What is the Most Common Source of Stress?

Most Common Source of Stress (C)

“How different our lives are when we really know what is deeply important to us, and keeping that picture in mind, we manage ourselves each day to be and to do what really matters most.” ~ Stephen R. Covey

Listen to today’s post on the go or continue reading below …


This past week, as with every Tuesday, I was watching Marie Forleo’s video and I was truly struck by the magnitude of her message. In this week’s episode, “Addicted to Work? Here’s How to Not Miss Your Life”, Marie incorporated a teaching from the great late Stephen Covey. His books, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and First Things First, are timeless for their universal messages. Before we discuss one of his lessons below, let’s first consider the stressors in our lives and in the lives of the people we love. I am sure words such as money, work, kids, busyness, and the list goes on, come to mind. One stressor that is a common denominator for most people is time – not enough time in a day, not enough time to fit in everything we want to do, not enough time to find work-life and home-life balance, etc. And so, here comes the lesson – rocks first and sand last.

Rocks first, sand last

As Marie Forleo says in this week’s episode, in life we have to think of rocks first, sand last based on a lesson about Habit 3 from Stephen Covey’s First Things First. To illustrate this time management life lesson, consider filling a huge glass jar with rocks. You can imagine filling it to the top with the rocks and considering it full. Then take some pebbles and fill in the spaces around the rocks until you reach the top. Just when you thought the jar was full, take some sand and fill in the spaces around the rocks and pebbles. Now consider the reverse – take everything out of the jar and then fill it with the sand first. Do you think you can then fill the jar with the same amount of rocks and pebbles you initially did? As you guessed it, the jar can no longer accommodate the rocks and pebbles. You have to start with the rocks first to get them all in.

What is the meaning of rocks first, sand last?

Based on Covey’s Habit 3 – put first things first – the big rocks are related to important things in quadrant II of the time management matrix. Quadrant II involves things such as planning, preparing, preventing, personal development, relationship building and recreation. If we know what the big rocks are and put them in first, it is amazing how much sand and pebbles can fit around them. These quadrant II goals, the most important things in life, can be considered in a larger perspective or even set into smaller chunks such as days or weeks.

Plan around the big rocks – this is essential to time management and can be used as the basis to planning, setting goals and identifying values. Unfortunately, not everyone and everything can occupy a big rock. The pebbles represent things that still matter to us and we must fit in. The sand is the minutiae of life that really has to be last or will take too much of our time.

How do you determine your rocks?

As I have discussed before, building a personal mission statement is a great way to think about your big rocks. You can start by answering the following questions:

  • What’s most important to me?
  • What gives my life meaning?
  • What do I want to be and do in my life?

Our ‘rocks’ start to manifest through this process and it becomes clearer what is important to us. With the New Year upon us, consider creating a mission statement to help identify your rocks so that your jar doesn’t get filled with pebbles and sand first.

My rocks – My husband, my two children, my four pets, my family, my friends, my health, my blog, my work as a physician, and down-time. 

What are your rocks?



Franklin Covey – Time Management Toolkit


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