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A weekly kick-off e-message from Katherine Eitel

to breathe life back into your practice, your team, and you!


August 29, 2011

Rock, Sand, Water

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Many in the dental and healthcare industries have heard the analogy of "Rock, Sand, and Water" in relation to creating a balanced, efficient, and productive patient schedule.  The idea is that if you were given four items:  A clear-glass cylinder, a pile of sand, a pitcher of water, and a pile of rocks, and were then asked to place the last three items into the glass cylinder, making sure none protruded from the top of the cylinder... in what order would you place the items?

It usually only takes a little thought to ascertain that if you place the water and or the sand in first and the rocks last, they spill over the top of the container.  However, if you put the rocks in first, then sprinkle in the sand (which fills the empty spaces in around the rocks) and then the water last (which soaks in and compacts the sand)... it all fits!

Stones in JarsThe scheduling analogy follows that if the "rocks" represent larger, more productive appointments, "sand" represents lesser productive ones, and "water" is representative of no (or low) charge appointments, then putting in the "rocks" into your schedule first allows for "filling in the holes around them" much easier.  "Rocks" spilling out of the container represents big production appointments being shoved into already tight schedules to meet production and doctors and team members working through lunch or running over at the end of the day.

It's a GREAT analogy.  But I've got an even bigger, better analogy for you... from my mother. She sent this to me a couple of weeks ago and while I immediately recognized the analogy on a professional level, I had never really thought of how it might work on a leadership or personal level.  It works exactly the same.  If we want balance, effectiveness, and lives that produce the results we desire, we have to identify our "Rocks" or our most important things and make sure they get in our daily lives first.  Then we sprinkle in the necessary but less gratifying tasks around those, letting the "water" of daily chores like unloading the dishwasher and making the beds, flow in around it all.

Some of my "rocks" have changed over time but keeping them identified and purposely inserted into my daily life first every day makes all the difference in how I feel about the success and personal fulfillment of my life, at the end of the day... day in and day out.  And what is a life made up of, if not the "days in and days out?"

Below is the story my mother sent.  Enjoy it... along with a few beers with a friend.

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A professor stood before his philosophy class and had some items in front of him.   When the class began, he wordlessly picked up a very large and empty mayonnaise jar and proceeded to fill it with golf balls.

He then asked the students if the jar was full.  They agreed that it was.

The professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured them into the jar. He shook the jar lightly.   The pebbles rolled into the open areas between the golf balls.

He then asked the students again if the jar was full.   They agreed it was.

The professor next picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar.  Of course, the sand filled up everything else.

He asked once more if the jar was full.   The students responded with a unanimous 'yes.'

The professor then produced two Beers from under the table and poured the entire contents into the jar, effectively filling the empty space between the sand.

The students laughed.

Professor"Now," said the professor as the laughter subsided, "I want you to recognize that this jar represents your life.  The golf balls are the important things---your family, your children, your health, your friends and your favorite passions---and if everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full.  The pebbles are the other things that matter like your job, your house and your car.  The sand is everything else---the small stuff."

"If you put the sand into the jar first," he continued, "there is no room for the pebbles or golf balls. The same goes for life.  If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff you will never have room for the things that are important to you. Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness:
Spend time with your children.
Spend time with your parents.
Visit with grandparents.
Take time to get medical checkups.
Take your spouse out to dinner.
Play another 18."
"There will always be time to clean the house and fix the disposal. Take care of the golf balls first - the things that really matter. Set your priorities.  The rest is just sand."

One of the students raised her hand and inquired what the beer represented.

The professor smiled and said,"I'm glad you asked.  The beer just shows you that no matter how full your life may seem, there's always room for a couple of beers with a friend." 
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