How to Stay Productive Using Rocks

how to stay productive

UPDATED June 2019

If you want to know how to stay productive and focused (especially working from home), the Big Rocks method might be just what you need.

How to Stay Productive with Rocks

Have you ever had so much to do that you just do nothing? It happens to me all the time. It just seems too overwhelming, and it makes me want to get back into bed because I know it will still be warm and it’s never looked cosier. Damn me for buying those amazing linen sheets. Okay, stay focused, Maddie!

That reminds me of a tip from The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. She says that by making her bed:

“I start the day feeling efficient, productive, and disciplined.”

You see how easy it is to get distracted? I am here to talk about the Big Rocks methodology and to share tips from Gino Wickman’s book Traction on how to stay productive and, yet, I still can’t get beds off of my mind.

Okay, so back to Gino Wickman. He's the founder of EOS Worldwide and the author of many books to help small businesses and entrepreneurs succeed. He knows what he’s talking about, guys! So, let’s delve in and explore how to stay productive by using rocks (specifically, big ones) while you grow your WordPress consulting business.

What Is This “Rocks” Thing?

The theory of the “Big Rocks” was first introduced by Dr. Stephen R. Covey, the author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. He was recounting a story that someone else had told to a group of business students. The fable goes a little something like this:

You have an empty jar. You need to fill it with sand, pebbles, rocks and water. However, you’re struggling to get all the elements inside it.

So, what happens when you run out of room?

The solution, as proposed by the expert in the story and later supported by productivity and efficiency experts like Covey, is this:

  1. Start filling the jar with the biggest items. Those would be the big rocks.
  2. Then, put the next biggest items on top of the rocks. Those would be the small pebbles.
  3. Pour in the sand or gravel to fill the remaining gaps.
  4. Finally, add water and allow the sand to absorb it.

As the speaker said at the end of this story:

“The truth this illustration teaches us is: If you don’t put the big rocks in first, you’ll never get them in at all.”

Brian Tracy wrote a book Eat That Frog that uses a similar methodology. Basically, the message is to do the worst first. He based his book on the quote by Mark Twain: “Eat a live frog first thing in the morning, and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day”.

You can view more on this theory in this YouTube clip: “Eat That Frog”.

How Does This Relate to My Business?

We tend to get distracted by doing a lot of the little tasks that make us feel productive. When, in fact, we aren’t moving very far in the grand scheme of things. When the big tasks remain uncompleted and sitting at the back of our minds, we continue to feel stressed despite checking more tasks off our lists.

Open Loops Are Bad for Business

Want to learn how to more effectively manage your workload and get more done? Start closing the loop.

You can’t afford to get stuck in this perpetual cycle of feeling “productive” without gaining any real ground when building a WordPress business. You have so many competing priorities to contend with already, both professionally and personally. There’s realistically no way you can complete it all within a single workday, workweek, work month…

Look, there will always be a stream of responsibilities flowing towards you. It’s up to you to sift through everything coming your way, label it accordingly and prioritise. Basically:

Rather than settle for a jar haphazardly filled with rocks, pebbles, sand and water, take time to systemise your approach.

So, let’s talk about how to use the Big Rocks method to get your WordPress business in good working order this year. Here are some useful tips from Gino Wickman and Brian Tracy (with some awesome tips from our very own Troy Dean thrown in, too):

1. Have Clear Goals

Procrastination = Confusion

It’s simple as that, people. If you don’t have a clear step-by-step guide of what needs to be done and how you are going to achieve your end result, then you’re more likely to procrastinate. Therefore, you must set specific goals for yourself.

That said, before you do anything else, create realistic and actionable goals for your WordPress business. If you have a clear idea of where you want your business to go, you can more adeptly set your “rocks” and prioritise your workflow around them.

2. Set Your Rocks

Next, you need to create your rocks, pebbles, sand and water to help you get to those goals.

