Are you prioritizing the most important things in your life every day—or the most urgent?
As a committed real estate agent, you know busy days are part of the deal. But being busy doesn’t always mean you’re putting the most important things first.
Plenty of less important things can be shouting for your attention. And if you don’t know, before the day begins, what takes priority, you’ll be pulled in so many different directions, it’s all but certain that some, if not all, the most important things will end up on the back burner.
That’s not productivity. It’s spending each day reacting to the loudest demands on your time.
So, how do you boost your productivity and become the kind of agent—and the kind of person—who inspires everyone around you?
Rocks, Pebbles, Sand
You’ve probably heard this analogy before, but imagine you’ve got some rocks, pebbles, and sand, along with a glass jar you need to fill with those things.
Here are your options:
- You can put your sand in first, throw in some pebbles, and then try to squeeze some rocks in.
- You can put your pebbles in there first, then add a few rocks, and fill the rest with sand.
- You can put the rocks in first, then add your pebbles, and then let sand fill in the gaps.
You already know which one of these will allow you to fit the most into your day. And the key, here, is knowing what your rocks are and putting them in the jar first thing in the morning.
Your rocks are your most important things. These are the activities that move the needle for you personally or professionally (or both). Neglect even one of these, and everything else in your life starts to go downhill.
This is not back-burner stuff. It might seem easier to put it off and deal with one of your pebbles instead, or grab a handful of sand. Because often those less important things are louder. And sometimes they sound a lot more enjoyable than dealing with those rocks.
For example, you’re about to start your time block for making phone calls and/or setting appointments, but you start thinking, “I should really check my email and respond to some DMs.” Are those important? Yes. But they’re not as important to your business as setting those appointments.
To make it more rewarding to take care of your “setting appointments” rock, you could give yourself something to look forward to when you reach your daily appointment goal.
What are your rocks?
Your rocks are the daily tasks and responsibilities that are most important to you personally or professionally (or both).
Your personal and professional rocks could include any of the following:
- Starting with a morning routine that gets you into the right headspace
- Hitting the gym / exercising
- Setting a minimum daily number of appointments
- Time blocking for showings, appointments, and making phone calls
- Being there for your spouse/kids when they need you
- Giving your body the nutrition it needs
- Having dinner with your family
- Closing the day with an evening routine that prepares you for a good night’s sleep
Being there for your family doesn’t mean you have to drop everything if your spouse or one of your kids wants you to watch a movie or work on a project with them. Some days you might do that, depending on the circumstances. Other days, you might plan on making time for that over the weekend.
Because Lisa had cultivated the habit of taking care of her rocks first—and because she’s an exceptional real estate agent—she was able to take time off just to be there for her daughter.
And she didn’t have to worry about the cost.
The habit of putting rocks in first (and saving the sand for last)
Rocks are rocks because your day wouldn’t be complete without them. It might be plenty busy, and you might get plenty done, but something will be off. And you’ll feel that throughout the day.
For example, when BAM co-founder Byron Lazine doesn’t get to the gym in the morning, he can feel a profound difference in the rest of his day. That’s how it is with rocks.
When you take stock of your rocks and make a habit of putting them into your jar first—then fitting in as many pebbles as you can—your day starts with clarity and purpose. And it ends with a satisfaction that eludes those who just let the day happen to them.
A day spent reacting to a thousand “emergencies” doesn’t end with satisfaction; it ends with a gnawing exhaustion that leaves you wondering just how much longer you can keep that up.
Identify the habits that help you prioritize the most important things for each day—whether it’s a work day, a weekend day, or a day spent on vacation with family or friends. Your morning and evening routines give you the perfect time blocks at the beginning and end of each day to try new habits and see how well they serve you throughout the day (and night).
It also saves time when you learn what habits work for other people you know and respect:
- Top-performing agents
- Coaches and mentors
- People in your life who inspire you to be better
Everyone needs someone like that. So, if you’ve gone through most of your life without the influence of someone who challenges you, it’s time to find someone who does.
If you’re fortunate enough to work with people who inspire you to keep learning, keep growing, and keep getting better at what you do…same. But you can also find people like that to be your accountability partners. Share your rocks, and keep each other updated on your progress, as well as any slip-ups (because you’re human).
If this is sounding a lot like what we’ve said in other posts about the “rocks” you choose with the EOS framework, there’s a reason for that.
Are these the same rocks Gino Wickman talks about in Traction?
Not quite. But there are enough similarities that we couldn’t resist bringing Traction into this. If you haven’t read or listened to it yet, this is one of the most highly recommended books for knowledge brokers—and, really, anyone who wants to live more consciously and surround themselves with people who do the same.
Good company includes good books, even if you can’t hug the author and buy them a drink (or a coffee) to thank them for the difference their book has made in your life.
