An Untenable Situation)
Yesterday I recommended a process by which a person can get their life under control. I suggested that they identify the minimum, daily effort that is necessary to change all areas in decline into areas of progress. Not massive progress, only a steady, consistent movement in the right direction. Then I suggested one commit to that daily quota, prioritizing sustainability of effort over grand, but short-lived surges.
But at the end I brought up the fact that for some even their bare minimums would still be too large an effort for a single day. You might have capacity for some of them, but you just don’t have it for them all. There are still a few ways that a person can respond positively to this situation, depending on the nature of their shortcoming. I will present two of the easier strategies today, and the two more difficult ones tomorrow.
Ideally, one would like to have balance every day. In 24 hours they would have sufficient sleep, spiritual communion, exercise, work, time with family, leisure, and whatever other life qualities they value most. But 24 hours is a hard limit on one’s daily resources, and sometimes there literally aren’t enough hours in a day to get all the things that one needs.
I found myself in this very situation. Trying to balance my family, writing, career, spirituality, rest, exercise, recovery work, budgeting, house maintenance, and pleasure only resulted in hurried efforts that didn’t really progress any of those areas and left many of them untouched for weeks.
I’m a little embarrassed to admit how long it took me to realize that several of my “daily” tasks could actually be “every-other-daily” tasks. While it may not be ideal, I’ve decided that I’m okay writing Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and exercising Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday. Being consistent with writing and exercising on an alternating pattern is still better than the sporadic, weeks-without pattern that I’ve had before.
Of course, not everything should be split into an alternating schedule, for example I still want to have a prayer and seek connection with God every day, but I have nearly cut my daily tasks in half. And again, so long as my every-other-day effort is enough to progress me towards a healthier lifestyle, then I will still reach my goals eventually. And you will, too!
One might even consider a three-day rotation, but the more you space things out the harder it will be to establish the habit. You really want the cadence to be as regular and rapid as possible.
Another strategy to consider is that some areas of life might require a higher effort temporarily, but then will become more manageable afterward. An example of this would be if you need to get your finances under control. At the beginning, you probably need a higher-than-usual effort to track down your expenditures, figure out your budget, and cut out unnecessary expenses. But once you’ve done all that, you then only require a fraction of that effort to check yourself against your budget moving forward.
Again, ideally you’d be able to do all of the work for all the areas of your life simultaneously, but if you can’t, it may be worth considering whether you have any of these temporarily high-effort areas. If you do, for the short term prioritize getting through those tasks. Once they’re taken care of, then try to settle into a daily or every-other-daily cadence to take care of everything else.
It will be up to you to decide what other areas of your life are put on hold while you’re focusing on these temporarily high-effort areas. Is it okay to not work on your physical health while you get your finances in order, so long as you make a solemn commitment to bring that area back into your schedule once your budget is established?
I had this situation when I got serious about overcoming my addiction. At some point I needed to be able to integrate my recovery work with all the rest of my daily self-care, but for the short term I needed to focus on gettimg some momentum into my sobriety. For a temporary period, everything but the bare necessities was put on hold as I attended group meetings, went to therapy, and did hours of homework. I experienced a great change of heart, and then, with a little trial-and-error, I transitioned to a lower-effort strategy that would still maintain the recovery I’d achieved while still having time for all the other parts of my life.
Scheduling regular, daily efforts is a great step towards taking back control of our lives, but there will probably be a couple wrinkles in that plan. Fortunately, many of these wrinkles can be smoothed out with the minor adjustments described above. By shifting some things to an every-other-day cadence and by focusing temporarily on areas that could later be reduced to a lower effort, we will find that life becomes far more manageable.
But as I mentioned at the start, this still may not be enough to resolve every situation. Come back tomorrow as we’ll deal with the areas of life that are imbalanced through-and-through. As we will see, even in these areas, there can be relief and growth.