Stephen Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People refers to the really important things in your life as the big Rocks.
Leo Babauta in his blog Zen Habits, also talks about MITs or ‘Most Important Things’.
What’s fascinating about this concept of Rocks or MITs is that it applies to all areas of life, not just productivity.
This concept is so useful because it allows you to not be disciplined, productive and switched on all the time. You put in a few pieces of intense effort a few times per week, preferably on schedule, and you’re off the hook the rest of the time. It takes willpower out of the equation.
In the context of productivity, this means getting your 1-3 big ‘important‘ tasks done every morning. This lets you off the hook for the rest of the day. Once you’ve put in focused, intense effort on high-priority stuff, you can afford to be reactive the rest of the time. You don’t have to be ‘proactively productive’ throughout the day. Just work on what shows up, be distracted, get into meetings and calls or just chill. As long as you’re consistently working on a couple of ‘high-priority’ items every day, you will make progress, especially if the high-priority items are aligned to your long-term goals.
In personal finance, it could mean investing a pre-determined percentage of your paycheck automatically at the beginning of every month into savings or investment accounts of your choice. Once that money’s out of your disposable income into other accounts aligned with your financial goals, you don’t need to be too disciplined about the rest of the money in your account. You’re off the hook now, spend as you please, content in the knowledge that you’re moving towards your financial goals without worrying about every penny.
In fitness, this could mean getting 3 big workouts per week, and you’re off the hook for the rest of the week. These big workouts can be any activity you enjoy, as long as it is sufficiently intense and difficult. You could do HIIT workouts or weight training or a long run, whatever aligns with your long-term fitness goals. As long as these 3 big workouts are scheduled and completed, you could be moderately active or inactive for the rest of the week. Take a couple of walks or play with your kids or just chill.
In dieting this could mean getting your ‘good calories’ into your body first. Eat your daily recommended amount of lean protein (0.8 – 1 gram per pound of body weight) with each meal, and you’ll be less likely to overeat or binge on junk the rest of the day. Make the upfront effort in planning your meals and making sure junk food is not easily accessible at any time. Now you don’t have to be disciplined and in-control all the time. This is even more effective if coupled with intermittent fasting. Get your 16-hour fast (skip breakfast), make your remaining meals high on protein, and eliminate access to junk food. Now you can coast.
However, there are 3 conditions that must be met to successfully apply this concept to achieve your work, life, wealth or health goals:
- Alignment of Rocks or MITs with your goals
- Upfront planning
First, your Rocks or MITs need to be lined up to meet your goals.
Second, since these Rocks are the ‘proactive’ part of your life, they require upfront planning.
Third, you need to schedule and automate as much as possible so you’re consistently taking action on your rocks.
In productivity, this means choosing one or two important long terms goals and making sure that your daily MITs are moving you towards these goals. You need to have planned what you’re going to work on and when.
When it comes to your fitness and diet, the type of workouts or meal plans depend on whether you’re training for a marathon, building muscle mass or just want to lose body fat. Each of these goals will require a different strategy, with the right meals and workouts planned and scheduled in advance.
In personal finance, your upfront, automated investment and saving decisions need to be aligned with your life stage, risk profile and financial goals.
Once your rocks are aligned and scheduled, you’re off the hook. There’s no need to use ‘willpower’ to be disciplined all the time.
There’s no need to count every minute, every penny or every calorie. Chill out. Have fun!