Pickle Jar

April 02, 2024 by Natalie Brewer
Pickle Jar

Not enough hours in the day to achieve what you need to do?  Then maybe a pickle jar will help!   Yes, you read that correctly – last time we wrote a blog about time management, we talked about tomatoes. Now it’s pickles! Maybe time management experts just love food!

What is the pickle jar theory?

The pickle jar theory is based on the notion that time is a finite space. A pickle jar represents our day – and the time within it is all the time available to complete tasks. We can fill the jar with different tasks and activities, represented by a mix of elements – sand, pebbles, rocks and water. Each of these elements takes a different amount of time to complete.

The sand represents trivial tasks such as chatting to colleagues, going on social media, or texting – you may even consider these things to be distractions.

The pebbles are tasks that could be postponed or delegated to others. This includes phone calls, answering emails, and attending meetings. We often think of these tasks as urgent but usually they are not.

The rocks are the most important tasks – they may even be crucial. These tasks have to be completed in order to reach a long term goal and there will be serious consequences if they are ignored or left unfinished.

The water is your private life, such as birthday shopping or spending time with family and friends.

How the Pickle Jar helps you organise your working day

The idea behind the Pickle Jar theory is to simplify your task and time management. This means determining the 2-3 main tasks that have to be completed that day then filling in the leftover time with less time-sensitive work. 

Imagine your working day as the pickle jar…

  1. Begin by placing 2 or 3 rocks into the “jar.” These are your big, crucial goals for the day that will most likely take longer than other tasks. 
  2. Add a few pebbles over the jar and adjust them to fit snugly – in other words, allocate around 30-45 minutes to these tasks and fit this time around completing the ‘rock’ tasks.
  3. Add a little sand to the jar – in total, these 20-30 minute tasks should fall at your less productive times of day. Is this first thing with your morning cup of tea? Or straight after lunch?
  4. Fill the remaining space with water. This includes lunch and phone calls to your family/friends.

By allocating tasks throughout your day, you are more likely to complete the crucial tasks and still find time to tick other things off your to-do list!

The advantages of the pickle jar theory

Managing your time can be a real issue sometimes. Using the pickle jar theory may help to:

  • Reduce stress as you feel like you’ve really achieved something

Feeling overwhelmed often leads to becoming unproductive – it’s a vicious circle. By organising your working day around the most important tasks, you will take control of your day, which is a great feeling!

  • Consciously prioritising tasks means you focus on your goals

When you have a goal and proritise tasks to reach it, you are filtering out what’s not important. Sometimes it is easy to be distracted by urgent tasks, rather than important tasks – this technique helps you to prioritise.  

  • Enjoy more free time!

Focusing on the important work during the working day means you spend less time on the ‘sand’. If you complete the ‘rock’ tasks at work, you don’t need to think about or work on them out-of-hours.. This will give you more ‘water’ time with friends, family and hobbies. 

  • Eliminate distractions

Social media, emails, phone calls are an integral part of business but they can distract you from the most important tasks for your business. By setting aside time for the ‘sand’, after you’ve completed your ‘rocks’ you are less likely to be distracted.

…and you’re less likely to procrastinate too! 

Top Tips for using the Pickle Jar for Time Management – by the Hour Hands team

  1. Recognise your time is finite – there are only so many working hours in the day.
  2. Order your tasks carefully. Answering emails is important but not as important as the ‘rock’ priority tasks.  Complete the rocks first!
  3. BUT don’t overload your jar with too many big rocks. Focus on what will make the most difference. Experts say no more than four big rock tasks each day – we think 2-3 rocks is more manageable.
  1. Push the sand tasks to your least productive time such as after lunch or before the end of the day. Answering emails or ordering pet food needs to be done but these tasks are not urgent.
  2. Reserve a portion of your jar for unexpected or emergency tasks. Your “emergency time” could just be 30 minutes
  3. Group similar tasks together and tackle them together. It takes mental energy to switch between different types of activities so grouping tasks can make you more efficient. 

How the flexible Hour Hands team flexes to support you and your business too

Hour Hands is made up of experienced EAs, personal assistants and bookkeepers who are waiting and willing to support you with those urgent and important tasks that you just don’t have the time to complete even when you use a Pickle Jar (or a tomato!) From booking travel, to managing your diary and managing your accounts and tax returns – we can help you complete tasks and shift them off your to-do list. We flex our offer to suit your needs be it a one off project or resolving a particular task, or even delivering long term support. 

To find out more simply visit our website or call us on 01727 818262. We will ask how we can support you and offer a solution either on an hourly rate or package cost. The choice is yours – we simply want to help.