The Three Buckets Framework

What questions do you ask yourself when reflecting on the past year and planning for the year ahead?

I’ve found it helpful to use a framework developed by Jonathan Fields, founder of Good Life Project.

The model is simple but powerful: there are three buckets that you need to fill in order to feel fully satisfied with life.

The categories are broad, so there’s no such thing as the good life, simply many variations built up from these foundations:

Contribution

How are you bringing your gifts to the world?

Connection

How are you building meaningful relationships with others?

Vitality

How are you taking care of your mental, physical, and emotional health.

With the transition to a new year in mind, I put together this template to help you capture how you contributed to each bucket this past year, and what additions you might make in the year to come:

The three buckets that, when filled, lead to a good life. For a high-quality download of this template, come join Verbal to Visual.

Here’s the kicker with this three-bucket framework: neglecting any one of those buckets will poke holes in the other two.

A lack of connection will impact your ability to contribute your gifts to the world and stay healthy while doing it.

A lack of vitality will cap the potential on the connections you make and contributions you put your energy into.

What I hope the template above helps you to see is how well you’ve been filling each bucket, and what adjustments you might like to make in the year to come as you think about where to place your time and energy.

Here’s how 2020 looked for me, as well as some additions I’ll be making in 2021:

How I filled those buckets in 2020 and a few additions for 2021.

Some highlights from 2020:

Contribution

Connection

  • Spent a whole lot of time developing as rich a home life as possible (thanks COVID) with my wife and dog in a house we purchased at the start of the year.
  • Began growing our family – my wife is pregnant, with twins!
  • Built stronger community elements into Verbal to Visual’s education platform for sketchnoters.

Vitality

  • Stuck with my three-day exercise cycle: run one day, yoga the next, strength training the day after that.
  • Continued going to therapy (via Zoom for now, of course) every other week, which helps me identify both positive and negative patterns as they emerge.
  • Kept up with my habits of morning journaling and daily meditation, opportunities to externalize my thoughts and focus on where I’m placing my attention moment to moment.

Though I was able to pour time and energy into each of those buckets, I think they each felt only about 2/3 or 3/4 full, largely because of COVID restrictions but also because of things that I have control over.

Here are a few things I’d like to prioritize in 2021:

Contribution

Spending more time on personal sketchnoting projects connected to the books and articles I’m reading, the podcasts I’m listening to, and the videos I’m watching. (Sometimes I prioritize supporting other sketchnoters over doing my own sketchnoting – I’d like a good balance of each).

Weekly workshops inside of Verbal to Visual. That’s part of the transition toward a stronger community, and I’m excited for the opportunity to continue exploring new sketchnoting topics (alongside you, I hope!) each week.

Connection

As introverted as I am, I have still missed hanging out with others this year, one-on-one hangs in particular. I hope to get back to regular coffee shop co-working sessions soon, and in the mean time I need to prioritize scheduling time for walks or park hangs to catch up.

I’m also excited that the weekly workshops inside of Verbal to Visual fill this connection bucket too. It’s fun getting to know other sketchnoters in that format and follow along with their journeys.

Vitality

In addition to continuing the habits I was able to maintain this past year, I’d also like to do some work to dismantle the strong ties between productivity and self-worth. I don’t want my sense of self to be tied up with the perceived quality of the work I’m putting out into the world. But that’s where it goes naturally.

Instead, I’d like my self-worth to come from the quality of my attention, moment by moment. At times that attention will be on work, but other times family or friends. It’s the quality of my attention each moment that matters, not the output over a given stretch of time. I’ve been trying to make that shift happen for years now, but the fact that twins are on the way gives me an extra boost in that direction.

What about you?

How has your 2020 gone? It’s been a crazy year, so go easy on yourself.

What would you like to prioritize in 2021? Plenty of uncertainty still ahead, but much of your time and attention is still under your control.

If you’d like to share your plans and track your progress while building your sketchnoting skills, come join Verbal to Visual.

We’ve got a full library of sketchnoting courses for you to dig into, plus weekly live webinars and a global community of sketchnoters who are building their skills are sharing their work.

Learn more and sign up here.

Cheers,

-Doug