Life Rhythm Theory

An Unfinished Piece by David Drury

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Human beings approach life at different natural rhythms.  These rhythms show up in many parts of life.  They affect the way we feel on the weekends or how often we need vacations (and for how long).  They affect how we feel in the mornings or how much we like springtime.  They affect our mood and our attitudes on a daily, perhaps even yearly and certainly for some of us at least seasonally basis.  They are the reason some “out of rhythm” activities and personal disciplines don’t “click” with some of us and others do.  And more than anything they affect our schedules, and should dictate them.  However, usually our rhythms are forced into a box not of our own choosing for prolonged periods of life.  Sometimes we call this “work.”  Our lives are affected by this on such a sustained but less than obvious way you might call it subliminal.  Yes, we may adopt or adapt to a different life rhythm for a season that may not be fully natural even if not wholly unhealthy.  However, peak efficiency, energy and satisfaction in life are more likely to be achieved at the kind of life rhythm one “naturally” is aligned to.  This is Life Rhythm Theory.


Rhythm is about cadence and tempo, regularity and measure.  Rhythm cannot exist without two factors: beat and time.  Our lives have a seeming infinity of “beats.”  Each activity and habit we engage in—each relationship and each responsibility—are “moments” that are the beats of life.  However, our lives have a limited amount of time.  The sun goes down.  Deadlines pass.  Hairs grey.  The years turn.  This is why it seems like time management has become the great unsolvable puzzle of our species.  This is also why day planners, palm pilots and computer scheduling programs all make a tidy profit in our economy.


But few of us feel a great amount of control over our time even with these tools.  The beats come faster than we seem able to handle them.  Like a drum line marching around in our heads—we can’t keep up, and we acquire what we call “tension headache”, “stress”, “burnout” or “a complete and total physical and mental breakdown thus losing our jobs, families and friends.”  The problem is not always the speed at which the beats are coming, however.  More often than not the problem is a matter of rhythm rather than pace.  We have to manage the rate and sequence the beats of life come to us in a way that matches our internal ability to not only handle them, but harness them.









Most Common Life Rhythm Groupings:


Daily People – some people are oriented around a daily internal clock.  They wake up in the morning and a voice in their heads says, “It’s Tuesday… what do I do when it’s Tuesday?”  Then they go about the things that make Tuesdays “work” for them.  These people usually get a great deal done on a daily basis or at least they do when they have clear, achievable daily responsibilities to complete.  Many Daily People dislike having their schedules radically changed or spontaneously altered by others so they desire advance warning of such things.  When they are operating at their peak Daily People are very good at key routine tasks and procedures.  In watching Daily People, you’ll note that they take the same amount of time to do dozens of tasks the same way every single day of their lives, from making the bed or writing job reports to reading bedtime stories or saying their morning prayers.


Off-Beat Issues for Daily People: When a Daily Person is asked to do long-range forecasting or strategic planning; they get “off-beat.”  It doesn’t match their life rhythm at all and most Daily People will be thrown off by such a task.  They may adapt to the task or learn skills to make it through—but few Daily People will enjoy such big-picture thinking.  More accustomed to things that “need to get done now” or that are due at the end of the day—a Daily Person might do more than any other individual on a team within a month but still not complete the monthly report that takes a half-day to produce.  Instead of taking the half day to write the report they were doing what they would consider to be “real” work.  Once a system is in place, few people can operate it as efficiently as a Daily Person.  Managers: if you want something done well every single day get a Daily Person to do it.


Spiritual Parallels: Daily people often find great strength by incorporating a Daily Time Alone with God into their schedule.  They may do it at the exact same time and place every day, and then do basically the same thing: rest 5 minutes, read 15 minutes, pray 10 minutes, etc.  Sometimes frustrated that they don’t grow faster or gain huge spiritual insights, Daily People should more often be patient to simply “engage in the discipline” on a daily basis and then look back and see the growth.  Daily People may not be as inclined to enjoy a spiritual retreat or re-focusing day, and they likely won’t get as much out of a Day Alone with God as a Monthly Person will.  However, so many of our spiritual disciplines have been interpreted as daily ones that there are plenty of pathways for growth for them to pursue.  At their core very practical, these people will often want the “application” from Sunday’s service or message so they know what to do that very week.  The key question for a Daily Person to ask about their spiritual life is: “What moments do I have in my daily routine that is growing me closer to God?”


