Cup of Coffee?- A lesson in time management

On the first day of class, a university professor stood in front of his MBA class with an empty jug.

Without saying a word to his students, he started to fill the jug with golf balls.  When no more golf balls would fit, he passed the jug to the class and asked, “Would you say that the jug is full?”  His students looked at the jug and agreed that the jug was indeed full.
The professor then took the jug back and proceeded to place marbles into the jug.  The marbles started to fill the gaps between the golf balls.  After carefully ensuring that every gap between the golf balls was taken, he passed the jug to the class and asked once again if they thought the jug was full.  The class conferred and the general consensus was that the jug was full.

The professor took the jug back a third time and started to pour in fine sand.  Obviously the sand stated to fill the gaps between the golf balls and the marbles.  Once the sand had reached the top of the jug he asked the class a third time whether the jug was full.  This time his class chuckled and replied in unison, “took the jug back a third time and started to pour in fine sand.  Obviously the sand stated to fill the gaps between the golf balls and the marbles.  Once the sand had reached the top of the jug he asked the class a third time whether the jug was full.  This time his class chuckled and replied in unison, “Yes, it is now full!”

The professor took the jug back and emptied two small cups of coffee into the jug.  The liquid completely filled any remaining gap between the golf balls, the marbles and the grains of sand.  He then commenced his lecture.

He started with a question and asked the class what the filling the jug with golf balls, marbles, sand and coffee demonstrated.  One bright spark at the front of the class shouted out “It shows that no matter how full you think your schedule is you can always get a little bit more in.

The professor slowly shook his head, saying,

“I hope you realise that life is very much like this jug.  The golf balls represent the important things in life like beliefs, loved ones, family, health, things that you care intimately about.  If we lost everything else in life, our lives would still be ‘full’.  The marbles are the other things in our lives that are important, but our happiness doesn’t depend upon them.  Things like our work, our house, our car etc.  Finally, the sand represents everything else; the small stuff”.

“If we were to have filled our jug up with sand first, we would not have had enough room for the marbles or the golf balls.  If we use all our life and energy on the small stuff, we won’t have any room for the important things.”

After a brief moment of silence one of the students asked, “Professor, what does the coffee represent?”

“Ah, I’m glad you asked.” replied the professor. “It means that no matter how full your life is there is always room for a cup of coffee with a friend.”

Job Descriptions

I have never been a huge fan of job descriptions.  They are so often used as a  big stick, either by the employer if duties are not being fulfilled, or by the employee working to rule – ‘if it is not in my job description, I am not doing it’.

Job descriptions, as a result, tend to end up too long, too short or are only ever used by human resources.

So why do we need job descriptions?

There are several reasons why job descriptions are important:

 Regulatory Frequently job descriptions are a requirement by regulatory bodies,   such as the SRA, FSA, to ensure firms document the requirements of the role.
Contractual Although the employment contract only needs to have a job title and main duties, it is good practice to flesh these out using a job description, thereby ensuring that the role is fully scoped before recruiting.
Recruitment Without a clear understanding of the role including duties,   accountabilities, responsibilities, skills, competencies and qualifications needed to carry it out, how can you recruit effectively and fairly?
Diversity and Inclusion When you have a clear job description, measuring competencies,   skills and qualifications in line with the requirements of the job makes it easier for you to demonstrate that you have acted fairly, in an unbiased manner.
Performance Management Whether you are encouraging positive or discouraging negative activities and behaviour, it is difficult to do so without a job description detailing expectations of accountabilities,   responsibilities and activities of the role.
Organisation design Job descriptions set out responsibilities, accountabilities of each role.  In order to achieve a sound organisation design all key activities within the organisation should detail:-            who is responsible for delivering that activity, and

–            who is accountable for ensuring it is completed.

This will enable you to identify gaps, overlaps and duplication and rectify them.

What does a good job description look like?

A good job description outlines

Job Title Describing the job as   closely as possible
Line Manager Who the role reports to – The line manager
Job Purpose The purpose of the role and its key accountabilities
Main duties List of key activities and responsibilities
Person specification Definition of what the ideal candidate should have in terms of qualifications, experience and competence.

Often the best job descriptions are short and to the point with

–   a couple of sentences outlining the purpose of the role

–   a bullet point list of the duties and responsibilities ending with a catch all clause such as ‘any additional duties required by the business’, and

–   a list of essential and desired experience, competencies and qualifications

Ideally the document is about 2 pages of A4, and is meaningful to both the manager and the employee.  A good job description will also help you in writing any recruitment advert as it will include all the key elements that you for recruitment.


  • Writing a job description around a particular individual or a short term need
  • Making the job description too long and detailed
  • Including detail in the person specification that could be discriminatory
  • Being woolly about the responsibilities and accountabilities