Rocks Pebbles Sand Time Management: Learn Over a Hundred Year Old Lesson About Prioritization

Who among us doesn’t need to figure out a better time management system to use for themselves? It seems like no matter how you look at it, we could all stand to have a little more time back in our day. As it turns out, the average person wastes more than 20 hours in their week! If you want to learn about the importance of time management and prioritizing certain tasks, we want to show you how a time management method known as rock, pebbles, and sand can help you do so. 

girl holding an empty jar

Origin Story of Rocks Pebbles and Sand Time Management

Many years ago, a professor wanted to point out how much could truly fit into a day. He brought an empty jar and then filled it up with rocks. At that time, he asked the pupils if the jar was full. They agreed that it was. 

Then, he removed the lid of the jar, added some small pebbles, and shook it to let the small pebbles fall among the larger rocks. He again asked the students if the jar was full. They again said that it was. 

Finally, he added sand to the jar and asked the students if the jar was full. He again asked if the jar was full, and the students said it was. 

The students were amazed by how the jar continued to fill after each new addition. It opened their eyes to the fact that more and more can be added to a day before it is complete. 


How to Use Rocks Pebbles and Sand Time Management Technique

The Rocks, pebbles, and sand time management method is easy for anyone to pick up and use. They only need to remember that they should follow a step-by-step approach to get started with this. College students and working adults are most likely to find this technique useful, but anyone may experiment with it. 

Step 1: Get a Physical Jar to Start the Visualization Process 

You may want to get an actual jar to recreate the concept of rock, pebbles, and sand. It is a great idea to give this a try. After all, it may motivate you to stick with your goals and accomplish more than you ever dreamed possible. 

Step 2: Figure Out Your Agenda Priorities

You may need to sit down and have an honest conversation about what things you prioritize in life. The rock, pebbles, and sand time management method encourages you to do so by thinking of each task that you have to do as one of those three elements. You may discover that you are putting too much energy into pebbles that do not yield a true return for you. This happens all the time to people.

They think they know what they should be putting their energy towards (such as rocks), but then they discover that they are overdoing it on pebbles that will not bring them contentment, happiness, and joy. When that realization hits, it can be a tough one to deal with. Fortunately, that is what this method is all about teaching. 

Step 3: Put Your Plan Into Motion

You have figured out what your rocks, pebbles, and sand are for you. Now, you must figure out how to go down the list with each and get them done. Is it going to be easy? No, but it will be much easier now that you have determined the truly important tasks in your life. Start working on the rocks and see how that feels. Before long, you may have completed all of them and are ready to move on to the pebbles and then sand. If you get that far, you will see how much this plan helps you progress in life, which will steer you toward wanting to put even more effort into it. 

What are Big Rocks in Time Management?

Big rocks in this method are the essential elements of your day that you need to accomplish to have a good day. You can think about things such as: 

  • Putting together a presentation for your job
  • Picking up your kids from school
  • Paying bills that are due

The time-sensitive and important tasks that cannot be pushed off to another day are what you should focus on when looking at big rocks in your time management method. You will want to make sure to put a high priority on these tasks as they are the ones that will best serve you going forward. If you fail to take care of the basics like this, you may lose track of everything else you hope to accomplish. Don’t let yourself end up in a spot like that. 

girl sitting on rocks thinking about her priorities

What are Pebbles in Time Management?

These tasks are a bit less urgent than the big rocks, but they are still important to determine how your day will go. These are still things that need to get done one way or another. Perhaps you don’t have to take them all on at this very moment, but you will ultimately need to look at how you can get these tasks done.

Examples of things that might fall into the pebbles category include: 

  • Taking your car in for an oil change
  • Setting up your schedule/planner for the coming week
  • Make meals ahead of time, so you have things to eat in the coming days

Essentially, if there is something that you need to get done that will benefit your day but doesn’t necessarily have to be done today, it may qualify as a pebble in your journey. 

person sitting on pebbles and thinking about her priorities

What is Sand in Time Management? 

Sand is a little task that would be very nice to accomplish, but you don’t have to worry about it until you have some spare time to finish them. If you were to put these tasks on a chart, they would be the tasks that you assigned the least priority. This does not mean they are completely unimportant; you can ignore them wholeheartedly. Rather, there may be some value to looking at sand tasks. However, you don’t need to put more focus on them than they honestly deserve. 

Tasks that could be thought of as sand tasks include: 

  • Planning for a future vacation
  • Deleting old and unread e-mails
  • Playing old video games

Again, these things would all be nice to accomplish, but they aren’t necessarily the most important thing in the world when you are trying to simultaneously do other tasks on your list. 

person walking on sand balancing buckets

Why is Prioritization Important? 

There are only so many hours in the day, and if you put too much emphasis on the tasks that don’t help you attain the goals that you want to attain, then you are probably prioritizing things that do not deserve it. Instead, it would help if you considered looking at the rocks, pebbles, and time management techniques as the way to go to prioritize the tasks in life that truly matter the most to you. 

When you exert the right amount of energy on the tasks that will truly fulfill you in life, then you are doing something good for yourself that will have ramifications that help you accomplish all you want. 

Time Management Techniques for Prioritization

You may also be interested in some other techniques that can help with prioritization, such as: 

These are all methods that people have successfully used to help themselves understand where the real value in their day comes from and what they can do to turn the spotlight back on those tasks that are serving them the most. People who do this often report that they are much happier with the ultimate results than they even. Thus, it is worthwhile to look into these options.


The only way to truly have it all is to work hard to reach a point where you can keep your various tasks in order. You don’t want to end up with things out of line or spend energy on tasks that won’t bring fruitful results. To make sure you don’t fall into this trap, look to establish a plan early, so you know what you are doing before your day even truly begins. 


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