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The Lever #041 - Life in 5 Buckets

Everything you do takes time, and all of your time goes into one of these five buckets.

But it’s the sixth bucket, the one you carry with you, that's the most important.


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The Garden ​

Imagine walking into a garden.

Plants sway in the breeze, birds chirp at you from tree tops, and the smell of flowers fills the air.

As you approach the center you come upon a pond. Water trickles from a fountain down some rocks, and tiny goldfish dance through the water.

Beside the pond sits a long bench and on the bench sits five buckets.

Each bucket has a small hole near the bottom. You watch as the water from each bucket slowly drains back into the pond.

You suddenly have a powerful urge to fill those buckets back up - to make sure none of them run dry.

Because the water is all the time you have in the world.

And the buckets are your entire life.

Everything you do is a Task.

From the smallest chore to the largest project, everything can be broken down into the smallest unit of work which you can accomplish right now. That unit is the Task.

All Tasks take Time to complete.

You apply your attention on the Task for a period of Time until it is finished. Then you move on to the next Task in the series, until the entire project is done.

And all Time is poured into one of these five buckets:


This is where you do things for yourself.

Striving towards your own hopes and dreams, accomplishing personal goals, feeding your soul.

Self actualization lives here.


This is where you do your work.

You will spend a lot of time here so it makes sense to get really good at it.

Fulfillment lives here.


This is the good, the bad, and the boring.

It’s the family BBQ, the fight with your cousin, and taking out the trash afterwards.

Family lives here.


Working for the good of others with no expectation of anything in return so you can leave the world a little better than you found it.

Compassion lives here.


Everything is harder without fitness, because a healthy mind must be supported by a healthy body.

Readiness lives here.

The Sixth Bucket

You see an empty bucket sitting under the bench.

You pick it up and examine it. It’s the same as the others except there is no hole in the bottom.

Placing it near the fountain it quickly fills to the brim with cool, clear water. You turn back to the bench to fill the buckets, but stop with a sudden realization.

There isn’t enough water to fill them all.

The sixth bucket is full of your energy.

You only get one bucket full each day, and there just isn’t enough water inside to fill each of the five buckets.

And to make matters worse you slop some of the water on the ground as you carry the bucket.

Poor sleep, unhealthy diet, negative mindset.

Each of these spills a little of your water onto the rocks next to the bench. A total waste.

People also sneak into the garden and dip water from your bucket.

Toxic relationships, narcissists, energy vampires.

They rob you of precious water that you could be using to fill your buckets, but instead use it to fill theirs.

Other people however are bucket fillers.

Family, friends, colleagues.

They have your best interests at heart, support your efforts, share their water with you and you with them. And the amazing thing about filling buckets is that you both end up with more, never less.

You stare at the five buckets and wonder what to do.

You can fill one all the way up and leave the rest empty. Or you can give a little to each that will barely cover the bottom.

Your brow scrunches as you consider the options. There must be a smart way to do this.

With a barely perceptible nod you straighten your shoulders and step to the bench. You pour a healthy amount of water into one of the buckets - about half. Then you divide the rest between three more buckets.

One bucket receives none.

You step back satisfied, knowing that you’ll return to the garden tomorrow with another bucket.


You can’t keep all buckets full all of the time.

The more water you can give to a single bucket the better your results will be. And here is the thing:

Once the water reaches a certain level it takes far less water to maintain. This means that once you’ve filled the bucket enough you can keep up the results without using so much water. You can then pour most of your water into a different bucket.

It takes massive effort to grow and improve. But once you’ve hit a certain level it takes far less effort to stay there. Think about any big challenge you have completed.

College, having children, running a marathon.

Each takes a lot of water to accomplish but once the bucket is full it needs far less to maintain your knowledge, family, and fitness.

This is the key to prioritization.

The next day you return to the garden.

This time you fill the bucket with confidence, walk to the bench, and pour.

You pour about half of your water into the same bucket as yesterday. It’s now close to the top. Then you divide what remains between the same three.

You smile at the bucket you’ve neglected, confident because now that the first bucket is full you can focus more of your water on that one tomorrow. Everything has a season.

As you walk back out of the garden a few snowflakes begin to fall.


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