Use the science of the Hawthorne Effect to improve your life by thinking beyond the usual Swear Jar…
The Hawthorne Effect refers to the idea that people will change their behavior simply because they are being observed. The ‘jarring’ concept is an easy and practical way to work this effect to your advantage to make positive additions or changes in your life.
You can create several jars on different topics or choose to focus on just one area. Each jar can be used for only yourself or get the whole family involved. Some jar ideas even lend themselves to creating a spirit of healthy competition among family members, which will provide added motivation.
Check out these jarring ideas to get you started:
The ‘Jar of Awesome’… This is the jar our family began with and it forced us to really focus on the many positive things that happen in our everyday lives.
Whenever an awesome thing happens to you, jot it down on a slip of paper and throw it in the jar. It could be as simple as having an amazing day at the beach with family, receiving a thoughtful gift from a friend, a kind word from a stranger… just anything that made you feel happy!
20 Other Cool Jar Ideas…
1. Jar of Quotes
Fill it with quotable quotes you would like to learn and try using each quote in conversation before drawing another from the jar.
Alternatively, this could be a place to deposit quotes you’ve heard and would like to remember. Click here for quote ideas.
2. ‘Keep in Touch’ Jar
Put the names of friends and family members you would like to keep in touch with a bit more, or even people you haven’t contacted in years.
Every so often, draw a name out and make a point to call, email, or just send a brief text to that person to let them know you’re thinking or them. Touching base on a random Tuesday to let someone know you love them can be far more meaningful then predictably sending a card over the holidays.
3. Fitness Jar
This jar could include random fitness challenges to throw into the mix of your usual routine, such as a HIIT workout, squat challenge, new yoga pose to conquer, etc.
4. Recipe Jar
Fill it with your family’s favorite recipes: meals, snacks, baked goods, etc. Pick out a random selection when creating the weekly grocery list to add a little unpredictability to the usual line-up.
5. Jar of Completion
Perhaps the name sounds a bit more deep than the actual concept, but the suggestion here would be to focus on completing any “work in progress” projects you may have around the house: a minor repair, renovation, craft, etc.
This is an incentive to finally finish those half-completed items that give you a twinge of guilt whenever you see them and could even be implemented for job-related tasks as well.
6. Jar of Small Projects
Unlike the ‘Jar of Completion’, this jar is aimed at tackling projects you have not yet begun. Think of it as a randomized ‘To Do’ list.
7. Movie Night Jar
Have each family member make at least one contribution, then draw from the jar when planning your next movie night and agree to watch it together.
8. Jar of ‘You’
Fill the jar with small things you can do to pamper yourself and draw from it whenever you need a pick-me-up. Ideas could include buying a new book, splurging on a pedicure, or visiting a new restaurant you’ve been wanting to try out.
9. Jar of Karma
Write down ideas for random acts of kindness you can do and carry them out whenever your karma needs a boost.
10. Charity Jar
List places where you would like to volunteer an hour or two of your time, items you’ve been meaning to clean up to donate to charity, or even just various charitable organizations to which you would like to make a small monetary donation.
The contents of this jar could also be combined with those of the ‘Jar of Karma’.
11. ‘To Read’ Jar
Each slip of paper contains the name of a book you would like to read or even just a topic you would like to research and learn more about.
12. Jar of Gratefulness
Consider this a much easier version of a ‘Gratitude Journal’ and just briefly write down things in your life you’re grateful for daily, weekly, or just whenever anything comes to mind. This would be a great jar to review over Thanksgiving dinner.
13. Positive Affirmations Jar
Fill the jar with statements that give you confidence, inspire you, and remind you of just how wonderful you are, inside and out. You can draw from it a few mornings a week to start the day out on a positive note.
14. ‘Regretful Buys’ Jar
As hard as the contents of this jar may be to review later on, if you’re budget is strapped, it may be a good way to remind yourself to think twice before making the decision to buy.
Whenever you spend over a particular amount, say $50.00 for instance, put the receipt in the jar. Every few months, look back through the receipts and reflect on whether that purchase was truly worth it… Did you wear that $75.00 sweater more than once? Is that kitchen gadget already collecting dust?
This could be a rude awakening to change your spending habits or you may discover you’re right on track. Either way, simply keeping record will likely reduce your spending.
15. Jar of Zen
This is filled with relaxation activities you can do to get your ‘zen’ on, such as various types of meditations, nature walks, and yoga sequences for example.
16. Rainy Day Activities Jar
Particularly handy for parents, fill this jar with ideas for fun crafts and activities that can be done inside. The kids can pick from it on the next rainy day.
17. Jar of Cleaning
Perhaps the least exciting of the jars, the slips of paper in this jar can simply be some major cleaning jobs you’ve been meaning to tackle around the house.
Whenever you have a block of free time, just go to the jar. It almost makes cleaning fun! …almost.
18. Decluttering Jar
Think about various drawers, closets, spaces you wish to declutter and get organized.
Break up rooms or large spaces into smaller zones to tackle; this keeps things manageable. You don’t want to pull out a slip that reads “Garage”, for example.
19. Date Night Jar
Brainstorm date night ideas with your significant other and draw from the jar when planning your next night out. This will keep things fun and unpredictable.
20. ‘Word of the Day’ Jar
Pick out a new word to learn and be sure to use it at least once in writing or in conversation before choosing another. This can also be a great way for children to increase their vocabulary.
You’ll notice there are jar suggestions that involve adding slips of paper to the jar, while others are about taking slips out. Either way, I would suggest dating your slip of paper as each item is carried out and keeping the slips together to review later.
Our family completed a full year with a ‘Jar of Awesome’ and had a great time reminiscing over the entries on New Year’s Eve, as a reminder of all the wonderful things that happened throughout the year.
If you have trouble thinking of ideas for entries for some of the jars, just put Google to work for you. Remember to keep things easy; the wording on the slips of paper can be brief and you could even just print information off from online for certain jars to save you the time of writing (for fitness challenges or recipes for instance).
Have fun decorating your jars. Be sure to put them in a visible location, so they remain top of mind, and keep a pen and pad of paper nearby for quick entries.
A full-time mom with a full-time career and a full-time life, Amy McLennan is an unapologetic perfectionist who thrives on finding THE 'best answer'.
She spends hours researching a variety of topics and loves every minute of it, but what she loves more is sharing what she finds with others. Knowing most people don’t have the time (or maybe the attention span) to scroll through lengthy articles, she aims to offer brief, clear, practical information you can read and implement easily.
Amy is a proud mom of a uniquely awesome little boy and is married to an equally awesome man. She is a member of Mensa International and works as an Operations Manager in New Brunswick, Canada.
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