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Time Buckets

“Draw a timeline of your life from now to the grave, then divide it into intervals of five or ten years. Each of those intervals—say, from age 30 to 40, or from 70 to 75—is a time bucket, which is just a random grouping of years. Then think about what key experiences—activities or events—you definitely want to have during your lifetime. We all have dreams in life, but I have found that it’s extremely helpful to actually write them all down in a list… Your list will be your own unique expression of who you are, because your life experiences are what make you who you are…
Then, once you have your list of items, start to drop each of your hoped-for pursuits into the specific buckets, based on when you’d ideally have each experience…
by dividing goals into time buckets, you are taking a much more proactive approach to your life. In effect, you’re looking ahead over several coming decades of your life and trying to plan out all the various activities, events, and experiences you’d like to have. Time buckets are proactive and let you plan your life; a bucket list, on the other hand, is a much more reactive effort in a sudden race against time.” — Bill Perkins, Die With Zero

When I was helping to raise two very active children, I could barely keep up, let alone plan a sabbatical for three months to explore the fiords of Norway. If you learn anything as a parent, it’s that to be a good parent your own desires should take a back seat to the needs of your family’s. But that phase of life is a different time bucket that you’ll have before and after it. Everything has its season. The trick is to identify when those seasons are and feel the urgency to fill it with experiences that fit it best. I wouldn’t trade the time with my children when they were growing up for anything. Now that they’ve grown up, I might just look towards those fiords again.

“If not now, when?” ought to be the our mantra, for there’s truth in it when we face it. Time buckets put it all in black and white. We see immediately what is possible and what will be a forever dream. If we don’t book the experiences we want in life, we’re likely to miss them altogether. History is full of people with regrets in those final moments.

Many people go through life believing that they’ll do those big life experiences when they retire, but forget that our bodies may have other plans. We’re more fragile than we want to believe we are. And there’s no currency more valuable than health and fitness. Some things simply can’t be done when we lose this currency. If you want to hike the Appalachian Trail or follow the Tour de France course on your own bike, it’s unlikely you’ll be able or inclined to do these things when you’re 70 or 80. Even if you are, you’re body is better equipped for the experience when you’re 25 or 35. Time buckets force us to look at such things and determine where in our lives certain experiences best fit in, while reconciling what we’ll never do if we defer any longer.

Putting life experiences into buckets has merit, but there has to be room for serendipity in our lives too, for life should never be fully lived based on a Day-Timer or spreadsheet. The point isn’t to schedule every aspect of our lives, but to identify the buckets of time when we’re most likely to have the time and resources to do the things we most want to do in this lifetime: Build it and they will come. Life is what what we plan for and make of our time. We’ll have misses along the way, but we ought to put ourselves in the best position to play the hits too.

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