The Leaky Bucket: How to Fix the Things That Drain You

I talk about bucket lists a lot, but today I want to talk about a completely different kind of bucket. This bucket isn’t about the goals you set for yourself; it’s about the energy you have to pursue those goals.

Pretend that you are holding a bucket (go ahead and imagine a shiny jewel-encrusted bucket if that’s your thing). This bucket is filled with water that you need to grow your beautiful garden. The water is your daily allotment of energy, and the garden contains all the goals and dreams you have for yourself.

Still with me? I assure you, I’m going somewhere with this metaphor.

Unfortunately, your bucket has a small hole in the bottom, and water is leaking out slowly. It’s not your fault! All of us have a finite amount of energy, and various things we encounter in our days can drain that energy right out of us.

Let’s say your alarm clock doesn’t go off in the morning and you’re running late. That’s a few drops of water leaking out of your bucket.

Someone cuts you off in traffic and you can feel your blood pressure rising. A little more water leaks out.

You eat a big greasy lunch and feel sick and bloated all afternoon. The hem of your pants comes undone and it rips when you step on it. Your cell phone dies right when you need to make an important call.

All those little annoyances and inconveniences drain your energy slowly throughout the day. Your bucket is leaking water so by the time you reach your garden (ie, when you think about your goals), you have nothing left to give to make it grow.

When your energy drains out of you, then you’re just a leaky bucket.

The key is to find a way to plug those leaks so you can hold on to your energy as long as possible. That way you’ll have the strength to achieve your goals.

Take a moment to mentally go through your day from the moment you wake up until you go back to sleep. Write down anything you can think of that drains your energy. Consider things such as unpleasant people, things that are broken or unusable, and things that get in the way.

Next, figure out the best way to fix each one of the leaks in your life. If you’re drained by trying to figure out what to wear in the morning, you can fix the energy leak by editing your wardrobe and getting rid of anything that doesn’t fit or make you feel fabulous.

If you’re drained by never having a pen that writes well, go to the office supply store and buy a pack of your favorite kind of pen (and throw away all those used-up ones!).

If you’re drained by listening to your complaining friend, tell her upfront that you only want to hear what’s new and good in her life.

Slowly, you’ll start to notice a change in your energy levels by fixing these leaks in your life. And since you won’t feel so drained, you’ll be able to focus your energy towards doing the activities that bring you closer to your goal.

Tomorrow morning, imagine you’re holding your bucket of water. Decide what you need to do so you can hang on to your precious energy for as long as possible. Then get out there and tend to your garden!

How do fix the leaks in your life?

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  1. Summer on July 26, 2013 at 12:43 pm

    I really like this analogy! Basically every single one of those drains is something I’ve experienced and that I’ve let suck away my energy. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve tried to reduce the number of things that I have, but that’s kept me from even getting small items that would make my day/life easier–like those new pens! But you’re right. It’s much better to identify those little leaks and just make the fix rather than let the drain repeat daily.

    • Sage Grayson on July 27, 2013 at 2:25 pm

      Absolutely! All those little annoyances add up. I try to fix things along the way too so they don’t become huge energy drains later.

  2. Gillian on July 26, 2013 at 7:13 am

    I love all your analogies! They really speak to me and help me see things that I can work on before they get out of control (I think leaky bucket and airplane time are my two favorite analogies, btw).

    Okay, I thought about this all day yesterday, trying to figure out my leaks. 1) Staying up too late (for me that means until 11pm…I just enjoy the alone time!). 2) Skipping meals (usually during Ev’s naptime so I can get something done). 3) Not avoiding the internet (“just checking my Facebook” should not take 20 minutes!). I do much better when I am proactive (relaxing in bed instead of staying up on the internet) instead of reactive (taking a nap instead of getting a good night’s sleep). Some days are much better than others! Definitely a work in progress.

    • Sage Grayson on July 27, 2013 at 2:29 pm

      Yes, staying up too late is one of my energy drains too. And you’re right that taking a nap every day instead of getting enough sleep to begin with is reactive. We’re all works in progress! 🙂

  3. Style Journey on July 25, 2013 at 6:16 am

    Oh I definitely have a leaky bucket on some days. Having a teenage daughter has been pretty trying at times and I have had to learn to pick my battles and figure out creative ways to plug my holes in my bucket with that one.

    • Sage Grayson on July 25, 2013 at 9:02 am

      That’s a good point–our relationship with family, friends, coworkers, etc. can definitely drain us. I like the idea of picking your battles, so you can hold on to some of your energy instead of losing it in an argument. Thanks for sharing, Heather!