• Stephen Scott Johnson

Design your Minimum Viable Life (MVL)

As we approach week-three of life ‘in Iso’ Downunder, sh!t is getting real. Many of us are feeling the strain of lockdown and finding new ways to stay sane. So far, my experience comprises optimistic ‘flow-days’, where I get lots done and the sun seemingly shines out of everything, and ‘rest-days’, where my best effort is to binge-watch Netflix and eat chocolate. If you’re experiencing something similar, it’s important to remember there’s no judgment in either context. Importantly, this post isn’t a pep-talk, nor is it intended to whip you into a productivity frenzy. I hope it inspires you and brings some semblance of order to your lockdown experience, whatever that looks like for you.

Amidst all of the pain and suffering there have been lots of positive stories emerging on the Internet. People are digging deep and applying their own brand of “Iso hacks” to fight boredom, anxiety, frustration, loss of physical connection, and everything else that comes with mandatory lockdown. The good news is that maintaining a daily routine can transform this experience from one of despair, to one of courage and optimism with less fear, guilt, and loneliness. For many of us who are adapting to life ‘working from home’ it can overwhelm, since what was ‘normal’ a month ago now either no longer exists, or no longer resembles usual routine. What’s more, if you’re doing Iso with a tribe of people (partner, children, housemates, extended family, pets, etc.) with few boundaries and many distractions – creating order from home is like juggling chaos. In all of this, with gyms and yoga studios closed indefinitely, keeping one’s happy hormones at optimal levels is vital – after all, even running around the block isn’t as it used to be.

A recent conversation with my friend Paige got me thinking about what we need at an essential levelone’s ‘minimum viable life’ – so to speak, in order to successfully navigate Iso and emerge out the other side as healthy, resilient beings. Many of you will know of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs – a theory in psychology first proposed in the 1940’s that describes human motivations from the most basic needs to the most advanced. Beyond our physiological needs (food, water, shelter, warmth), and safety needs (security, stability, freedom from fear) – whilst we're in Iso, how can we ensure that our love and belonging, esteem, and self-actualisation needs are met, and stay grounded and inspired?

In 2017 some of you may recall that I adapted the ‘wheel of life’ model used in a variety of life-coaching contexts. The purpose was to reframe new year resolutions as short-term goals aka ‘sprints’. Last week, as I began creating my new working from home routine, I found myself referencing this model as a tool to identify my essential needs and commit to key areas of focus that ensure I stay connected with the people I love, retain my sanity, and be empowered to achieve my goals. The outcome of this experiment is the Minimum Viable Life (MVL) diagnostic – an Iso game designed to curate and prioritise the needs that are most important to you, and bring awareness to areas of potential for growth. My MVL revealed I have certain essential needs in abundance, and key areas in both personal and professional contexts that I need to access and up-skill for the first time. Notwithstanding, there are everyday activities I will need to adapt to maintain – my own version of “Iso hacks".


1. Download the Minimum Viable Life (MVL) template (PDF)

2. Describe your 90-day aspiration in the field provided (what you want to do/ learn/ improve/ achieve) whilst you’re in Iso

3. List 3 Catalysts – what fuels your aspiration (why is it important to you)?

4. Choose your 'My Top 3' focus areas for the next 90-days using the MVL categories

5. Think about what you really need in order to get through this isolation experience, then complete your MVL chart. Use the outer area to write what's most important to you in each category (there are 3 blank spaces in each category to write your essential needs). These might include getting outside daily (fresh air, walks, parks), exercise (virtual gym/yoga/fitness apps), wellbeing (grounding in nature, dancing, meditation, breath work), recreation (connect with family, partner, friends virtually), access financial support (stimulus packages, grants, jobseeker, etc.), reading and writing (start new book), up-skill (sign-up for an online course), setup workspace (organise team resources, create a white paper, etc.), cooking/baking (meal prep, share new recipes); virtual catchups (meals/drinks with friends), and so on.

6. Score each area by placing a dot using the 1-10 scale. If you’re just getting started on a particular activity, draw a dot between (1-3 CONNECT). If you’re already doing that activity but need to develop it, or do more of, place a dot in the slice between (4-6 GROW). If you have mastery in that area (you do it often or have in abundance), draw a dot in between (7-10 FLOW). Finally, join all the dots to create a radial snapshot of your needs and key areas of focus for the next 90-days.

7. If you’re feeling artistic colour-in and stick on your fridge. Take a photo and share with tag #minimumviablelifemovement.

8. In 30-days create a new chart and measure changes/progress.

Most importantly, have fun, and let me know how you go.

Until next time,

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