Daily-Style Careers: While not all people in these occupations have this kind of life-rhythm, many people in the following occupations were drawn to them because they are Daily People or these jobs may be more conducive to those who know they are Daily People: Restaurant managers and employees, service industry workers, computer programmers, massage therapists, accountants, specialized medical professionals, administrative assistants, factory line-workers, professional soldiers, homemakers, engineers, news reporters, bus drivers, postal workers, mechanics, store clerks, and police officers.  Another observation: many hourly-paid jobs align with the Life Rhythm of Daily People.


Monthly People – some people are wired up to think along the lines of that week or month.  They wake up in the morning and a voice in their heads says, “It’s August… what do I do when it’s August?”  Then they go about the things that make August “work” for them.  Monthly People are great at working on projects that take a great deal of time and energy to complete but have a longer time span to complete.  They can work on something for multiple days at a time as long as they get a good break and reward at the end of the project.  Monthly People are comparatively obsessed about their schedules, and will often be seen organizing the upcoming monthly or weekly schedule to prioritize the most important things coming up.  Daily People might think Monthly types are wasting their time with such business.  In watching Monthly People you’ll note that they are less concerned with how that day is going and more concerned with accomplishing overall goals or quotas.  These people can be extremely spontaneous and sometimes no day in their week will actually look like another day in that week.  They may take a very long time to do something on several days in a month and not do it at all on several other days that month.  They value their weekends, monthly breaks and extended “down times” more than most people. 


Off-Beat Issues for Monthly People: Asking a Monthly Person to do the tasks a Daily Person would do well will often “cramp their style.”  While they are driven to achieve goals or complete big tasks, they sometimes struggle with what getting to the daily processes that get them there.  Monthly People might be able to grab a project “on the fly” and spontaneously complete it even with a lot of other things on their plate.  They may also be better at committing to do a project than they will be at actually doing it.  Likewise, they might communicate what they did better than it actually was done.  Monthly People often wow us with reports and in meetings where Daily People do not.  However, if a Monthly Person gets rolling, they are hard to stop.  In this way, they are like a locomotive.  Get them on the right track in the right direction and much force is applied to the goal.  Mangers: if you want to hand of a big project with a bit more risk and bit more reward to someone, find a Monthly Person on your team to do it


Spiritual Parallels: Monthly People often love Sundays.  The worship service itself is a reprieve from the rest of their life that is often forced into daily routine, which is off-beat from their Life Rhythm.  They can pause and reflect and think forward.  Often frustrated with inconsistency in their daily Time Alone With God, they should instead put their efforts into longer weekly or even monthly times with God.  More than just their spontaneity affects this aversion, because in part a short time with God doesn’t feel like “enough” for these people.  It feels like a “check in” where they hear little and merely stop time a bit.  Instead of taking 30 minutes a day, a Monthly Person might grow more by taking 90 minutes twice a week, 4 hours on the weekend, and a full day every month to spend with God.  Adding the “touch in” can’t hurt on top of this, but it will rarely help the Monthly Person feel like they are growing spiritually, and they will spend much of their time in frustration as they miss half of their “times” with God.  The key question for a Monhtly Person to ask about their spiritual life is: “What longer scheduled weekly and monthly ‘meetings’ with God am I using to grow closer to Him?”


Monthly-Style Careers: While not all people in these occupations have this kind of life-rhythm, many people in the following occupations were drawn to them because they are Daily People or these jobs may be more conducive to those who know they are Monthly People: Nurses, medical doctors, construction workers, civic officials, lawyers, hair stylists, banking professionals, ministers, salesperson, realtor, and car dealer.  Another observation: many client or commission-based jobs align with the Life Rhythm of Monthly People.


