Ever heard of the pickle jar theory? It’s a concept that helps you prioritize your most important tasks without letting them get pushed aside by lesser priorities.

Think about it like this: You have a big jar that symbolizes your day. Each day, you have limited time — just like space in the jar. In order to get the best results, you should be strategic in how you fill your jar.

Howie Jones, a customer success manager at Calendar, says this requires first placing the biggest rocks in your jar. These tasks require the most attention. Then, place the small pebbles, which are tasks that need to be addressed but they’re not as vital. Finally, you can sprinkle in sand, which represents small things like checking your email or social media.

Want to learn how to apply the pickle jar theory? Keep reading this issue of PromoPro Daily, where we outline Jones’ tips for building a schedule that prioritizes what matters most.

Identify your rocks. The first step is to list what you need to get done for the day, week or month. Jones says it’s important to be realistic and aim to collect two to three rocks each workday. Be sure to choose high-impact activities that will move you closer to your goals.

Schedule your rocks. Maybe it’s giving an important sales presentation or completing a major proposal. Whatever you deem your rocks to be, Jones recommends scheduling them when you are feeling your most alert and productive. This ensures they receive your undivided attention.

Add the pebbles. These tasks are still important, they’re just not as significant as the rocks. According to Jones, you should be able to complete each pebble in about 30 to 45 minutes. Schedule your pebbles around the rocks. This allows you to plan them around your priorities, leaving enough time to complete them without compromising them.

Fill the gaps with sand. Every grain of sand represents a quick task that can be done in 30 minutes or less. These tasks might include answering voicemails or responding to emails. Jones says that, in general, you should fill the remaining space in your schedule with sand, prioritizing the most important tasks first.

Allow room for water. Like an actual pickle jar, you should leave some room for water. This represents the breaks you need to stay focused and energized throughout the workday. When possible, try to step away from your desk for lunch and give yourself short breaks during the day to help prevent burnout.

Unlike rigid schedules, the pickle jar theory is flexible. You can adapt each day based on the changing demands of your tasks and priorities. By focusing on significance over sequence, it ensures vital tasks get done, preventing overwhelm and maximizing productivity.

Compiled by Audrey Sellers
Source: Howie Jones is a customer success manager at Calendar, an online team scheduling software.