Through the years I keep coming back to this idea of seasonal practices.
The things I find myself naturally doing at certain times of the year.
There are periods in life that require more of us and margin is scarce. And of course, there are less intense stretches where it feels life is giving you a moment to catch your breath. Though these seem few and far between.
I found this on-again-off-again rhythm spilling over to various areas of life. The cadence used to frustrate me. Just when I’d seem to hit my stride, things would change, and I’d be left scratching my head wondering where I got left behind.
Through the years I’ve slowly learned how to work with the rhythms of life rather than attempting to power through.
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As a disclaimer, rhythmic living is not going to solve an unfocused life. It is to be used as a seasonal “add on”, not as a primary productivity system. Meaning, rhythmic living is kind of the “cherry on top” that harnesses a natural pattern of living.
Lifestyle practices (based on your vision and values) are the safety net to keep you on track regardless of the dominating season of life. If you’ve done the Focus Course you know we lead you through a process of creating goals for every area of life and eventually distilling those down to small daily habits. Ideally, you have daily rituals, routines, and habits that keep all areas of life in health.
Rhythmic living can help ease or accelerate one or two areas of life, but is not a long term solution for maintaining all areas of life.
That said, here are a few life rhythms I’ve become a student of.
Rhythms of Waking & Sleeping
In my head, I’m the sort of person that wakes at 5am every day to get hours of solitude in before the day explodes. In reality, my ability to consistently wake early has been much more seasonal. Sometimes due to the literal season. And as the case has been the last decade, also influenced by whether or not we have a newborn in the house. 😬
In general, my success rate for waking early dramatically increases through the spring and summer months. My bedtime stays about the same, but the early morning light is a helpful factor in getting up and going.
My expectations for myself are now such that it’s ok if my early wake time through the fall and winter wains. That’s what winter is for, catching up on sleep. Instead of being disappointed through the darker months, it’s more like a bonus day when I am able to get up before the sun.
Rhythms of Movement & Stillness
Also somewhat weather dependent, I find myself experiencing cycles of activity throughout the year. Living in the northern hemisphere we get a true four-season year. And with that comes a rotation of weather. As a result, some stretches of the year I spend more time indoors than others. I am what you might call a fair-weather-adventurer. 😆 And I’m ok with that.
After enduring a few months of being holed up keeping warm, spring invites us outside as the earth wakes up. Of course, the warmer weather also means I’m sprinkling in more walks or runs throughout my week. I usually experience lower motivation through the winter and have to be more intentional with my exercise routine.
The spring and summer months as a whole we live outdoors as a family. We host friends outdoors, we play and adventure at local parks, we work in the yard and garden, we go on bike rides. It’s easy to hit my daily step goals through these seasons of the year.
By contrast, the winter months we spend most evenings indoors reading or playing games, or going to bed early. Movement now requires more intentionality and a bit of planning. Unashamedly, there is more screen-time in general through the winter. My wife and I may work through a BBC mystery, and our boys may get an added window or two of shows (usually reserved for Saturday mornings).
Rhythms of Work & Play
There seems to be this notion that you can and should be able to live in a constant state of peak performance. Especially as it relates to being productive at work.
I would say this unspoken rule is not only misguided, but dangerous. The reality is, you can’t sustain a pace with the throttle stuck wide open for years or decades. Eventually, there will be repercussions.
The last 5 years I’ve had the benefit of our 8-week cycle rhythm. But even outside of our company cadence, I’ve found a cyclical nature to my work. Weeks and months of thinking, building to create something new. Then periods of time in maintenance mode. Improving systems, reviewing processes, shoring up weaker areas of the business.
I need rhythms of working hard alternated by breaks letting my mind and body rest. My ability to innovate and create isn’t an endless faucet. For me, adventure and play fill my tank to return to work inspired and excited to go.
During times of intense work, I have to be intentional about how much I will allow it to negatively impact the rest of my life. And when I’m in a cycle of rest, I need to safeguard against letting work infringe on my recharge time. Setting boundaries around my work and letting it rest.
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For me, I enjoy embracing rhythmic living as a way to break up the mundaneness of life. I’m the sort of person that enjoys having 7 of the same shirt so I don’t have to think about what I’m going to wear each day. I like going to bed the same time every night and could probably eat the same 3 meals every day of the week and be fine.
But there is something about these natural ebbs and flows that keep life interesting to me. I find myself savoring the current rhythm I’m in, while simultaneously looking forward to the next season that brings a slightly different adventure to life.