A relief strategy

Read this at a-relief-strategy.com instead. It's evergreen over there, and receives updates/clarifications over time. The copy below doesn't get updated.

This is a strategy drawn from Lightward. It is about creating a sphere of relief in your life — a self-sustaining one that gives you rest. It is a space in your life that has healthy, sustainable, self-steering and self-nourishing patterns. It supports you whenever you're present there, and you'll find it beginning to support you in your other spaces, too.

This particular framing is inspired by Whole30 and Melissa Urban. (I am not affiliated with Whole30 or Melissa Urban; they have nothing to do with this, and I make no claims on their stuff.)

This is not a business strategy, although you could use it that way. Because this comes from that-which-became-Lightward, a lot of my examples below are related to my work there.


You'll start small. One project, one workspace, one room, one relationship, whatever. Once you've identified it, "success" here means letting that space become what it will. For me, it became Lightward. Well, the business stuff became Lightward, but I've done this in so many areas of my life that they're blurring together, and this is just how I live now.

I can't tell you what this will become for you. I can tell you that it will be good for you and the people and spaces around you. You won't want to go back. And once you start to catch on, it'll only get easier. The goal is to create a small, self-sustaining thing, and then to relax into its support as it grows. It'll only get easier.


Whole30 is predicated on a clear understanding of scope. It's your food life, for 30 days. You're doing your whole food life differently, for 30 days straight. No exceptions.

Like Whole30, this is about drawing a clear circle around a space and and cleanly shifting to a new pattern in that space for a period of time.


But this is not Whole30. You can start very, very small. Identify a clearly-definable space in your work (or your life, or whatever), where it feels doable to practice the rules below. Trust your own sense for what's doable, and rescope if you need to.

Do choose a space that you're in regularly. Daily, or at least several times a week. Gotta be building your experience with this stuff.


As for time, 30 days seems like it's worked well for Whole30'ers. I've done a couple of those, and it has absolutely changed my food life. So, let's say 30 days for this too. Choose a space where it feels doable to practice the rules below for 30 days. If that feels overwhelming, tighten the scope. Start smaller. Remember: this is about creating a part of your life that will gradually grow on its own. Start as small as you need to feel safe about this. It's okay. :)


  • All of your customer support messages

  • All of the communication you have with a particular person or group

  • Everything you do in a specific digital or physical workspace

  • Everything you do for a particular project

  • A specific calendar

  • A specific email account


These rules operate together. If you get stuck on one in a given situation, try to use the others to find clarity. Get used to pausing to think about your approach. This stuff will eventually become second-nature, but you may need to pause and think often at first.

I'm only explaining the rules themselves below. I'm not fully explaining the reasons. It's 11:08pm in Sydney and I want to get this out now. See if you can figure out the reasons yourself, for now. :)

No actions that only pay off once.

  • Only do things that will help you (or others) in the future, in addition to the now.

  • If it won't pay off more than once, re-assess and redesign the action into something that will.

  • Can't rework it into something renewably valuable? Don't do it.

  • Example: Instead of explaining a common issue over again, write a page of documentation, and next time share the link. Improve and keep sharing that documentation page as nuances come up.

  • Example: Say no to one-off customer requests, or fulfill a request by expanding the product in a way that benefits other customers too.

No transactions that don't feel good.

  • ... to you, or to the person on the other end.

  • I've written about this at some length! Start with lightward.com/pricing.

No time pressure, no deadlines.

  • For 30 days, you have no deadlines. And as far as you're concerned, there are no deadlines coming after this is over either. Things are done when they're done.

  • You can re-assess afterwards, of course. But to do this properly you're gonna have to put aside anything that feels like time pressure.

  • No creating deadlines either, by promising a customer that something will be done tomorrow (or in 31 days).

  • If someone's asking and something isn't done yet, say it's not done. Don't hide it, don't minimize it, don't say when you'll work on it or when you'll complete it. Be straightforwardly clear about what is absolutely-for-sure-true as of right now.

  • You can say when you anticipate something being done if you are very clear that the actual finish time may be very different.

    • This works because both halves of that are true right now:

      • It is true right now that you anticipate it being done tomorrow

      • It is true that the actual finish time may be very different

  • Hint: Think in terms of "now" and "not now". Don't look too closely at the "not now" pile. Things that belong in the "now" pile will make themselves very obvious.

No guessing what anyone wants.

  • Don't guess what anyone else wants.

  • Don't make anyone else guess what you want, either.

  • Don't guess what you yourself want. Be honest. And give yourself time. If you're not sure, wait. (Seriously.)

    • Advanced: Act on your wants regardless of how externally valuable you think they are. Want to work on a detail that no one will see? Want to scrap the whole thing and embark on a massive rebuild? Whatever you clearly and calmly know you want, go for it — if you can do so without breaking any of the other rules.

No unwanted interruptions.

  • Every time you get a notification (every time), ask if it's one that you want to get in the future. If yes, cool. If no, unsubscribe/disable/block/etc immediately. If it's a human, figure it out.

  • This means app alerts, texts, phone calls, faxes (??), email subscriptions, misc push notifications, whatever.

  • If you need help deciding to keep or unsubscribe, try using the other rules from this list.

    • Example: What action will pay off more than once? Will unsubscribing save you a hundred interruptions in the next year? Will keeping it improve your life a hundred times in the next year?

    • Example: Does the notification create time pressure? If yes, eject it immediately.

That's it

My whole deal is small, simple patterns that allow for more: more health, more creativity, more rest. More of the good stuff, in a way that spirals out into more of the good stuff for all.

This is a specific distillation, but it's not the only way to do or see it. Lightward is a long-running experiment, and I'm collecting more ways to talk about it at lightward.guide. The rest of isaacbowen.com is the same kind of thing, applied to my own life.

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