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The Pickle Jar Theory

By Michal Spiegelman

“My life is one big schedule.”

“I plan what I do every minute of my life, and I still can’t get things done!”

“If I could be more productive, it would reduce my stress level tremendously.”

Does this sound like you?

I hear these complaints commonly from the women I work with. Our busy lives can feel like one big never-ending to-do list. Even when we do manage to get it all done, we have no time left for rest and relaxation.

What’s more, the sense of pressure to “do it all,” the guilt we feel if we just can’t get it all done, and the exhaustion that envelops us at the end of a packed day can cause our inner light to dim and prevent us from living at full power.

So how can pickles help?

Snack on the pickles. We just need the jar.

Sandy Klim’s Pickle Jar Theory helps you to plan your day by visualizing your priorities in a way that helps you to understand what you can realistically get done.

Here’s how it works:

  • Imagine your day as a large empty pickle jar.
  • First, put three to four large rocks in the jar. These are your high priority, must-do tasks.
  • Next, toss in a handful of pebbles. These tasks are lower priority (emails, follow-up items, etc). Shake the jar a little if you need to make it all fit.
  • Add a handful of sand. This represents your routine daily tasks.
  • Now fill the remainder of the jar with water—your family and personal time.

There’s a lot of stuff in your jar. So, what determines whether it can all fit? Order and volume. Let’s say you put the water and sand in first, followed by your pebbles. Then very few of your large rocks would fit. But what would happen if you first tried to put in 10 large rocks? They’d break the jar.

Let’s look at it from another perspective, using a similar concept called “Big Rocks” developed by Leo Babauta from Zen Habits. 

Here are his tips:

Make a list. 

Set aside time on Sunday or Monday to write down the major things, or “big rocks,” you want to accomplish for the week. You’ll want to choose tasks that will make you feel proud once you’ve done them, so be sure to include a few tasks that will help you move towards your bigger goals and dreams.

Keep it short. 

Shoot for about one big rock per day, or 4-6 per week, especially when you are just starting out with this approach. You’ll eventually get better at judging how many big rocks you can actually accomplish in a week.

Place the rocks. 

Look at a hard copy of your weekly schedule. Each day should be divided into one-hour blocks of time. First, write in any pre-existing appointments. Then add your big rocks to the schedule. Give them some valuable real estate on your calendar—meaning you should choose a slot for them when you’ll really be able to focus and block off enough time to actually get them done.

Do it early. 

Place your big rocks on your schedule first thing in the morning—or as early as possible. Otherwise, they’ll tend to get pushed back by the inevitable fires that come up. Tackle your big rocks first, and then you’ve got the rest of the day for busy work.

Leave space for the incoming pebbles. 

Leave the rest of your schedule as blank as possible. Other to-dos (or pebbles) will inevitably come up, and things will always take longer than you anticipated. Every morning, look at your schedule and make a commitment to yourself to tackle the big rocks.

Be Proud. 

When your week’s done, look back on it. If you completed all (or any!) of your big rocks, celebrate!

Prioritizing is all about balance. When you prioritize your tasks for each day, you make time for everything you need or want to do. It’s an act of radical self-care that will help you to live at full power. Remember to make time to allow yourself to recharge—whatever that means for you.

Now give it a try!

This week choose only 4 big rocks and put them in your calendar. Keep the rest of your schedule as free as possible to leave room for the pebbles, sand, and water.

If you’re used to packing your schedule, it may be tricky at first. But over time, it will get easier to prioritize, and the sense of accomplishment you feel when you get your big rocks done will help your inner light to shine brighter!

Write in the comment’s area which big rocks you chose this week, so I can help hold you accountable and cheer you on!

Meet Michal
Michal Spiegelman

Michal Spiegelman is the visionary behind Beacons of Change, a transformative platform dedicated to guiding women and healing professionals toward a soul-fueled life lived at full power.

As the founder and creator of the Soulful Healer Method for Profound Transformation, Michal empowers a diverse community of individuals to find their authentic voice and develop a distinctive identity.

Michal combines deep expertise and timeless wisdom with a comprehensive methodology enriched by a variety of traditional and holistic therapeutic tools. This powerful blend ignites transformation and growth, inspiring women and healing professionals alike to become soulful and shine brightly as beacons in their personal and professional lives.

Michal is the author of "Becoming Soulful: Six Keys for Profound Transformation in Your Therapy, Coaching, or Healing Practice," scheduled for release in the summer of 2024.

She is a certified professional life coach, Reiki master, spiritual mentor, medical intuitive, and social worker, passionate about elevating consciousness in the world, one soul at a time.

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