The Golden Ratio Remix

Since graduating from the human incubator called university, creating structure and routine around my days has been a daily struggle. I've gotten way better at it over the years, but for a time, it felt like I was job shadowing my cat - sleeping, stretching, eating, vacantly staring at a laptop screen half-watching Netflix, half-trying to figure out how I was going to get 1-3 years experience for an entry-level job.

Even though I've gotten way better at this (and should give myself some credit for becoming a goddamn morning person) I've recently become acutely aware of the value of time management. This is mainly due to the fact that it's becoming impossible to ignore the fact that one cannot get the proper amount of sleep required, meditate, have a full-time job, write a newsletter, start a business, volunteer, maintain an active social life, be princess charming, AND binge-watch Game of Thrones without feeling like one needs to hunch over and breath into a paper bag until one passes out - hopefully waking to a somehow magically re-organized life where all expectations and obligations have been either taken care of or eliminated from consciousness. In essence, I'm living as a morning person and a night person, and Arianna Huffington is so disappointed in my lack of sleep. 

It's because of this madness (and having wasted several hours trying to decide if You, Me, Her is a bad show or a good show - ****SPOILER ALERT****: it's a bad show, with a few love scenes worth bookmarking) that I've had to develop a strategy for managing my time and energy moving forward. 

There's a principle in design called The Golden Ratio, and it has been applied to all kinds of design - visual art, architecture, photography, music, and even web design - since ancient times. Also known as the Golden Mean, Golden Section and Divine Proportion, using this principle, some artists will create a grid or layout of their canvas and mathematically divide it into sections. Supposedly, work that is created in this way are more likely to be aesthetically pleasing and interesting to the eye because it is the most balanced.  In practice, this looks like a wave or spiral - something like this:

The sections in the grid represent different spaces they have to work within. I won’t get into the specifics of how this works (here is a link to learn more about it if you are interested) but the general idea is something I believe we can apply to our lives. Divine proportion requires us to think our lives as space and time. We have only so much space in our lives to fill with things that add or detract from our self-image, and it’s up to us to choose what we let into our lives and how much of it.

Looking at the entirety of our lives as a canvas is overwhelming (every time I look forward too much I pretty much turn into an emo high school kid with heartburn, fear spiraling into the unknown). But lately, I’ve been applying the golden ratio in a few different ways to focus on my experiencing self, my short-term projected self, and future self - the best self I’m trying to be. There are 3 versions of what I’m calling The Golden Ratio Remix and I’ve included mine below as examples:

Current Typical Day vs Ideal Day



Think of each section in terms of days. The largest piece is 16 hours, the second largest is 4 hours, the third largest is 3 hours, and the last two are 30 mins a piece.


Monthly Outlook (Setting Goals & Priorities)

Think of the sections in terms of days. The largest piece is 20 Days, the second largest is 5 days, the third largest is 3 ½ - 4 days, and the last two are ½ - 1 day a piece.


Long Term Priorities by %

Think of the sections in terms of energy level in percentage. The largest piece is 66%, the second largest is 16%, the third largest is 12% and the last two are 3% a piece.

Alternatively, you can have a less granular look at these, and instead adopt a more general approach to dividing the elements or projects that will take up your focus for however amount of time you determine. By looking at each of these, you can visually determine where your time is currently spent, and how it might be optimally divided to create a clearer, more consistent set of priorities and boundaries.

I’m learning that there is a difference between undisciplined and disciplined talent and execution. One is brilliance without direction, and the other is brilliance that has a code, routine, rhythm - whatever you want to call it. One is unfocused and the other relentlessly committed, refines and fine-tunes and becomes an expert. One is a flakes, the other holds itself together under pressure. I don’t believe we are destined for anything, because the outcome of our work is always equal to our actions, which is why a system like this can make sure our output (actions) are defined and focused so that the outcome (reward) will match.

Similar to design, each section of the grid is there for the artist to use to execute his or her vision. In what I am calling Life Design, each of us can use our sections using The Golden Ratio to fill them, or not fill them with anything we want, as long as each section is more or less consistent within itself. I have no proof that this will lead to a better life, but I have faith this formula could lead us out of a Jackson Pollock into a Michelangelo (not that I don’t love a good JP, but he did die at age 44 in an alcohol related car accident where he was driving). Let me know if this works for you.

Download & Print The Golden Life Remix

Arianne TongComment