you determine for yourself what these might be in your life.

Big Rocks

So what are some examples of Big Rocks? Big Rocks are the things in your life that are important but easy to neglect and therefore easy to have regrets around later on in life. They’re also the things that require your full engagement meaning you can’t really outsource these things to someone else. What I teach the students in my Inner Circle to consider as their four Big Rocks is:

  1. Your self, this means your health, your well-being, your mindset, your personal development, maybe even your skill development.
  2. Then your people, this is your family, it’s your friends, it might even be clients and customers.
  3. Next, it’s your long-term dreams and goals, not just the day-to-day getting through the tasks but really making sure you’re working on those long-term projects or long-term skills they’re going to take you in the direction you want to go.
  4. And the fourth big rock that I have people add in now is your finances because your finances are something that touches every other area of your life what you’re able to do, the opportunities that you have.

Comment below and share examples of what your Big Rocks look like in your life or in your business.

Now it’s important to understand this, Big Rocks do not necessarily require the most time they just require first dibs on your time and they’re the last thing that should get the axe if your week goes to crap.

Small Rocks/Pebbles
So what are some examples of Small Rocks or Pebbles in your life or your business? These are things that are needed and necessary but they’re kind of hard to forget and in fact if it’s something that is easy to forget you kind of need to move it over into the Big Rocks category. Pebbles are often also flexible in how they get done or when they get done and they’re quite often outsourceable meaning you don’t necessarily have to do it yourself forever.

So some examples of this might be the nine-to-five job that you have or if you’re working for yourself full-time it could just be general business tasks things that need to get done. So fulfilling orders, providing services, answering emails. Those things might be necessary, needed, important but they might not necessarily be your Big Rocks.

Some other examples of Small Rocks are things like errands, getting fuel in your car or going to the grocery store, it’s needed, it’s necessary but you’re not going to forget to do it. Comment below and share some of the ideas that you have for the Small Rocks or the Pebbles in your life or business.

The Sand in your Jar of Life relates to things that are helpful but optional. They are probably not urgent, they’re probably not important and they’re almost always, if not always, outsourceable if you’re not outsourcing them they’re at least very flexible in terms of how often they get done, when they get done, how they get done so one example of this might be things like chores, housework, yard work that sort of thing it’s helpful we want to get it done at some point but whether it gets done on a weekly basis or once a month really depends on the season of life or the season of business that you’re in.

There are definitely times where you may put that Sand in very last because it just doesn’t matter how clean your house is when you’re feeling good, you’re focusing on your people, and you’re working on your long-term goals.

Examples of Water in your Jar of Life are the time wasters that don’t add real value to your life or they’re the nice to do’s but you probably won’t remember them in five years’ time. These come last on your to-do list or in your schedule and they’re the first thing to get the axe if your week gets crazy. Some examples of Water might be social media, streaming or binge watching movies, or it might even be things like reading. I love to read and I read every single night before I go to bed, usually just a silly novel that I can just fall into but it’s Water for me and so if I don’t have the time it’s going to be the first thing to go not the last. Comment below with examples of what the Sand and the Water is for you.

Now here’s the thing that I want you to understand: this will feel impossible to prioritize these Big Rocks to put them first it will feel as though you won’t have time for everything else, that’s normal and natural and not true. Here’s the other thing to know: this won’t be perfect out of the gate you’ll create this, you’ll try to live by this, but it will take practice to perfect it.

This is about having a mindset and an approach to how you look at the things in your life and what you decide to be in control or to stay in control, the things or you. Remember if we prioritize what doesn’t actually matter, what won’t matter in five years’ time, first we won’t have room for what actually does, we will have regrets down the road. But if we make sure our Big Rocks are happening, even imperfectly, we’re going to feel the fulfillment, the joy, the happiness, the peace of mind knowing that what matters is being taken care of, it’s happening, it’s not being neglected.

These are the things that make our life feel good and everything else can start to fit in around it. The proof is not in these examples though, the proof is really in your practice of it only by getting in there and practicing this approach, practicing organizing your life in this way according to your Jar of Life, your unique Big Rocks, Pebbles, Sand, and Water will you actually start to see the results of this philosophy. So you might hate me for this, you might think I’m crazy and I say that because I thought all of this too when I was approaching the same thing, but I promise you if you put this into practice you will see how it’s going to change everything for you.

When your biggest needs, your most fulfilled needs or fulfilling needs are being fulfilled you will feel the things that you’re wanting to feel, you won’t feel the frustration, you won’t feel the overwhelm, you’re gonna feel the joy and the excitement and the flow and the creativity and the love and the all the things that you want because those things are actually being prioritized.

So, what do you do once you know your Big Rocks first of all you hit the like button for the algorithm and then you leave me a fist bump in the comments letting me know you made it to the end of this video and then check out these videos on how to prioritize your time and make more of it for your Big Rocks and don’t forget to sign up for that free 5 Day Get Out Of Your Own Way Challenge to help you reach these goals faster. Thanks for watching I’ll see you in the next one.

What if time-blocking and could be simple?


To help you to do all of this, I’ve created a few free guides to walk you through these time blocking strategies!

It will help you make sure you’re time blocking the right things and every step laid out to help you along the way. It’s called the Time Boss Bundle, and you can download for free by clicking the image below or click here to learn more.


What are the Big Rocks in YOUR Jar of Life?

Leave me a comment below.


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Tara Wagner

I’m Tara Wagner, creator of the Breakthrough Boss®. I help small biz owners overcome burnout and create part-time schedules with full-time profits. Not with some new marketing strategy, but with a holistic approach to how you operate. Click here to learn more.
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