The main difference between the rocks in your daily jar and the rocks for the Entrepreneurial Operating System (EOS) is the timeframe.
The EOS Worldwide website defines rocks as “the 3 to 7 most important things that must get done in the next 90 days.”
We don’t know whether Gino Wickman had the rocks, pebbles, sand analogy in mind when he was developing the EOS. But he could have been influenced by Stephen Covey, the author of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, which uses this analogy to distinguish important things from “urgent” ones. And while some of the book’s critics focus on the “lack of space” in the jar as analogous to a life full of busyness and devoid of real meaning, we prefer a different approach to the story.
While some might take the jar full of rocks, pebbles, and sand as a metaphor for a life without any space to “just be,” we look to our rocks to create that space for meaning and purpose.
The point of this analogy isn’t just to get more done with your day (though that is part of it) but to create the space we need to keep learning, growing, and improving in every way that matters. Those rocks are all about personal and professional growth. It’s big-picture stuff.
This is why we put the rocks in first. And this is why you need to know what your rocks are. From there, you also need to identify your pebbles and get clear on what the sand is.
Because, if you’ve been spending your days reacting and then retreating into the sand when you feel overwhelmed (which is a huge part of the reactive life), recognizing that is the first step to making the changes you need.
What are pebbles?
Pebbles are those things you should get to during the day, as long as your rocks don’t already fill the jar—and, ideally, they don’t. But if you don’t get to all your pebbles for the day, it can still be a good day. Because you attended to what was most important.
Sometimes, life will throw things at you that make it impossible to get to all the pebbles. Sometimes, they even make it hard (if not impossible) to see to all your rocks. In that case, you assess what went wrong, regroup, and do better the next day.
What you don’t do is waste time beating yourself up over it.
Your pebbles could include any of the following:
- Recording a video for marketing content
- Doing market research
- Spending time in your CRM
- Responding to emails, DMs, and comments
- Attending (important but not critical) meetings
Pebbles are important, and they definitely come before the sand. But they shouldn’t take the place of even one of your daily rocks. Pebbles can give your life more meaning, but you don’t absolutely need to get them all done to have a day you can be proud of.
Some of your pebbles can change from day to day, while others remain the same for all work days or off-work days. And while they add value, they’re not essential to your overall health and well-being.
So, what’s the sand?
The sand is the little stuff. That’s not to say it’s not a valid use of your time or that it doesn’t add value. But it certainly doesn’t contribute (nearly) as much to a life well-lived, whether you’re working or taking time off.
Here are a few examples:
- Watching movies or binge-watching a favorite series to unwind
- Browsing through a favorite social media app/site
- Running errands (groceries, dry cleaning, gas station, car wash…)
- Shopping online (i.e., “consumer therapy”)
- Stopping at your favorite coffee/tea place for a pick-me-up
These things don’t mean as much to you as your rocks and pebbles, but you do enjoy them in the moment (sometimes), and you like to have space in your life for them. But they do carry with them the risk of distracting you from more important things.
Because who wouldn’t rather shop for books than make phone calls?
(Side note: If you do find yourself shopping for books, don’t forget to check these out!)
What about weekends or time off?
We have a deep respect for those who are continually striving to create a well-rounded lifestyle that feeds their souls, minds, and bodies. Because you neglect one at the cost of all three.
This isn’t so much about the term “work-life balance,” which means different things to different people, as it is about learning how to respect the needs of the whole self. It means you make time to nurture the things that matter most:
- Relationships with your family and friends
- Your personal health and well-being—mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual
- Your career / professional life
Tending to those primary needs is what gives you your daily rocks. And on work days, those rocks are going to look different from the rocks you put in your jar on an off day. Because while you might still attend to work tasks that feed your soul, off days (as well as personal blocks of time on work days) are for putting more focus on relationships and self-care.
Self-care is important for anyone who wants to avoid burnout. And it is possible to prioritize it in a way that makes you a better agent with a happier, more balanced life.
What you don’t want to do is try to mix self-care and work together. It might seem like you’re just multitasking, but any time you try to blend the two, you end up leaning more toward the thing you find more enjoyable (at the moment). And you don’t do justice to either.
Trying to do both at once is what gave the world “Bare Minimum Mondays.” And you know how we feel about that.
Repeat after us: There’s nothing wrong with…
- Doing some work on your off days—as long as you’re not breaking a promise to yourself or to someone with a legitimate claim on your time
- Doing some self-care on work days—as long as…you get it. Work time is for work, and self-care time is for “you stuff.”
- Blocking time out just for you—whether it’s for your morning routine, your evening routine, your favorite hobby, catching up with a good friend, or anything that makes your life more meaningful and fulfilling.
Being productive doesn’t mean leaving no space in your life to breathe, to try new things, or to have fun. If that’s what your life looks like right now, it’s not because you’re too productive.
It’s because you need to take a closer look at your rocks.