  1. Write out the goals you want to achieve in this next year. Break these goals down into three to seven quarterly goals.
  2. Set clear deadlines for each goal.
  3. Write out your to-do list.
  4. Major tasks that actively get you to those goals will be your Big Rocks. Keep in mind that you probably won’t be able to get them done in one day. So, break them into smaller tasks with reasonably achievable deadlines over the given timeframe.
  5. Big Rocks need to take priority, so schedule those first.
  6. Small Rocks then need to be filled in. These will be business-related tasks that support your professional and personal aims but don’t directly get you to those goals. For instance, a Big Rock might be signing five new clients every month. A Small Rock would be reviewing profit/loss reports every quarter.
  7. The sand and water are the things you do that ultimately help you function better as a freelancer, business owner, partner, mother, husband, as whatever you want to be.

3. Plan Your Day the Night Before

Every night before Gino goes to bed, he plans the entire next day–which should hopefully be easy enough to do if you have established your goals, defined your “Rock” structure, and understand where your priorities lie.

According to Gino, in doing this, he’s then able to sleep soundly knowing that his subconscious is already working on what needs to be done the next day. You can wake up with a purpose and get going!

Gino delves more into this topic in this interview on Youtube:

4. Eliminate Distractions

We all know what happens when you’re in the middle of a task and a notification flashes on your screen with an email subject that spikes your curiosity. Flash forward an hour and you’re back on the original task, but struggling to get back into it.

This one is an obvious but great tip: SWITCH OFF!

Turn your phone on aeroplane mode, shut down your Outlook, and reduce other distractions you might be dealing with at home or in the office.

5. Nurture Yourself

I know, I know! You’re sick of those self-help articles telling you to get some sleep, eat healthily and do yoga to solve your life problems. And you’re like, “C’mon! I don’t even have enough time to scratch my nose!”

Well, think about it like this: procrastination also comes from being tired and drained with not much left to give to your work. The results of your work will be average, lacking in creativity and you could end up with burnout.

That’s why the Big Rocks theory accounts for the sand and water elements in our lives. Without that balance or that attention to self-care, our lives (and businesses) will be full of random gaps of air. Doesn’t it make more sense to fill in those gaps with activities that make us feel whole (while taking a much-needed break)… rather than ones that leave us feeling incomplete or unwell?

6. Get out of Your Comfort Zone

Troy mentions in our Facebook video that “your Rock should be the thing that is scary work”. This will get you out of your comfort zone and move you forward. Make sure you are always doing something productive to bring in new clients:


7. Tools to Help You Stay Focused

If you're wondering how to stay productive and actually stick to it, don't be afraid to employ the use of tools to keep you on track.

Momentum Chrome Extension: This is free and a handy tool to help with your Rocks! It replaces your homepage with a personalised dashboard where you can enter a to-do list and your “Rock for the day.”

You can also change the settings depending on what you want on your display.

Trello: Agency Mavericks and some of our members use Trello which is a cool free tool to help you manage your tasks and deadlines. Troy likes the Kanban board visual set up of Trello, but some people find it a bit cluttered.

how to stay productive

Asana: This is a tool the Agency Mavericks team uses internally as well as with clients. If you haven't seen Simon's tutorial on how to create project management templates with Asana, check it out now.

The more you can simplify and streamline your workflow with Asana and templates, the more time you'll have to get those Big Rocks done.

Free Proposal Template

Want even more shortcuts to boost productivity (and success)? Download this free proposal template.


So, there you have it, folks. Some simple, yet highly effective advice. Now, stop procrastinating and get going on setting those Big Rocks!

Hang on!

Before you do that, make sure you leave a comment if you have another strategy for how to stay productive. We'd also love to hear any feedback if you have tried any of the above tips!

Need More Productivity Inspiration?

Check out these highly effective reads on the WPE blog…

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Maddie Keogh

Maddie Keogh

Madeleine Keogh is the Digital Marketing Coordinator at Agency Mavericks. She has a background in marketing, copywriting and used to run her own WordPress business. Outside of work, you'll find her at the beach or doing yoga.

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