don’t limit your email. schedule your big rocks instead


Lately, I’ve felt the urge to do another habit experiment.

Like the #gratefulfor30 experiment (which was awesome!), I’d like to see if a new work habit will help improve my ability to execute Values-driven priorities, rather than checking my inbox (or social media) unnecessarily.

However, I’m not putting any restrictions on my email or social checking.

I’m focusing on executing “Three Big Rocks” everyday, instead.

This “Big Rock” concept is explained in habit three of Stephen Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.

And you can also see it demonstrated in the funny and eyeopening video with Mr. Covey below.

As the video shows, rather than trying to restrict my workday email checking (I don’t check email on nights and weekends), I will focus on my Big Rocks instead.

For the rest of July, I’m going to experiment with selecting Three Big Rocks each workday day and focus my efforts on completing those important, Values-driven tasks.

Email can be checked as needed, but not at the expense of those Three Big Rocks. 

Since I have a lot of things to wrap up before we move to Austin at the end of the month, this experiment will help me keep my eye on the real priorities, not just busywork.


Would you like to do the experiment with me?

If so, please let me know below! Or, share the experiment on Twitter.

Cheers to a month full of priorities and peaceful execution!


PS – Love productivity posts? Here are a few others you might like:

Prioritizing and Staying Productive Part One

Prioritizing and Staying Productive Part Two

The Three Biggest Takeaways from Getting Things Done




photo (and a cool DIY) via DesignLoveFest

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  1. Hi Jess! Your post comes at the perfect time. I’m trying to start a new business currently, and I feel like all of the “little pebbles,” like email reading, are taking up all of my time. I accidentally focus on them way too much. I need to get the “big rocks” done successfully first, and then the rest can come after. Thanks for sharing the paradigm shift! Caylee –

    1. Suzanne Hansen Ofeldt

      Genius!! Thanks for sharing 🙂

  2. Bethan

    I love that video! It’s like the essence of 7 Habits in 6.5 minutes; so simple and obvious when it’s presented like that.

  3. anne @ wit wisdom and food

    I am looking forward to this. I am trying to start something new and I keep getting wrapped up in the busy work too.

  4. Oh, such a good idea, Jess! Me too are on the moves to a new home in August! Joining the fact that I’m 6 months pregnant and launching my new website and business this “3 big rocks” will serve as a focus point to keep things on track and don’t feel overwhelmed. I’m in!

    1. Have a good move, Marta! And congrats on the baby baby and website baby!

      Let me know how this goes for you!

  5. That’s a really good way of explaining it. Sometimes just reframing how we think of things is helpful. IE: you are not NOT checking email anymore, you just aren’t letting checking email effect you accomplishing the rest of your goals.

    1. Exactly! Hopefully this more pointed approach will be more helpful than just squashing things like email checking.

  6. Ashlee Thurlow

    So I was just FREAKING out earlier today about how to make business stuff happen this month WHILE trying to move and do this whole wedding thing by August 8th… and then you posted this! Jess, stop reading my mind…but thanks so much! 😉

    1. Whoa, that does sound like a lot of Big Rocks, Ashlee! I’m glad I was able to help you right when you needed it. : )

  7. Weezie Boiles

    I love seeing this video! Because of your recommendation I have read the 7 Habits twice now and have passed the Slight Edge on to a few family members! Great suggestions. Whitney English’s Day Designer puts the top 3 for the day at the top of each day. It’s still hard to remember but this video was a great reminder- I am going to look for more of this videos! Thanks!

    1. That is awesome!!! If you like the direction of those books, you might also like The Power of Full Engagement. So useful!

      1. Weezie Boiles

        Thank you for the suggestion! I’ll definitely check it out. I just finished Think and Grow Rich and loved it as well. It was recommended in the other books. Learning a lot! I am also learning a lot from your pod casts!

