The Pickle Jar Theory: The Importance of Your Own Time

Author: Karolina Matyska

To improve your time management skills, the Pickle Jar Theory comes at hand. This technique is a straightforward solution that gives you back the power of controlling your own time with significant activities or tasks.

Time is the most valuable element that allows us to do multiple activities, whether professional or personal. But the reality is, there’s only so much you can do with twenty-four hours in the day, especially when you need to include your rest. 


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Throughout this article, you’ll get to see its definition, its rules, and its advantages. You’ll also get to discover some pro tips and examples that could help you implement this in your life in every way.

What is the Pickle Jar Theory?

Pickle Jar Theory is a time management technique created by Jeremy Wright in 2002.

This technique offers a simple and effective method that fits in the development of your time management. Its ultimate goal is to prioritize your tasks and your responsibilities most efficiently.

Also recognized as The Bucket of Rocks Theory or The Jar of Life Theory, this method begins its premise with the fact that your time is not unlimited. With that in mind, the intention is to obey an established order to tasks, and the Pickle Jar helps you define the time you’ll spend on an activity. 

picke jar theory

What does the jar represent?

The jar represents your daily routine where you fit your tasks and activities.

What does filling the jar mean?

In this context, you can fill the jar with water (which represents your private life) and with sand, rocks, or pebbles, which stand for activities and tasks of decreasing importance.

Why does the professor suggest filling the jar with the rocks first?

That suggestion has the point of assuring your high priorities, whatever it takes. With the analogy of this theory, you shouldn’t throw in the jar the pebbles before the rocks because you should drive your commitment towards the rocks, aka your high priorities, and then to your pebbles, aka medium priorities.


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What did the professor last fill the jar with?

The professor last filled the jar with water. Although you’re busy with your daily life and activities, this element represents your hobbies.

pebbles - rocks

What do the pebbles represent?

Pebbles define tasks that are more important than those assigned to the sand. These are urgent tasks that you don’t have to deal with immediately, such as responding to e-mails.

What are the big rocks in life?

These correspond to the main priorities in your life, either professional or personal.

The rules for implementing the Pickle Jar Theory

To properly establish the Pickle Jar Theory, you must follow a specific set of rules that will help you to keep track of everything.
First off, it’s essential to start your day without any distractions or pebbles/sand because after, you won’t be able to fit the high priorities or rocks. You need to prioritize your urgent tasks.

Did you know that lack of prioritization might be the reason why you’re feeling unproductive?

After completing your high priorities, you can move to urgent but unimportant tasks and activities.

Once you’re done with urgent elements such as the rocks and pebbles, you can diverge your attention to the sand, which can be your distraction.
Finally, it’s essential to dedicate to the last but not least important element that significantly impacts you: water, which regards your personal life.

It’s healthy to spend quality time with your friends and family. They’re the ones that keep you in balance and ready to face every challenge.


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5 Advantages of the pickle jar theory

This simple yet super effective technique gives you a lot of advantages in your life:

1. Learn to prioritize properly

By looking at all of your tasks as rocks, pebbles, sand, and water, you have a clear view of everything that you need to do and plan throughout your day, according to your priorities.

2. Control your own time

Through the use of this technique, you’ll get used to knowing how much time you’re spending on certain activities. With that knowledge, you’ll learn to monitor your time and assign it to important tasks.

3. Always fits you

The beauty of this time management method is that you can use it in every aspect of your life, such as at home and work. However specific your case may be, this model we’ll always be able to help you.

4. Enhances your productivity

This straightforward method prevents procrastination or multitasking, which is something that you should avoid at all times.

With the help of the Pickle Jar Theory, you can see what you need to give your undivided attention.

TIP: Read our blog and discover what context switching is and why it kills your productivity.

5. It’s uncomplicated

This technique is simple, and it’s right up anyone’s alley.
You don’t need prior knowledge or get involved in something you don’t want to do.

Tips for implementing the pickle jar theory in real-life 

Here are the pro tips you need to implement this method, as well as an example of a daily schedule:

  • Make sure to start the tasks that have the most significant impact and define them as a high priority;
  • List all the tasks/activities and assign them a deadline;
  • Finish the most complex tasks first – the large rocks;
  • Delegate to help you focus on highly urgent tasks;
  • Don’t multitask because it decreases your productivity;
  • Cover this method on a specific area of your life first.

Example of your possible schedule 

9 AMStart the kick-off meeting presentation (Rocks)
11 AMRespond to e-mails and missed calls (Pebbles)
12 PM Lunch and coffee with colleagues (Sand)
2 PMAnalyze the project’s progress (Rocks)
4 PMCheck social media (Sand)
5 PMFinish today’s work and carpool my kids from the school to our home (Water)
6 PMHang out with family for the rest of the day (Water)
7 PMMake family dinner (Rocks)

It’s vital that you lay out all of your activities in a list and assign them an element so that you can prioritize them adequately.
You’ll be able to realize that you have completed so many tasks according to their significance and impact on your personal and professional life.


Throughout this article, you can see that you don’t need to do much to plan your day successfully.

The Pickle Jar Theory is the perfect tool for anyone looking to organize their life in all its aspects: from work life and home life to school.

Remember that your time is precious and should not be wasted only on unimportant tasks or distractions/time wasters.

There should be a balance between work and personal life, between urgent and non-urgent activities, yet always ensure you have space for friends and family.


Who invented the Pickle Jar Theory?

This technique was invented by the author Jeremy Wright in 2002.

What does Elon Musk use for time management?

He uses the time-blocking technique, in which he plans his entire day and divides it into blocks. See the article about how Elon Musk manages his time

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