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What Are Your Important Life Buckets?

I beat myself up pretty well last week.

During this time of coronavirus and social distancing I had grand plans to take advantage of fewer commitments and increased downtime to accomplish so much. I wanted to develop a number of new educational training programs at work, clean out the garage, and organize my files and photos, among other things. Yet, I had days last week where it seemed like getting dressed was about the highlight of my accomplishments.

Just like many of you, I’m learning how to make my way in this time of social distancing. And I suspect like many of you I’m experiencing challenges that make it hard to show up each day in the way that I desire.

Has anything like this happened to you?

If so, here are a few things that I believe contribute to the problem. Our routines are different. We don’t receive the same daily reinforcements and encouragements that let us know we are making a difference in someone’s life. And there is great uncertainty about how long social distancing will be the “new normal.”

This week I heard a talk from Jesse Itzler in which he expressed these same sentiments, and he had a solution that I’ve found really useful. I knew I had to share it with you.

In his talk he lamented being way behind on his plan to write a new book (he hadn’t written anything after 2 weeks) and he asked himself a simple question, where in my life is it important for me to show up? 

His approach was to define “show up buckets” for his life. These are the areas that are most important to him – his business, family/friends, and personal wellness. Next, he decided that every day, he needed to do one thing for each bucket that made a positive contribution to that area. So at the end of the day, 1 contribution to each bucket would define a successful day.

Now I realize I am only 4 days in on this process myself, but I’ve found it to be very grounding. I am the kind of person who will put 17 things on a to-do list, and feel like a failure if I only finish 14 of them. I’m also one who will focus on the tasks themselves and lose the opportunity to make or renew meaningful connections with the people I most value.

I could see that anyone using this system might be so much farther ahead when we do come out of our current restrictions than they would be without it.

It’s a simple 2-step process:

  1. Determine your buckets. Where is it important that you show up, that you make a contribution? Jesse Itzler had 3 buckets, I decided I have 4 – business, family/friends, faith, and health.
  2. Decide how you want to contribute to each bucket. Business tasks are easy for me to create. I’ve got lots of tasks. Knowing I just need to pick the most important each day is liberating. Where I see real value is with the family/friends bucket. I’ve got my eyes open and I’m looking for opportunities to reconnect with those around me. I’m calling instead of texting. I’m pausing and putting my work down when my kids seem open to talking. I’m reaching out when someone I haven’t thought of in a while comes to mind.

I’d like to encourage you to try using this over the next week. I hope you find it as useful as I have.

Please share this with a friend you think this might help.


Dr. Topher Fox

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