        1. Fantastic!! You might also like The Success Principles and Loving What Is. Both are great in different ways!

  8. What an excellent reminder to keep the big things, as the priority… with a website split looming, clients to care for, and strategy to implement 😉 the impending unread emails (thanks to a few too many subscriptions) definitely weighs on the conscience 🙂 but if I tackle some big rocks… and then clear out a few emails… they are all little steps towards some really big wins 😉

  9. erinmadore

    This is a great idea and just what I needed to hear this week. A bunch of big projects have eneded for me, so now I am left with a little extra time and feeling overwhelmed on how to use it. So I’ve been jumping from one thing to another and not really accomplishing much. I hope by focusing on my 3 Big Rocks I will be able to see some true progress. Thanks Jess!!

    1. That is so great to hear, Erin! Here’s to getting some of those Big Rocks out of the way!

  10. Erica Hicks

    I could use this kinda focus right now. I’m in the “slow down of summer” season right now but I feel so less productive. This will help me get my focus back. I’m all in!

      1. Erica Hicks

        Totally. I LOVE to-do lists that I can check off, makes me feel like I’ve accomplished so much more! So I’m trying to figure out the best way for me to process my #big3 … I might use my Wunderlist app which I love!

  11. Kaly Sullivan

    That video is classic, and I will definitely be trying this as it’s summer which means not only am I trying to get things done, I’m doing it while managing my kids who are home.

    One other thing that I am trying to do is to check email only with the intention and time to respond. Before I was checking frequently, reading everything and then putting it down, walking around composing the response in my head. By the time I got back to it, I had given it way too much brain space. If I take the time to respond right away, delete or file the email, I feel so much more efficient and focused.

    And finally – congrats on your relocation Jess! Having just gone through a relocation last year, I’m now writing a book about the experience so if you have any questions, please fire away!

    1. AMEN! I am working, gently, on getting better about checking when I’m not actually going to respond, too. It’s something that I can slip into from time to time, particularly if I cave and check early in the morning before breakfast. It’s a slippery slope the rest of the day.

      As far as the move – my biggest concern right now is that we have three large marble table tops that are going to be moved in pod containers with the rest of our things. I’m worried about how to pack them so they won’t get damaged or crack in the journey. Do you know anywhere I could go to reach out about how to do this? We’re hiring local movers to pack up the pods, but I’m not sure they’ll know the best way…

      1. Kaly Sullivan

        I hear you – in my experience moving companies often over promise and under deliver, so if you have something fragile or valuable it makes sense to have a plan.

        If you are using a local moving company (opposed to day labor), you should give them a heads up before the move about the challenges of the table tops and most reputable companies would want to come see the items prior or at least discuss it so that they know what they are dealing with and can come prepared. I would also get whatever they agree to do in writing. If they just say, no problem, no problem, we’ll take care of it, that would be a red flag that they have no idea what they are doing.

        If that doesn’t work, you could contact the manufacturer (or a manufacturer of a similar product) and see what they recommend.

        If that doesn’t work, I would contact a moving company that does a lot of work with designers/fine furniture companies and see how they would handle it – you could always use your designer cred for a “client”.

        But if the table tops are that valuable to you, you might decide it’s worth paying to have them specially moved or shipped outside of the pod. Moving things properly with a company that will really take care of your things is really expensive. There’s just no way around it. Hope that helps. If none of those work, there’s always Google. I’m sure someone somewhere has had the same issue and is posting about it somewhere online.

        1. That’s what I’ve suggested to Mr. Lively yesterday, thank you! We are getting day labor, essentially, on each end of the pod trip. With the cost of the move on us, as opposed to the company, shipping it separately is too expensive. So I’ll do the first parts of what you mentioned by talking to the movers here about packing and I looked up some advice online, too. Fingers crossed all goes well!

          Thank you SO much!!

          1. Kaly Sullivan

            One last thing – I just remembered a conversation I had with a woman who owns a moving company and when they pack PODs or mobile storage units, her company requires that the person being moved rents moving pads to protect the furniture. Not specific to marble table tops but it seems like some intense layering of moving pads and keeping them low and secured so that they don’t move would help minimize any sliding around and protect the surfaces. Okay – that’s all I’ve got – for real this time!

  12. Katie

    What an interesting concept. Limiting email has never really worked for me so I’m excited to try this method.

    1. Yay! I hope you enjoy it, Katie! So far I’m finding it is way more liberating and still helps me focus at the same time.

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