Plug the Drains

Building reserves at each level in the hierarchy of needs allows you to focus on the next level. Plugging the drains on your resources in the areas of time, energy, money, security, love, and self-esteem is the first step of building reserves in these areas, a necessary action for climbing the pyramid of self-actualization.

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plug the drains

A Hierarchy of Needs

Every morning, in my journal and on my calendar entry for the day, I draw this little symbol.

As you see, it is a graphic representation of what I call the Excelerated Life™. Not so apparent, perhaps, is that it has a basis in Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.

The peak of both pyramids represents “self-actualization” and “transcendence” – achieving one’s potential, and in Excelerated Life™ terms, “giving one’s best in Service to the world.”

A hierarchy of needs indicates that there are basic needs that must first be fulfilled before one can move up the pyramid. The lower, wider base is the foundation upon which the pyramid rests, and it and represents these most basic needs.

Furthermore, the idea of reserves is that we have satisfied the needs at each level of the pyramid, and more . . . that we have reserves at each level so we don’t have to constantly be thinking about and working to meet those needs.

Here is the correspondence between the needs in the Hierarchy of Needs and the areas for building Excelerated Reserves™.

  • Physiological – energy
  • Safety – financial, security
  • Love and belonging – love
  • Esteem – self-esteem
  • All areas – time

Reserves and the Excelerated Life™

The practice of Excelerated Reserves™ moves you from a scarcity mindset to an abundance mindset. As I said, it helps you satisfy – and more than satisfy – needs at the various levels of the pyramid, freeing up your energy and creativity and allowing you to focus your resources on moving toward transcendence and self-actualization.

You can use the “Gains and Drains” worksheet as a tool to help you build reserves in the different areas of your life. In addition to building up reserves, we must plug the leaks that let our resources trickle away. Often we can make rapid progress by plugging the drains first, to stop losing what we already have. Here are some ideas to get you started plugging the drains.

Plug the Time Drains

We begin with time as it affects all the levels of the hierarchy. You must have time to plug the other leaks. As Jim Rohn said, “Time is more valuable than money. You can get more money, but you cannot get more time.”

Here are some suggestions for plugging the time drains.

Prioritize. Be sure you are paying attention to the things that matter and not frittering your time away on unimportant tasks.

Use Deep Work Time Blocks. Set aside large blocks of 1 to 2 hours to work on your highest priority tasks. Close your door, unplug the phone, turn off all notifications, and concentrate on what you are doing.

Schedule recovery time. You can’t do deep work for hours on end and be effective. You also need to schedule breaks to rest and recover. Your body has an internal rhythm and responds to time on, then time off. Aim for 15-20 minutes of recovery time after your deep work sessions.

E-mail and other push notifications. These are big time drain holes for many of us. Some experts estimate you can recover 1.5 to 2 hours of productive time per day simply by turning off e-mail notifications.

Social media. Perhaps you’ve had the experience of hopping on to Facebook “just for a couple of minutes” and suddenly it’s an hour (or two) later? What can you do to keep your social media under control?

Following someone else’s schedule. Here’s where knowing your priorities is important. If you don’t know what’s important to you, you are open to doing the things that are important to other people.

Be CREATive before REACTive. Don’t start your day by checking e-mail, texts, or the latest posts on social media. (See the prior tip.) These put you in reactive mode. Use the important first hours of the day to get your high-priority creative work done.

Plug the Energy Drains

To see the effects of energy drainers, compare a day when you feel great to a day when you are dragging. Just as you need time to get things done, you need energy as well. What’s sapping your energy?

  • Not enough sleep
  • Too much sugar
  • Things you are tolerating
  • Overwork
  • Poor health
  • Poor diet
  • Not exercising

Are any of these draining your energy? Other things? What small steps could you take today to begin plugging these energy drains?

Plug the Money Drains

One energy drain is money worries. This is especially true in the current environment, where many people have lost jobs or seen their income cut due to the pandemic. This makes it even more important to plug the money drains. It’s never too late to get our finances in order. Start with the leaks. Here are a few.

  • Debt
  • Living beyond your means/spending more than you make
  • Shopping as a stress reliever
  • Confusing wants with needs
  • Automatic renewals – easily forgotten or ignored
  • SubScriptions you don’t use
  • Addictions – smoking, drinking, gambling, etc.

What are your money drainers? What small steps could you begin today to plug these holes?

Plug the Security Drains

A big reason for having reserves is to develop a sense of security and the knowledge that you are taking care of yourself and your loved ones. You help deepen that feeling as you build your reserves in the other areas. But you can also plug the drains that are directly related to your security. Here are a few.

  • Not having (enough) insurance (car/home/health/life/renter’s)
  • Having investments that go beyond your risk tolerance
  • Too few smoke detectors or smoke detectors with dead batteries
  • Not using seat belts
  • Not having adequate computer backups
  • Using the same password for all your accounts and not changing it frequently
  • Not getting appropriate vaccines

Sometimes it’s tempting to close our eyes to the drains in this area. Take a realistic look at your life in terms of your security. What could you do today to identify and plug the leaks?

Plug the Love Drains

As the saying goes, “No one on their death bed ever said, ‘I wish I’d spent more time at the office.'” If you want to be happier, put relationships first. If you want to be more fulfilled, put relationships first. And if you want to be loved, love. Put relationships first. Here are some love drains you may want to check.

  • Holding grudges? Forgive.
  • Having expectations of others
  • Putting career or anything ahead of relationships
  • Not asking for what you need
  • Reacting to other people
  • Being a “loner”
  • Being dependent on another

Do you have drains on your love for others? How could you begin to plug those holes today?

Plug the Self-esteem Drains

You can’t give what you don’t have. If you don’t feel at peace with yourself, you cannot give your best Service to the world and you cannot reach your full potential at the top of the pyramid. Check for these drains on your self-esteem.

  • Negative self-talk
  • Not understanding the difference between selfish and selfful
  • Needing others’ approval
  • Allowing poor habits
  • Doing anything you are not proud of
  • Addictions
  • Not honoring your Valid Values

Any of these sound familiar? Or do you recognize other drains on your self-esteem? What steps could you take today to begin plugging those drains?

Climb the Pyramid

Plugging the drains on your resources in the areas of time, energy, money, security, love, and self-esteem is the first step of building reserves in these areas, a necessary action for climbing the pyramid of self-actualization.

Then, after you plug the drains, look for ways to improve or increase the activities that build your reserves in these areas. Use the “Gains and Drains” worksheet to help you develop the small steps you can take to get your needs met in each of the areas of the pyramid.

Of course, this isn’t a one-and-done exercise – you don’t climb one step and never go back. In fact, you probably need to check in periodically on each area: physiological, safety, love and belonging, and esteem to make sure your needs are fully met in each area.

Getting your needs met and building reserves at each level of the pyramid allows you to focus on the next level. You don’t have to take gigantic leaps . . . steady wins the race. Along with being intentional and consistent. That’s how you make it to the top of the pyramid. And that is how you embrace your Excelerated Life™!


Excelerated Reserves™ — moving from scarcity to abundance — is one step in creating your Excelerated Life™, a life of flourishing and well-being, and a life of meaning, purpose, and service.

Read more about the Excelerated Life™.

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