I follow a gentleman named Ed Latimore on Twitter. He’s an undefeated boxer (a sport I admittedly know nothing about), a dual major in Physics and Electrical Engineering, and one of my favorite content producers on Twitter. He’s always churning out thought-provoking, insightful statements on modern life.
A few months ago I came across this link. It’s a podcast with Ed, where he talks specifically about sobriety. It’s a topic I am very familiar with, having given up drinking at the beginning of 2015. I wanted to hear some other people’s observations on the subject, and most of the blog articles written about sobriety seem to be authored by cubicle-dwelling women or 60-year old ex-alcoholic men. I’m not a boxer, but Ed and I are both competitive athletes, we both understand the importance of mindset, and we both live in the same booze-soaked town of Pittsburgh.
Obviously, I was interested in what he had to say.
An analogy was described when he discussed the subject of alcohol. He referred several times to a metaphorical “bucket” which I understood to comprise all of the people, activities, and behaviors in ones life. When the bucket gets too full, something has to come out, or it will inevitably spill over.
I immediately identified with this, paused the podcast, and started thinking of examples in my own life, equating “spilling over” to what I would qualify as a personal disaster. I took this idea that Ed introduced to me, and I ran with it.
- In late 2012, my bucket was spilling over, filled to the brim with a horrific breakup, the loss of my home, the loss of my job, and financial ruin. Despite taking socialization and weightlifting out of the bucket, I still spilled over, as these circumstances carried so much volume. However, when these scenarios were rectified, I was able to make some space, re-introduce weightlifting and had time for a new relationship.
- In late 2013 through early 2014, this relationship increased in volume significantly, causing my career, my friendships, and my finances to be squeezed up to the top of the bucket. In turn, it spilled over. The problem was easy to identify, and by killing the relationship, I was able to bring everything else back to normal, as I now had a huge surplus of space. I became abundant, but wasn’t yet familiar with the term.
At this point, especially after listening to Ed speak about it, I realize the danger of filling the bucket too much. When this happens, there is absolutely no margin for error.
Think about the hypothetical scenario of a 40-year old man with an insufferable harpy of a wife, two kids, an expensive mortgage, and a demanding, stressful job. With the life he has designed for himself, his bucket is always filled to the brim, leaving no room for improving his physical health, mental health, or for unfortunate occurrences like sickness, an accident, divorce, or job loss. Usually the guy who has a “nervous breakdown” is someone living a life not unlike this. Even on the off-chance that he keeps his shit together, it makes for a pretty miserable, stressful existence.
I used to operate with the bucket at full capacity, not even realizing it. When something out of the ordinary happened, my life was thrown into absolute disarray. 2012 and 2013 are good examples of how the shit hit the fan when things spilled over, but I can think of several other times in my adult life when the exact same thing happened.
But back to how I currently apply this idea. If something comes out, something else goes in. I took out a 40-hour-a-week job, and added an easy part-time gig, working on this blog, working on my side hustle, and spending more time at the gym. I didn’t have to fill the bucket to the brim to do it. It’s filled with other things like spending time with my girlfriend, cooking, cleaning my house, visiting friends and family. Although it approaches full when inevitabilities occur, there’s really nothing in my bucket that I can’t temporarily remove to make some more space. When my Uncle and my Sister got sick, I simply realized that I wouldn’t realistically be able to write or visit the gym as often. Now that I’m using this analogy, it’s MUCH easier to make sure I’m not over-extending myself. It’s honestly a great time-management tool.
I’ve even gone so far as to break it down, day by day. There’s certain things that are at the bottom of the bucket, that absolutely MUST be done, and will demand a lot of time. Then, there are items closer to the top that I have the flexibility to simply skim off if they bring me too close to the brim. It’s really just simple prioritization, but visualizing it this way makes it much easier.
I used to use a detailed Evernote list with exact times for each thing I needed to do throughout the day. Inevitably, I would go way over the allotted time for one thing or another. Everything else would get pushed back. Important items like preparing food, hitting the gym, or working on my business would fall by the wayside, and I’d go to bed that night frustrated that I hadn’t been as productive as I needed to. But looking at it from this perspective means that I’m spending more time on the things I should be, and less on the things that can wait until later.
All credit for introducing me to this useful tool goes to Ed. Check out:
As always, thanks for reading.