by Yi-Yang1 min read27th Sep 20221 comment
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A few people have mentioned about buckets (1, 2) as a way to segment different parts of your life. Each bucket has a corresponding goal or set of goals that you spend resources on. Since we all have many different goals, it's a useful exercise to distribute resources between them accordingly, so one bucket doesn't "eat" into another bucket's resources. For example, you might have a bucket for your close friends, in which you spend a few hours a week of your time to cultivate genuine and happy friendships but not more, since you have other important buckets (e.g. career, health, family, etc).[1]

However, if buckets are not mutually exclusive, collective exhaustible enough, you might encounter issues where you might label activities for the wrong buckets -- creating more tension between your different goals. 

A corollary to this is my claim that EAs should try to have "serious EA" bucket or "fun EA" bucket.

  • "Serious EA" means trying to apply EA principles genuinely and taking significant action, like donating to effective charities or working in an EA org.
  • "Fun EA" means the more casual and social aspect of EA, like going to social meetups or volunteering. 

For example, I have a local EA event that I'd like to help out with and spend time with EAs. Sometimes, I accidentally mistake this activity as something from my "serious EA" bucket, and not from my "fun EA" bucket or my general "volunteer for fun" bucket. 

How did this happen? Maybe because it's so easy to default any kind of EA activity as always maximising impact (e.g. I have went all out in EAGs when I should have taken them slightly more casually). Or maybe I want to signal to others that I care about effectiveness (e.g. being a community builder means modelling good applications of EA principles). Or maybe I'm unconsciously working to build status, differentiate the in-group vs out-group, or all of the above.  

This can come out in ways that worked against me.

  • Spending too much resources on volunteering, so I now have less resources for my "serious EA" bucket, and I feel more unhappy about it. 
  • Giving off too much serious and responsible vibes, when it should be a bit more casual and fun.  
  • Newer inspiring EAs might observe and learn that they "should" be more serious, but in the wrong contexts. 

Hence, keeping these two buckets separate seem more conducive to having a more productive and happy life.  However, I also feel uncertain how useful or true my claim is. 

  •  I've observed that some people (including me sometimes) are able to have fun and be serious at around the same time, which indicates some fast organic switching of buckets. 
  • I also think that treating certain EA volunteer opportunities as a genuine exercise for people to apply EA principles seriously seems like a good idea. I know some people (including me) who practiced applying EA principles while volunteering, and learned a lot along the way.  
  • Perhaps there are other buckets that should be included. 
  1. ^

    "Buckets" are just another reframed term that has been used similarly in many other contexts. I've first learned about "life areas" from Alex Vermeer.