Putting Your Big Rocks First

Weight loss surgery (WLS) marks the beginning of your transformative journey towards a healthier and happier life. To maintain your results, continue your transformation happening, and experience long-lasting success, you will need to navigate many changes in your lifestyle.

Putting Your Big Rocks First for Weight Loss Surgery Success

We understand that it’s not always easy to find the time to prioritise your health and continue your progress. It can feel overwhelming to consistently make time for proper nutrition, regular physical activity, self-care, and sleep. Often we have great intentions to create real lifestyle changes, but the reality of day-to-day living and commitments can get in the way.

So how do we make time for our health on a consistent basis? And if we focus on our health, does that mean that other areas of our life become neglected?

The answer to these questions lies in a fantastic time-management strategy that will really help you to prioritise healthy habits that move you towards your weight management and wellness goals – it’s adopting the principle of ‘Putting Your Big Rocks First’.

The ‘Big Rocks First’ Concept

‘Putting Big Rocks First’ is a classic time management technique that was often used by Stephen Covey, the author of the best-selling book ‘The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People’.

In his seminars, Stephen would demonstrate time management using a jar, a pile of rocks, and a pile of pebbles. He would ask for a volunteer to come on stage and then he would instruct the volunteer to place all of the pebbles in the jar. Once this was done, he would then ask the volunteer to place the rocks in the jar. No matter how hard the volunteer tried to arrange the rocks, it was impossible to fit them all in.

Stephen would then ask the volunteer to tip all of the rocks and pebbles out and start again. This time he instructed the volunteer to start with the rocks first and then add the pebbles. When the order was reversed and the rocks were placed first, the pebbles would then easily fit in the gaps between the rocks and they would all fit in the jar. Stephen would then say “excellent”, and finally grab a jug of water from behind a desk and pour that in too, until the jar was filled to the brim to demonstrate that there was more space still available.

Stephen would then share the true lesson behind the illustration. He emphasised that the jar represented our limited time and energy, while the big rocks symbolised the most significant and essential priorities in our lives. He explained that if we don’t prioritise these important goals, represented by the big rocks, by scheduling them first, we will never find the time for them later on.

This simple analogy holds a profound lesson in time management. Many people try to approach health habits last. It’s the last thing that they try to fit into their week (their jar), almost as an after-thought, and then they just don’t seem to happen. They then struggle to have time for a walk, healthy cooking, or time-out.

If, however, you treat healthy habits like your ‘Big Rocks’ and take the time each week to schedule in a few actions like going for a walk, prepping your food, and self-care time to recharge, and make those actions a non-negotiable, then they’re much more likely to happen – and you’ll still have time for everything else!

Here’s how to apply this in practice:

1. Define Your “Big Rocks” After WLS

In the context of WLS, ‘Big Rocks’ are the fundamental health pillars that contribute to your long-term weight loss surgery success. There are many different areas that you could focus on, however, at a minimum, you will want to cover these four key areas:

  • Sleep/Stress Management;
  • Movement;
  • Nutrition; and
  • Happiness/Mindset.

2. Establish Realistic Behavioural Goals in each area

It’s then essential to set realistic and achievable behavioural goals in each of these key areas. It may be that you just identify one or two key habits for each area. Breaking down your long-term objectives into small habits makes them more manageable and less overwhelming. This approach not only helps you feel a sense of accomplishment, but also helps you stay on track with each of your ‘Big Rocks’.

Here are some examples:

  • Sleep and Stress Management – Get to bed by 10pm for 5 nights per week minimum;
  • Movement – Walk for 20-30 minutes four times per week;
  • Nutrition – Focus on protein first at every meal, food prep on Sunday mornings; and
  • Happiness/Mindset – Spend 30 minutes per week doing an online craft program, write down 3 things to be grateful for at the end of each day for 5 nights per week.

3. Create a Weekly Schedule

Once you’ve come up with one or two key habits (your ‘Big Rocks’) for each area, it’s then time to create a structured schedule that sets out when you’ll do each action during the week (your ‘Jar’).

Ideally, you’ll want to plan your week ahead at roughly the same time e.g., every Sunday afternoon or every Monday morning. This is critical for putting your ‘Big Rocks’ first.

Here’s an example weekly plan:

  • Monday – protein first at every meal, walk 20-30 mins at 8am, gratitude diary at bedtime, bed by 10pm;
  • Tuesday – protein first at every meal, walk 20-30 mins at 12.30pm, gratitude diary at bedtime, bed by 10pm;
  • Wednesday – protein first at every meal, walk 20-30 mins at 8am, gratitude diary at bedtime, bed by 10pm;
  • Thursday – protein first at every meal, gratitude diary at bedtime, bed by 10pm;
  • Friday – protein first at every meal, walk 20-30 mins at 4pm;
  • Saturday – protein first at every meal, 30 mins online craft course at 3pm;
  • Sunday – protein first at every meal, meal prep at 10am, gratitude diary before bedtime, bed by 10pm.

4. Set Reminders

To help stay on top of your weekly plan, it’s important to place it somewhere where you will see it regularly (at least once per day). For example, you could place the plan on your fridge door or set reminders/alarms on your phone.

5. Say “No” to Unnecessary Obligations

As you embrace your new healthier lifestyle, you may find that some commitments and obligations no longer align with your goals. Don’t hesitate to say “no” to activities or events that may hinder your progress or cause unnecessary stress. Learning to set boundaries is an essential part of protecting your time and energy and making sure that you have time for your ‘Big Rocks’. You may find this resource valuable to help you start ‘Saying ‘No’ to Others and ‘Yes’ to Yourself’.

6. Adjust The Plan Gradually

Each week, in your planning session, look back at your previous week to see what worked and what didn’t. If something didn’t happen as planned then look for the lessons rather than seeing this as failure. See our blog for how to ‘Stay On Track By Focusing On Feedback Not Failure’.

For example, if you walked twice in the week instead of your intended number of four times then you could experiment by changing when you walk or making the walk slightly shorter.

As each habit starts to become more integrated into your life, you can then start to stretch yourself in that area. For example, after a few weeks of walking for 30 minutes for four days, you might like to add in some resistance training exercises during your walk.

7. Celebrate Progress and Be Flexible

Acknowledge the progress you make on your WLS journey, no matter how small it may seem. Celebrate each achievement, both on and off the scale, and remember that consistency is key. At the same time, be flexible with yourself, as life can sometimes throw unexpected challenges your way. Embrace the adaptability to adjust your schedule while keeping your ‘Big Rocks’ as the foundation.

Effective time management, combined with the principle of ‘Putting Big Rocks First’ can be a game-changer to help you make the most out of your WLS. By identifying and prioritising the essential aspects of your health and well-being, you ensure that you’re making steady progress towards your goals.

Remember to be patient with yourself, and embrace the power of small, consistent steps. With a well-organised schedule and a focus on self-care, you’ll empower yourself to lead a balanced, fulfilling life and maintain your weight loss surgery success.


To get started on your weight loss journey for better health, contact the team at Brisbane Weight Loss Surgery today.


This post originally appeared on Fresh Start Program’s blog: https://freshstartprogram.mykajabi.com/blog/putting-your-big-rocks-first

Reproduced with permission.

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