Seasonal People – some people are big picture thinkers who are driven by the season or year they are in.  They wake up in the morning and a voice in their heads says, “It’s Winter… what do I do when it’s Winter?”  or it says, “It’s 2005… what am I doing in 2005?”  Then they go about the things that make Winter or 2005 “work” for them.  Seasonal/Yearly People are great at long progressions that are sometimes never truly completed.  They are often less task-oriented than they are process oriented.  They are more concerned with development and culture than with the nitty gritty details of life.  They are more interested in living “the life” they are leading than in what that looks like on a daily or even weekly basis.  They look at the ways people live and they question how much others waste their time doing things they don’t need to do or that don’t need to be done at all.  A Seasonal Person will often take very long vacations or even mini-sabbaticals from their line of work.  They may also go into a feverish season of productivity on a nearly annual basis.  For a long stretch of the year they may work 65+ hours a week.  For another long stretch of the year they may get little to nothing done at all—even if they are in the office.  Seasonal/Yearly People are often very resistant to do something they don’t want to do or that doesn’t align with their training and competencies.   They are often very good at long-range planning and creative thinking.  Often communicators or artist at heart—Seasonal People want others to see the bigger picture they wake up seeing every day.


Off-Beat Issues for Seasonal People: A Seasonal Person works will have trouble doing any task, even a large project a Monthly Person might excel at, unless they see the connection to the bigger picture of life.  While always at risk of being paralyzed by the trivial, the Seasonal ones among us can make gigantic moves and apply near super-human effort with monumental risk if it fits into their view of the year ahead.  A Seasonal Person is never more in their element than when planning for the future or making big moves to affect the future.  They are also never more out of their element than when forced into a repetitious rhythm of life.  Often gifted with an extra ounce of creativity or more, Seasonals will often enter (fittingly) a season of amazing productivity or creative delivery, followed by a season of little to no creative production.  This can be immensely frustrating in the down time for the Seasonal Person who is unaware of their Life Rhythm, for they can’t seem to force themselves to do what they recently did so effortlessly.  However, a Seasonal Person fully aware of their Rhythm can anticipate these ahead of time and take advantage much like a person works during the day and sleeps during the night.  Managers: If you’re looking for someone to take the biggest risks and do the most creative projects but who you won’t need to count on every day, find a Seasonal Person on your team to do it.


Spiritual Parallels: Seasonal People can often times reach a closeness with God that feels so much stronger than other times in their lives that they can’t explain it.  They often have a roller-coaster spiritual life.  High times with the Lord are sometimes followed by frustrating dry spells.  However, during the high times they “draw neigh unto God” in a way that a Daily or Monthly person would have trouble relating to.  Longer seasons practicing intense spiritual disciplines (such as 40 Day fasts or nightly prayer meetings) will grow a Seasonal Person well when others might not be able to pull them off.  If a Seasonal Person comes to grips with these spiritual intervals and does not get too down in the “meantimes” of life, they can engage well in their spiritual journey and pass on insights the rest of us would have trouble attaining.  The key question for a Seasonal Person to ask about their spiritual life is: “What season am I in right now and what can I do to stay afloat in the down times and take advantage of the high times to grow closer to God?”


Seasonal -Style Careers: While not all people in these occupations have this kind of life-rhythm, many people in the following occupations were drawn to them because they are Daily People or these jobs may be more conducive to those who know they are Seasonal People: Managers, artists, musicians, actors, CEOs, travel agents, school teachers, college professors, inventors, writers, builders, investors, large business owners, professional athletes. Another observation: many salary-paid jobs align with the Life Rhythm of Seasonal People.


