Rocks, Pebbles, Sand: How to Focus on What Really Matters 

Most companies try to focus on too many objectives at once. It’s tempting to create a long list of goals, because then you feel as though you are doing a lot. However, in practice, if everything is important, nothing is important. It’s more effective to focus on the big stuff (rocks) first, and everything else (pebbles and sand) will follow. When it comes to marketing, focusing on rocks is a critical tactic to help you meet the important needs of your business.

The Power – and Dilemma – of Rocks

The term “Rock” came from an analogy in Stephen Covey’s book, First Things First. The Entrepreneurial Operating System (EOS) uses this idea, too. In the analogy, a glass cylinder represents all the time you have during a workday. Next to the cylinder are: Rocks representing your main priorities; Gravel representing your day-to-day responsibilities; Sand representing interruptions, and a beaker of Water that represents everything else that happens during your day. 

Most people put a priority on the Water first – they bend to every little thing that comes up. Then they focus on the Gravel and Sand. By the time they focus the Rocks (the most important things), there is no room left.

If this is your typical workday, don’t feel bad – you aren’t the only one who does this. It’s human nature. But you can fix it so you’re using your day more effectively and feeling the satisfaction of meeting your most important goals.

How to Set Quarterly Rocks

Human beings have a limited attention span, so it’s important to compartmentalize your goals into a time period your brain can manage. It has been determined that humans can only concentrate on goals for one quarter at a time, and that’s why we recommend you set quarterly Rocks to help you achieve marketing goals.

Here’s how to establish quarterly Rocks:

  1. First, sit down physically or virtually with your leadership team for a quarterly meeting. Choose a space where the team can be committed to the process and not become distracted by email, phone calls and other people.
  2. Review your annual goals together. Determine whether you’re on-track or off-track.
  3. Review open issues. Assess whether any issue discussed in past meetings has become a priority and needs to be considered a Rock.
  4. Discuss all proposed issues/Rocks and agree on the MOST important ones for the team to focus on for the quarter.
  5. Set just three to five company Rocks for the quarter that will take you toward your larger annual goals.
  6. Assign an owner for each Rock. Keep in mind an owner is not necessarily the person who “does the work” outlined in the Rock – he or she takes ownership of ensuring the Rock’s progress, keeping it on-track, and ideally leading it to completion.
  7. Ensure that your team’s Rocks are S.M.A.R.T. (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely).

In addition to helping your marketing team reach more goals – and maybe reach them faster – setting quarterly Rocks offers other benefits. It can encourage team members to make more valuable contributions, increase productivity, and even produce measurable results you were not previously able to measure. Best of all, setting just a few quarterly Rocks for marketing creates an intensity that will keep you all focused. Without a tool like this, it’s too easy to get sidetracked by things that don’t really matter. If you are like most human beings, you know this well! Limit the number of Rocks you focus on, and your team will accomplish more.

About the Author:

Jamie is a results-driven marketing leader with 20+ years of success developing strategic plans and innovative multi-channel marketing programs. Over her career she has helped B2B organizations with all aspects of marketing, including branding, corporate communications, public relations, content strategy, web, marketing automation, social media, digital/SEO and event marketing.

Jamie is based in the Washington DC Metro area and has orchestrated go-to-market strategies for clients in the professional services, training, government, information technology and financial services sectors.

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