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Where is your focus?

By Richard Wood 


I’ve been reading a lot about goal-setting and productivity over the past year and one of my goals for this year is to be more focused (and intentional) as a person and as a minister, because let’s face it, we all have days where we start out with good intentions but by mid-morning, those things that others might consider urgent start rolling in, the fires that we need to put out start, and by mid-morning we might just have ended up with a dumpster fire on our hands, leaving us at the end of the day asking, “Where did the day go?” This is called being controlled by the tyranny of the urgent and leaves us without time to focus on the things that are important.

There’s a story made popular by Stephen Covey in his book First things Firstthat illustrates the importance of being focused and creating time for the important things in your life. It goes like this…

A professor once pulled out a one-gallon, wide-mouthed mason jar and set it on a table in front of his class. Then he produced about a dozen fist-sized rocks and carefully placed them, one at a time, into the jar.

When the jar was filled to the top and no more rocks would fit inside, he asked his class, “Is this jar full?” Everyone in the class said, “Yes.” Then he reached under the table and pulled out a bucket of gravel. Then he dumped some gravel in and shook the jar causing pieces of gravel to work themselves down into the spaces between the big rocks.

Then he smiled and asked the group once more, “Is the jar full?” By this time the class was onto him. “Probably not,” one of them answered. “Good!” he replied. And he reached under the table and brought out a bucket of sand. He started dumping the sand in and it filled all the spaces left between the rocks and the gravel. Once more he asked the question, “Is this jar full?”

“No!” the class responded. Once again he said, “Good!” Then he grabbed a pitcher of water and began to pour it in until the jar was filled to the brim. Then he looked up at the class and asked, “What is the point of all this?”

One person responded that there is always time you can squeeze in a day. While that is true, it was not the point the professor wanted to get across.

“The point,” he said, “is that if you don’t put the big rocks in there first, you will not be able to get them in at all.”

So what is your big rock? What is your focus? I think too many times we focus on reaching goals and looking at outcomes and struggling with getting from Point A to Point B. Perhaps instead of focusing so much on the outcome, we focus on getting going. My suggestion is to look at what you want to accomplish, pick one thing that will help you get toward that, and block out 30 or 60 minutes to do just that one thing, without interruption. I think if we can pick one thing each day and put that much focus into it, it will help us achieve the goals we feel God has laid before us, and to help us keep first things first.
These thoughts above are from Rev. Richard Wood, our partner in ministry for youth and social media ministry. He is an associate pastor in Sanford, North Carolina. For more information about how he can help you, contact him at 919-888-2199 or

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