When the midwife placed his daughter into his arms for the first time, Thomas Saunders was overwhelmed with emotion. Through tears of joy, he looked down at his little girl and made a silent promise to himself that he would do everything in his power to provide for his new family.
As a result of his promise, Thomas began working harder than he had ever worked before. He volunteered for unpopular shifts, clocked up as much overtime as possible and tried to do whatever he could to make a good impression with his boss.
After 6 months of hard work, his initiative paid off and he received a promotion to assistant manager. This meant a jump in salary, and a great deal of extra responsibility.
To help him prepare for his new position, Thomas was invited to attend a two-day ‘New Manager’ seminar at head office.
On the second day of the seminar, Thomas attended a lecture delivered by a consultant from the FranklinCovey Institute. Little did Thomas know that this 1-hour presentation would change his life.
After a brief preamble, the presenter asked for a volunteer from the audience. Thomas raised his hand and was invited onto the stage.
On a table in the center of the stage, the presenter had placed a large glass bowl. Next to the bowl were three sizeable rocks and a wooden bowl containing a pile of small pebbles.
The presenter informed the audience that the glass bowl represented Thomas’s life. He then asked Thomas to nominate the three most important things in his life. Thomas paused for a moment and then replied, “My family, my health, and my work.”
“Great” replied the presenter and wrote these items onto the large rocks with a permanent marker.
Next, the presenter picked up the wooden bowl containing the pebbles and poured them into the bowl until it was three quarters full. He explained that the small stones represented the many trivial tasks that all too often fill up our days.
The presenter then asked Thomas to try to add the large rocks to the bowl.
Thomas placed the first rock into the bowl but then quickly realized that it was physically impossible to add the remaining rocks into the already crowded bowl.
“It’s just not possible” said Thomas after struggling for five minutes.
The presenter then lifted a second empty glass bowl onto the table and said, “OK, lets try a different approach”
He asked Thomas to place the large rocks into the second empty bowl, which Thomas did with ease.
“OK Thomas, now I want you to pour the small rocks from the first glass bowl into the second bowl”.
Thomas picked up the first bowl, which was half filled with small stones and carefully began pouring them into the second bowl, which now contained his large rocks.
With a loud clatter, the small stones flowed around the large rocks and filled every nook and crevice.
To his amazement, Thomas was able to pour all the small stones into the second bowl and then pat them level.
The presenter then turned to the audience and said, “The take home lesson from this experiment is that in order to fit everything into your busy lives as a new manager, you will need to put your big rocks in place first. Everything else will then take care of itself.”
Thomas paused for a moment, and then suddenly the true significance of the experiment he had just taken part in hit him like a sledgehammer.
For the last six months he had been focusing on his career in order to ‘provide’ for his family. However, in doing so he had spent very little actual time with his wife and little daughter.
As he drove home that night, he wrestled with his conflicting thoughts. He still wanted to do well in his career in order to meet the needs of his family, but he now also wanted to make sure that he put his big rocks in place first.
By the time he pulled into his driveway, Thomas had come up with a plan.
Here’s what he did:
Thomas discussed the seminar with his wife and told her that he realized how busy he was going to be as an assistant manager and he wanted to make sure that he put his family first.
He then found a wall calendar and together, he and his wife went through the twelve months ahead and blocked out one weekend per month as ‘Family Time’.
They aimed to make it the first weekend of the month, but occasionally had to reschedule it around important occasions such as family birthdays and weddings.
After marking their Family Time on a wall calendar, they copied the dates across to the calendars on their mobile phones.
This simple exercise took less than 20 minutes, but it had an enormous impact on Thomas’ life.
By putting the ‘big rock’ of his family into his schedule first, an amazing thing started to happen…
In the months that followed, whenever Thomas referred to his diary to schedule work events or social engagements, he came across his ‘Family Time’ entrees and – planned around them.
In the same way that the small stones had flowed around the large rocks in the glass bowl experiment, Thomas’ external commitments and obligations began flowing around his ‘Family Time’ weekends.
Thomas and his wife began looking forward to their ‘Family Time’ as a way to take a break from their hectic day-to-day lives and reconnect as a family.
When their budget allowed it, they would go away for the weekend, but many of their best ‘Family Time’ weekends were spent at home, going on picnics, exploring local markets and having movie marathons.
Putting his family rock into his schedule first helped Thomas lock in his priorities, and made a big difference to the quantity and quality of time he spent with his wife and little girl.
Today, I’d like to encourage you to give this simple ‘Family Time’ system a go. My wife Bec and I now lock in our family time on the first day of each New Year, and it’s been one of the best things we’ve ever done.
If a whole weekend per month doesn’t fit in with your schedule, perhaps you can start with a monthly ‘Family Day’.
Give it a try and I hope you enjoy your ‘Family Time’ as much as we do.
Until Next Time,
Dare To Dream