Note: As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. This means that I get commissions for purchases made through links in this post.
Weekly Course on Time Management – Week 11 – Theories of Time Management: The Pickle Jar Theory
We only have 24 hours, 1,440 minutes, and 86,400 seconds in a day. Not a second more and not a second less. These few hours, minutes, and seconds are all you have to have a productive day or a completely useless one.
The Pickle Jar Theory manifests the idea that time is limited. It will neither expand nor contract because it is a metaphysical concept. But its lengthening and shortening are determined by what we put into it.
Join My Planner Girl Community
Therefore, the people who feel they have the whole day to complete a certain task do not have more hours in a day. Like all you busy bee homeschool moms, they too have 24 hours to get the work done. But they always manage to utilize their day well and spend quality time with friends and family because they fill their 24-hour day with what matters the most.
The Origin of Pickle Jar Theory
In 1989, Stephen Covey, an American author, and educator, published his self-help book “7 Habits of Highly Effective People“. Note: As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. This means that I get commissions for purchases made through links in this post.
In this book, he introduced the Pickle Jar Theory and stated that highly effective people always know how to manage their time well, and they do this by setting priorities. They have clearly defined goals and know what is most important in their lives. They do not waste their day addressing problems and challenges that add little value to their life, because they know very well what goes first in the pickle jar.
Since then, the theory has been popularized as a theory of time management, and it is widely used to teach people from all professions and walks of life how to manage their time effectively.
The Pickle Jar Theory
Your time is like a pickle jar. In the same way that a pickle jar has limited space, time, too, is finite and limited. There is only a limited number of things that the pickle jar can hold. Once the contents of the jar exceed the available space, the content will start to overflow. The same is true for time. You can only accomplish a limited number of tasks in a day. When the tasks exceed the number of hours available in a day, you “overflow” or carry forward to the next day, but the number of hours, just like the space in your jar, remains fixed.
Imagine that you have a pickle jar with you. You first decide to fill it with sand, then you decide to add the marbles, the marbles will still fit into the jar, but by now, you will realize that the jar is already three-quarters full. Now try putting in the golf balls; maybe you will succeed in fitting 2 of them or 3 if the jar is quite big but not more than that. Now, add water to your jar. What do you see? After some time, the water spills over, right?
Now try another method. First, fill your jar with golf balls. The jar may look as if it’s already full, but there are empty spaces between the golf balls that can be easily filled with marbles. Shake the jar, and you will notice that there is still some left between all the marbles and golf balls. Fill this space with sand. Let the sand trickle down the jar. Finally, pour some water into your jar. What did you notice? Everything fits into the jar and finds its place.
This is exactly what time management is. It is a finite space filled with the most important, the less important, and the unimportant aspects of your life.
Key Concepts of the Pickle Jar Theory
The Pickle Jar Theory equates golf balls with your goals and the most important commitments for you. These are things that add value to your life. For example, your golf balls could be:
- Your child’s education.
- Your family’s well-being.
- Your business or job.
- Your relationships.
Just like the golf balls, these goals and commitments should be addressed first and should occupy a major part of your day.
The marbles are tasks or commitments that matter but not as much as the first ones. And just like the marbles, these should be addressed second and should occupy the remaining one-third of your day. For example, your marbles could be:
- Shopping for a dress for an important event next week.
- Looking at new designs for the kitchen remodeling that you have planned for summer vacation.
- Sending your car to the workshop for maintenance.
- Signing up for that online course on Women Leadership.
The sand is all the unimportant and irrelevant tasks that will eat up your time but add no value to your day. For example, your sand grains could be:
- Organizing that cabinet under your sink.
- Cleaning out your garage.
- Chronologically arranging your photo albums.
- Unpacking processed food, filling it in food containers, and refreezing it.
Can you see from the above tasks how unnecessary they seem when you have a packed day? But some of us still prefer to do these first and then move on to more important work. By addressing this kind of work first, you will waste an hour or two, and it will still have no impact on your day.
Water denotes the activities that you do during the day that WASTES your time. For example;
- Scrolling through your Facebook newsfeed.
- Stopping for a 30 min chat with your neighbor as you are returning from grocery shopping.
- Reading 4 articles on “The Real Reason Brangelina Divorced.”
- Sitting on the bed thinking, how you could have won that argument with your spouse yesterday.
Just like waste in the pickle jar, all these time-wasting activities will settle right at the bottom of your Time-Jar and have zero significance.
What Should You Do?
Follow these steps to effectively practice the Pickle Jar Theory that you have learned in this week’s lesson.
- Determine your goals and important commitments (Golf Balls).
- Make these your priority (Golf Balls).
- Spend your day working towards these priorities (Golf Balls).
- Spend the remaining time working on the less important stuff (Marbles).
- Do not make the unimportant tasks a part of your day unless you are free (Sand).
- Refrain from wasting your time. It is just another excuse for you to procrastinate (Water).