The Pickle Jar

In my last blog I told you that this week we are going to discover how to make room in our schedule for the people who are most important to us. Well you may be wondering what that has to do with a jar of pickles. The basic principle of The Pickle Jar Theory is that all the urgent things in life will consume your time and there will never be enough time leftover for the things (or people) who are really important to you.

The Pickle Jar Theory consists on 4 components: a jar, some rocks, some pebbles and some sand. “Everything in the Pickle Jar Theory has a purpose. The pickle jar itself represents our daily life, what keeps us busy and how we divide our time and tasks during the day.”

“The sand represents all the phone calls, emails, social media notifications and other disrupting elements. The pebbles metaphorically stand for the jobs we’re confronted with every day and that fill our diaries. The rocks represent the important tasks in our daily lives.” (

Learning to restructure your life to make room for the important things is possible, but it will take dedication, determination and effort. You will have to learn to make better choices and prioritize. If you spend hours on the phone, check email 100 times a day, and feed your addiction to social media, your jar will be completely full of sand and there will be no space for the urgent nor important things of life. Likewise if you spend all day putting out fires, completing the urgent tasks which confronte you, you will fill your jar with pebbles and there won’t be time left for the more important things of life. However if you put the rocks (things that are most important) in the jar first, there will be enough space to fit the pebbles and even some sand in the jar. This means that in order to fit the most important things in life in your schedule, you must decidedly allocate time for them first. If you try to do everything else, thinking or hoping that you will get to the important things later, you will NEVER have time left at the end of the day to include them.

So where do we go from here?

(You will need a calendar for this task. It can be paper or digital. You will also need something for taking notes.)

Step one:

Identify your rocks, pebbles and sand.

Step two:

Now let’s work on filling your jar! The first thing is to put the activities/people that you have identified as most important into your schedule. This may include (but not limited to) personal devotions, date night with your spouse, quality time with children or family, exercise, continued education, reading and personal care time. These appointments are non negotiable! (Make room for these activities and do not cancel them, especially for pebbles or sand.)

Step three:

Next is to identify a reasonable amount of time to dedicate to the pebbles, all the daily tasks that normally fill your day. Now add them to your calendar. (Suggestion: Make a game to see how quickly you can accomplish these tasks. For example, can you accomplish them in 1/2 the time you normally takes you. Can you shave 10-15 mins off of each task? Think of it like this…if you were going on vacation tomorrow and had to finish these tasks before you can leave, how focused would you be? I bet you could finish them more quickly than normal?)

Step four:

Allot a very meager amount of time for the activities which I call “time eaters”. Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, TV, and email. (Suggestion: A: Check email once or twice a day, no more. Check email only after you have accomplished the tasks you already have scheduled. Doing this will help you stay focused on the things you already have scheduled instead of becoming distracted with new projects. B: Schedule a very limited amount of time for social media. If you are a social media addict, you may try cutting back to 1 time a day and even then no more that 20 minutes. If your addiction is less serious, try cutting social media back to one time a week for 20-30 minutes. You will be amazed at how much time this frees in your day.)

If you are going to make time for family and marriage you MUST do so on the front end. Set your calendar and stick to it. If you don’t fill your time with the things that are important to you, someone else will fill your time for you.

What’s next?:

Now that you are beginning to make space in your routine for the things and people who are important to you, next week we will assess whether your actions reflect your priorities?

Go to watch a demonstration of The Pickle Jar Theory.

Mulder, P. (2017). Pickle Jar Theory. Retrieved [October 19, 2018] from ToolsHero:

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