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Can the Bucket Method of Time Management Increase Productivity?

Lately, I’ve been reading a lot about the bucket method of time management and its impact on productivity. And since I’m obsessed with finding productivity tips that can work for me when my old processes stall, I’m thinking about trying it. Are you curious? Read on if you’re also searching for new time management hacks or productivity tips.

What is the Bucket Method of Time Management?

Essentially, the bucket method of time management asks you to take a look at your average day (or week) and categorize your tasks. Then, depending on the number of buckets you have created, you can divide your workday (or full day) into a time buckets that reflect the amount of time you need to dedicate to those tasks. Does this sound doable for your day?

Chris Capossela, a former speechwriter for Bill Gates, revealed to CNBC that this particular method worked so well for Gates that Capossela started using the method to great success. They were able to break an average workday down into four main buckets. According to the interview, those buckets were “people (hiring, recruiting and team management), company strategy, the craft of marketing and customers.” Then each one of those buckets got 25% of the workday. Capossela explained to CNBC that the method allowed him to be strategic about time management, making him more productive because many random tasks weren’t monopolizing his time and energy. 

The Pros of Adopting this Time Management Hack

I like the idea of not letting certain tasks overwhelm my day. Also, if you read my earlier article on productivity tips, you know that I motivate when I use time blocks. I could easily combine the two notions so that I’m blocking more time for working on longer-term projects and not letting smaller tasks eat into my day.

The Cons of Adopting this Approach

I’m not sure there are significant cons to this method for me. Even the experts agree that you should pilot this approach and then adjust it after a couple of months if you have underestimated or overestimated how much time during your day should go to any one bucket. The trick might be determining how flexible you want to be as you start dividing your day.

Setting Up My Time Buckets

My first bucket needs to focus on creative projects (scripts, novels, blogs, and dance). These things get put off until tomorrow (my literal ‘Someday Goals’) whenever cleaning needs to be done, errands could be done, or I need to add a new item to my Poshmark store (hello, this coat is fantastic). I’ve tried time-blocking it, which has worked with outlines or brainstorming, but it is less effective for writing. I fear this might also be a problem with the buckets – if I’m on a roll, I won’t want to stop, and if I’m having trouble getting started, I might waste a lot of time. Still, I’m willing to give the “Creative Bucket” 35% of my day.

My second bucket can go toward short-term paid work. I freelance, and I often put that short-term work ahead of my long-term projects because it pays faster, and I feel like I owe clients all of my time. Of course, lately, it has been a true struggle to get clients to pay me even after they have published my work, and it has made me incredibly cranky. Luckily, I still have some fantastic clients, and I want to give them more attention. This time bucket will likely shift as certain times of the year are busier than others. Right now, I’ll give the “Freelancing Bucket” 35% of my day.

My third bucket is exercise. You probably think this shouldn’t be part of my workday energy, but it needs to be. I have a lot of health issues, and getting up and moving often sparks creative impulses while it gets the blood flowing. This category has been too often neglected when work has been busy, and I’d like to make a more concerted effort to pay attention to it on workdays and not just on weekends. So, I’m willing to give 10% of my workday to the “Movement Bucket.”

My fourth bucket is likely to mix baking and/or gardening. Maybe I’ll call it my “doing” bucket. Again, this category is likely to shift during the year. Baking is a big part of the holidays, and I often write about those bakes on the blog. So, that time could cross into the first bucket. Tricky. Gardening prep happens during December and January here, but I won’t be planting before February 1st. Still, I think this “Doing Bucket” could take up about 20% of my time.

But What is a Workday?

How do you define a workday if you are a freelancer or someone who has recently started working from home? For me, it was always the most challenging part of working from home, whether I was still working for a corporate law firm or writing. The definition of being “on the clock” got fuzzier and fuzzier. I’m still not great at not answering emails very early in the morning or taking proper vacation time. But I’m getting better at setting boundaries because when I don’t, I don’t have the energy to work when I need it.

What do you think? Is the bucket method of time management something you want to try in the new year?

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