Tuesday, August 27, 2013




Prioritization is the essence of Time Management.

But how do you prioritize your activities?

This Mulla Nasrudin Teaching Story called THE JAR OF LIFE tells you how to Prioritize your activities and indeed encapsulates the Essence of Time Management:


Mulla Nasruddin was asked to give a talk on time management and how to fit spiritual practice into a busy life schedule. 

“Dear Friends, instead of giving a sermon I will demonstrate the art of time management, so let us conduct an experiment,” Mulla Nasrudin said.

Nasrudin began by reaching under the table and pulling out a big, wide-mouthed glass jar. 

He placed the jar on a table in front of him.

Then Mulla Nasrudin produced about a dozen big fist-sized stones and carefully placed them, one at a time, into the jar.

As usual, people began to whisper and wonder why Nasrudin was doing something strange, as they had come to expect of him, instead of giving an inspirational talk or moral lecture like normal spiritual gurus and teachers did.

When the jar was filled to the top and no more stones would fit inside, Mulla Nasrudin asked the audience, “Tell me, is this jar full...?”

The crowd in unison said, “Yes, the jar is full.”

“Really...?” snarled Nasrudin. 

He reached under the table and pulled out a bucket of gravel, small pebbles. 

Then he poured some gravel in and shook the jar, causing pieces of gravel to work themselves down into the spaces between the big rocks, and kept filling the jar with gravel till it reached the brim.

Mulla Nasrudin then asked the audience once more, “Tell me, is the jar full now...?”

By this time the class was wizening up to Nasrudin and quite suspicious of his intentions.

So one person from the audience cautiously answered, “Probably not.”

“Good...! Now you are beginning to learn...” replied Mulla Nasrudin.  

Now Mulla Nasrudin reached under the table and brought out a bucket of sand.

He started carefully pouring the sand into the jar till the sand filled up the spaces between the stones and the gravel.

Once more he asked the question, “Is the jar full now...?”

“No...!” the crowd shouted in unison.

“Excellent...!” Mulla Nasrudin said, full of praise for the intelligent audience.

Then he grabbed a pitcher of water and began to pour it into the jar of stones, gravel and sand until the jar was filled to the brim, absolutely full.

Then he looked up at the audience and asked, “Now tell me, what is the point of this illustration, what have you deduced from this experiment...?"

One eager beaver raised his hand and said, “The point is that all things, even though they seem full, are inherently empty of self.”

“No...!” snarled Nasruddin. “This is a Mulla Nasrudin story, not a Zen story...! Is there anyone else who want to try and answer...?”

Another eager beaver raised her hand and suggested, “I presume that the inference is that no matter how busy your schedule is, if you try really hard, use your intelligence, you can always fit some more tasks into your schedule and make maximum use of your time.”

“No. No. No. Thats not the point either,” Mulla Nasrudin said.

“Then what is the point this story illustrates?” everyone asked.

“Tell me. Suppose I had filled the jar completely to the brim with sand first, would I have been able to put in any stones?


“But when I put in the large stones into the jar first, I could squeeze in the smaller gravel and then I could pour in the even smaller sized sand later in between the stones. Isn’t it?

“Yes,” everyone said, “but what has this go to do with time management?

So, Mulla Nasrudin explained: 

The great truth this experiment teaches us is that if we dont get our values straight and attend to the biggest things of value in life first, we will never be able to fit them in at all.”


This story tells us that the essence of time management, or even life management, is PRIORITIZATION – Prioritization in accordance with your Values.

In a nutshell PRIORITIZATION is the essence of time management.

And you need to PRIORITIZE according to your VALUES:

1. First make room for what is most important to you, the things that you value the most. Metaphorically, as illustrated in the story of the Jar, these high priority activities are your STONES. 

2. All other activities of lower order of priority, in descending order of value or importance, like the gravel, sand and water, can then be fitted around the stones.

Think, reflect, introspect

Ask yourself: What are the “Large Stones” in my Life…?

What are your Cardinal Values?

What are the things most important to you - things that really matter to you? 

Once you identify them, be sure to put them first in your “Jar of Life”

So set your priorities and take care of your “large stones”

Remember, everything else is like the small pebbles, gravel, sand and water. 

If you put all these low priority items into the jar first, there will be no room left for the large stones.

The same goes for your life. 

If you spend all your energy and time on trivial activities, you will never have room for things that are truly most important to you.

You must pay attention to the things that are critical in your life

You must exercise your prerogative to prioritize your activities in accordance with what you value. 

Do not let others control you or manipulate you and ruin your time management.

You have to decide your own priorities.

Do not let external factors or other people decide your priorities.

What is important to them may not be important to you.

It is for you to decide what is important to you so that you can allocate priority time to these activities that you value and are important to you. 

Sometimes the less important things in life can distract you, filling up your time and keeping you away from what really matters to you.

Such trivial activities waste your time and sap your spirit and dissipate your energy.

Dear Reader, please close your eyes and think about your “jar of life”. 

Is your jar of life full of sand and gravel or is it filled with “large stones”...?


First, attend to the “large stones” (first do the activities that you value, things that are most important to you). 

Only then must you look after the “smaller pebbles”, “gravel” and “sand” (then do the activities of lesser value to you and do them in their decreasing order of importance)

Copyright © Vikram Karve 2013
Vikram Karve has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 to be identified as the author of this work. 
© vikram karve., all rights reserved.

All stories in this blog are a work of fiction. The characters do not exist and are purely imaginary. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
No part of this Blog may be reproduced or utilized in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical including photocopying or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the Blog Author Vikram Karve who holds the copyright.
Copyright © Vikram Karve 2013 all rights reserved

Did you like reading this story?
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About Vikram Karve

A creative person with a zest for life, Vikram Karve is a retired Naval Officer turned full time writer and blogger. Educated at IIT Delhi, IIT (BHU) Varanasi, The Lawrence School Lovedale and Bishops School Pune, Vikram has published two books: COCKTAIL a collection of fiction short stories about relationships (2011) and APPETITE FOR A STROLL a book of Foodie Adventures (2008) and is currently working on his novel and a book of vignettes and an anthology of short fiction. An avid blogger, he has written a number of fiction short stories and creative non-fiction articles on a variety of topics including food, travel, philosophy, academics, technology, management, health, pet parenting, teaching stories and self help in magazines and published a large number of professional  and academic research papers in journals and edited in-house journals and magazines for many years, before the advent of blogging. Vikram has taught at a University as a Professor for 15 years and now teaches as a visiting faculty and devotes most of his time to creative writing and blogging. Vikram Karve lives in Pune India with his family and muse - his pet dog Sherry with whom he takes long walks thinking creative thoughts.

Vikram Karve Academic and Creative Writing Journal: http://karvediat.blogspot.com
Professional Profile Vikram Karve: http://www.linkedin.com/in/karve
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Email: vikramwamankarve@gmail.com
Twitter: @vikramkarve
© vikram karve., all rights reserved.


Praveen Kumar said...

Lovely post :)

Vikram Waman Karve said...

@ Praveen
Thanks. I am glad you liked the post

preethi said...

Loved the following points you have suggested..
"You must exercise your prerogative to prioritize your activities in accordance with what you value.
Do not let others control you or manipulate you and ruin your time management."
I guess if we don't value our own time... no one else is..wonderful write up :)

dannielo said...

If you’d like a tool for managing your time and projects, you can use this web-application inspired by David Allen’s GTD:


You can use it to manage your goals, projects and tasks, set next actions and contexts, use checklists, and a calendar.
Syncs with Evernote and Google Calendar, and also comes with mobile version, and Android and iPhone apps.