Pickle Jar Theory of Time Management

Nancy B. Alston

The proverb that time is money is not true in the literal sense, as one can gain money if lost, but time cannot be made up by any means, once it has been wasted. The proverb, in its true sense, means to treat time with the due respect it deserves and utilize it wisely.

Regardless of your intentions, it is easy to come to the end of the day and feel like you have not really accomplished anything. Unfortunately, this is a cycle that often repeats itself, even when you tell yourself you will change.

Time cannot be saved. But if you plan your time, you can manage it wisely. Consider a pickle jar containing stones, pebbles and sand where stones denote your life activities, pebbles denote your secondary activities and sand denote the fun and entertainment in your life. If you fill the jar with sand fully, then you will not have space for the stones and pebbles.

The daily tasks can be categorized into three states of materials. They are stones, pebbles, and sand according to their importance. As stones are bigger they refer to important tasks which are to be done as quickly as possible. They are our steps to reach our goals. They are rigid and somewhat difficult to work with. But they have to be done. Next comes the pebbles. They are less important tasks which may help the stones that are the more important tasks. The last is the sand. It is our daily tasks which don’t help in reaching ambitions but to satisfy our needs for entertainment or social interaction.

When one fills the pickle jar with sand, we find that it can only be filled with that and nothing else can be accommodated. This is similar to the real-life situation where we fill up our life with a lot of unimportant tasks and find no time for the important ones. The same situation can be changed; this is given by the prioritization theory of the pickle jar. When we put stones inside the jar we can find a lot of gaps in between them. Consider these are the most important jobs. We can then fill the lesser, but considerably important jobs in the gaps, that is using the pebbles and then the other jobs can be accommodated in the gaps left by pebbles using the sand. Now, we have accommodated all kinds of tasks.

Dedicate your mindset into accepting and vowing to use time management skills to use your time wisely. Write a list of actions you can take, personal action items that will help lead you to your goals. Do this right now, or at least before you go to bed tonight. List your priorities first and then think of some secondary tasks. View your priorities as large stones, your secondary goals as pebbles and the small everyday stuff as sand which acts as filler.

One should first set some priorities. We should first decide what is most important to us in life. We should learn to prioritize between family, money and health. We should set the goals and then allow the most important tasks which are important to achieve the goal to get most of our time and we should give them top priority. Now, after deciding over what is important we can decide what we can do in the spare time we have. There are many things we can do, some of them are: volunteering for doing something good, being a part of your community’s workforce or just chilling out for some time with friends. These are the pebbles that we can spend some time on after we finish the most important jobs needed for our goal. After all such things have been done, we can do a little bit of detailing on what kind of work we like to do in the rest of the time that would be great to do though not so important as they are not needed to be a part to achieve our main goal it might give us something to enjoy. Things like going for a pleasant walk or having a break for tea.

Let us consider that the whole amount of space in the pickle jar is equivalent to 24 hours of the day. Ask yourself what jobs you will give highest priority if you are going on a vacation next week and do what you will have to do for sure before leaving, these jobs will the stones that you will put in the jar because of their priorities. One has to repeat the same process of prioritizing till all the top ones are identified. We can just stop with prioritizing only the most important things in life that is required to achieve the next target rather than prioritizing everything. Pareto prioritization, Maslow time management or the Eisenhower matrix might help us in helping us give priorities to things that pop up unexpectedly or in places where we find some extra time to do some extra work.

Goals and efforts to accomplish the goals are important in one’s life. It depends on the efforts we put forward based on the priorities. As per the pickle jar theory, too many stones cannot be fit into the jar at one time. The stones must be added carefully. Success of achievement depends on the time you manage to accomplish them and it is the key feature. Unless you prioritize your efforts and fit in time to acquire your major goals as the stones in the pickle jar, you will not be able to attain them. Whether they be obstacles or goals to be achieved, they are important in our life. Try to achieve your major goals carefully and let the sand and pebbles fill in the cracks.

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