It seems possible that some more extreme examples of Life Rhythm may be found.  Some people may be “5-10 years” people.  The later types may be hard to even assess because their whole lives have the kind of “mood swing” chart that some people have in one week!  These even keeled types may not change much in their rhythm until something comes along that shifts them into a multi-year season of high-productivity.  And then another event shifts them into a multi-year season of rest and re-charging and learning.  One observation: in examining the biographies of the most gifted national leaders, genius thinkers, master artist and even biblical characters I’ve noticed a great many of them appear to have this kind of Life Rhythm.  I’ve wondered if this extremely spaced out rhythm that includes a frenetic period of output enables some of humankinds greatest achievements that the rest of us (non-geniuses and non-artist people like me) get to reap the benefits of.


The monastic way of Saint Benedict established an externally imposed Life Rhythm for the lifestyle of his spiritual adherents.  Often termed the “Benedictine Order,” it organized monks around an Hourly Rhythm, as many monastic circles do.  Every hour of every day would be scheduled out the same way, 365 days a year, with only slight variations for high holy days.  So they wouldn’t ask what they do “that day” – every day would be nearly identical for them.  That voice in their heads would instead ask, “It’s eleven o’clock, what do I do when it’s eleven o’clock?”  This strict rule of life may help explain why so many Monks are so “in the moment.”  It might also explain why there are relatively few human beings who would be comfortable being a monk.  It may have less to do with spirituality and more to do with Life Rhythm.






Significant parallels related to the Life Rhythm Theory that will continue to play out in the future:

  1. There must be millions of people that are forcing themselves to live completely out of their Life Rhythm sweet spot and thereby feeling a lack of energy, efficiency and satisfaction in life.  Perhaps there are ways for us to adjust our mental attitude even when “stuck” out of our comfort zone, where Monthly Person could simply apply their planning strength to ensure they do the daily tasks they are required to do in a Daily Style job, for instance.
  2. There must be a way for people to manage their responsibilities proactively to match their personal Life Rhythm.  Calendars may only work for some people to make this happen (Monthly People, for instance, seem to be aligned to calendars and palm pilots where Seasonals or Dailys would be less inclined.)
  3. Some people may be drawn to and work in certain occupations for subconscious Life Rhythm reasons beyond other factors.  And people might be able to switch between jobs that seem extremely incongruent (a homemaker becoming a professional soldier, for instance) because of the common Life Rhythm of the two otherwise opposite style careers.
  4. There may be sub-groupings within each Life Rhythm grouping outlined in this Theory.  For instance, within the Daily People grouping, there may be hourly people, true Daily People, and then 5-2 people (who treat their “work week” and “weekend” as two vastly separate parts of their life rhythm).  Within the Monthly People there may be weekly, bi-weekly and monthly tendencies.  And within the Seasonal grouping their may be more emotional Seasonal people, weather-based Seasonals, or full yearly people who may function for a whole year as other Seasonals function a 3 or 4 month period.  This stratification may help someone who feels they are “almost” described by one of the groupings but who want to put this or that tweak upon its application.


Applications of the Life Rhythm Theory for you to start with today:

  1. You should “listen” to the beat of your life.  Self-assessing what Rhythm you might have is key.  Asking others will confirm or deny your hunch.
  2. You should remove the guilt that comes from not fitting into another system’s imposed rhythm.  If something is due monthly and you perceive that you’re a daily person, then instead of cramming it into the night before you should bite part of it off on a nearly daily basis.  If you’re a Seasonal in your slump months, don’t volunteer for projects and don’t feel guilty about it.  You can tip off the boss that you’re still recovering from that last season of productivity (a good reminder to her that you’re not a loafer) or
  3. We must adapt “what must be done” into my rhythm at a pace (speed) that will still get it done.  We must remember that pace and rhythm are not the same thing.  Pace has to do with speed and speed alone.  We usually cannot actually control our pace of life.  That is dictated by the sheer number of “beats” that come our way.  We can, in many ways, manage the sequence and timing at which the beats come our way, however.  And that is what music is made of.






© 2005 by David Drury