Could There Be A Math Equation For Perfect Life Balance?

image1These days it seems like a lot more life choices are driven by data. And now that I live (most of the time) in the start-up land of tech-savvy San Francisco, I find myself often pondering what the numbers can tell us.

Perhaps surprisingly, NMDL has a favorite formula. It’s called the 80/20 rule. And as many of you know, it works like this: As long as you make good choices 80% of the time, you can be a little bit naughty for the other 20% (a little!).

We’ve always applied this practice to personal care products. In other words, you can totally keep your favorite red lipstick and waterproof mascara, as long as you ditch your other dirty products (and eat your broccoli).

But recently, I’ve been factoring 80/20 into just about all things health and wellness, and it’s working out pretty nicely.

One of the big reasons I think this rule is so great is that it encourages non-perfect behavior. Compelling research has shown that we actually have a limited capacity for restriction. At a certain point, the discipline cracks, and rebellious primates that we are, we often go right to the other extreme.

It’s why diets don’t work, long term. Or why New Year’s resolutions rarely last. Because most of this involve extreme restrictions.

The 80/20 rule, on the other hand, is a life plan. Here’s how I’m attempting to use it to find balance across my behaviors.

80/20 On Personal Care Products: My only big cheat in this department is dirty mascara, which I also use to darken and shape my eyebrows. While that might not sound like much, my routine is pretty minimal, so that actually fills my 20% bad-behavior quota!

80/20 On Diet: In this case, 80% represents an unprocessed, plant-based diet, that’s primarily raw. The other 20% is stuff like grass-fed burgers, really good sourdough bread (possibly my favorite thing about SF), delicious high-fat ice cream, dark chocolate, a bagel with lox and cream cheese, or just about anything else that might strike my fancy—rules be damned.

80/20 On Exercise: Just about every day a new study comes out reminding us that exercise is the number one thing you can do for your health, life expectancy, your complexion even! Yoga is my go-to and my (attainable) dream is to do it 5-6 days a week between my gentler home practice and the more rigorous classes I attend (the data says it’s key to get that heart rate up). I definitely believe one day of the week should be totally lazy, where the only leisure activity is some good (or really bad) TV.

80/20 On Alcohol Consumption: Honestly, if alcohol is a 0% part of your life, g-d bless! I don’t think it’s a prerequisite for happiness or wellness. That said, lots of data says it can be beneficial in moderation and at this point of my life, a little bit still provides pleasure (a lot bit, which still happens on occasion, provides only pain). So 80/20 looks like this: I almost never drink at home and I go out to 1-2 nights a week, and I have 1-2 glasses of wine when I do.

80/20 On Work-Life Balance: This one is the hardest for me! I tend to work like a beast, but here’s the goal I have my eye on: 80% not working late into the night or on weekends. So, one weekend-day a month can be work-heavy and one night a week I’m happy to clock extra hours.

80/20 On Sleep: This one’s easy for me to stick to: Bed by 10pm most nights of the week, with one or two nights set aside for some binge-watching or night prowling.

I definitely find it helpful to apply this rule to wellness choices. How does 80/20 apply to your life?



5 Responses to “Could There Be A Math Equation For Perfect Life Balance?”
  1. Brianna says:

    I don’t think I have any many dirty personal products, but I’ve transitioned over the past decade, so I’ve had a lot of time to change everything. The one thing I can think of that is dirty is my nail polish remover…and I feel guilty every time I use it.

    Diet…I do the very best I can, given my budget, where I live (a smallish city in Kentucky), and the fact that I work full-time. I really strive for mostly organic, non-processed, etc etc….but I’m not perfect. I’m a vegetarian in a very non-vegetarian area, so that makes it infinitely more difficult.

    Exercise, honestly, I exercise for 20 minutes about 4-5 times a week (Pilates, ballet, or yoga). And I feel like it is not nearly enough. But I am so busy and at the end of the day I have a young daughter to tend to, plus everything else. I workout in the morning and try to go easy on myself for not going to 90 minute hard-core classes.

    Alcohol…I occasionally have a glass of wine…or more rarely, a drink, like the Cosmo I had on Saturday night. And I don’t feel bad about it at all!

    Work-Life – When I was 18 I imagined a life for myself in a city, with a “Career”…but little did I know that a relationship and a child would change my views on what happiness looks like. I am in a very comfortable career, but I admit I don’t pursue other dream jobs at this time because I know it would take a substantial amount of time away from my family…and I’m not willing to sacrifice that.

    Sleep is no problem. We are always in bed between 9 and 10pm and get up every morning around 6, but that is truly what our bodies seem to do naturally at this point in our lives.

    At the end of the day, I just remind myself, “Do the best you can and move on.”

    Lovely post – I think we get harder and harder on ourselves to “be everything”, and this reminds us that no one can do it all ALL THE TIME. We are perfectly imperfect.

  2. Jenny says:

    The 80/20 concept isn’t new to me but it hadn’t occurred to me to broadly apply it to other aspects of my day. How helpful! I’m big on moderation in general but using numbers to frame it out makes it easier to really visualize what “moderate” means. Thank you!

  3. Isabella says:

    I think this is a very practical post with good advice. While most products in my routine are clean there is one soap I get with vanilla fragrance oil. It is phalate free but I know there are other concerns with fragrances. My skin loves this bar though so I use it on occasion.
    I try to balance other areas in my life this way like talked about in the post. I think one has to learn to be flexible to not only survive but thrive in this world.
    Great post

  4. Tina says:

    I love this post. Thank you….much needed. It’s a nice reminder to give myself permission to BE.

  5. Tiff says:

    I’m familiar with the 80/20 concept, but it’s mostly related to work/business/personal development. Before this post, I would never have thought of applying it to make-up!

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