It all started on a Sunday morning last fall.

I’d written a book that had recently come out. On that morning I was feeling especially anxious. I wanted commercial success so badly I was open to any idea that might get me attention: livestreams, giveaways, you name it. Whatever it took.

Before acting on these ideas, I caught myself: I should ask my Bento what to do. In my notebook I wrote, “How should I use my energy?” and drew a blank Bento beneath it.


I then considered the question from each perspective of my self-interest.

My Now Me wanted to self-promote, as my morning anxiety had made clear. I even wrote down offering a sweepstakes as one of the things I could do. But when I asked the other boxes, I got very different answers.


Now Me wanted attention, but my Future Me self told me to be patient and learn more before I spoke. Now Us reminded me of earlier in the week when a call with a friend had been very positive, and suggested connecting with more people. Future Us was even more impactful, reminding me that the book itself was irrelevant. Bentoism was the goal, not something I’d already done.

It took less than five minutes to write all this down. During that time my mindset completely changed. That desire to self-promote that I’d woken up with was still there, but so was a larger context. I realized many parts of my life were valuable and needed my attention. Not just one.

After going through the exercise, I decided to make a to-do list. It ended up looking different than any to-do list I’d made before.

In addition to errands and work, my Bento-inspired to-do list told me to invest in my relationships. It asked me to declare my longterm personal investments and how I would support them. It made me consider how I would use my time to manifest the values and future I say I believe in.

These sound like big things to think about, and they are. But in this context they didn’t feel like it. I was being asking to consider what I could do for those things that week, not for all time.

My to-do list that week included calling a different friend each day, planning a date with my wife, and to self-develop in non-required ways. My anxieties (like the need to self-promote) were still there, of course. But so was the bigger picture, too.

Ever since that first Sunday morning experiment I’ve kept up the ritual. My wife has also adopted the practice, as have others that we know.

Anyone can do this — especially you.

Take ten minutes and follow these three steps:

1. On a blank piece of paper, write “How should I use my energy?” and draw a Bento (like above).

2. Ask what each dimension of your self-interest says. What do your Now Me, your Future Me, your Now Us, and Future Us voices say you should do? Write down whatever those perspectives say is important. (If you don’t understand what’s meant by those phrases, start here.)

3. After you write down what comes to mind in each box, take a minute to review what you’ve written. Use those answers to connect with what’s most important, and make your priority list for the week ahead.

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