I love the 80/20 rule. The idea is that I get 80 percent of my results from 20 percent of my efforts. This mantra has held true for me in my work, in my writing, and in my relationships. The hard part is figuring out where to focus that key 20 percent so that it really pays off. But once I find that key, I get the results I want. Don’t think I’m bragging — I experiment, flounder, and fail in many other parts of each activity. But I can still count on 80 percent of the results I need so long as I focus on that key 20 percent of my total effort.

In this post I want to tell you where I focus the key 20 percent of my efforts in managing my type 1 diabetes. It’s made up of three things that I think could help others with type 1 as well, including kids (and the parents caring for their diabetes).

  1. Getting bedtime right.

Life is (and should be) unpredictable. This makes perfect blood sugar really hard to achieve during the two thirds of my life that I’m awake. Sleep, on the other hand, is predictable. No emergency meetings. No variations due to emotions. No unforeseen exercise or snacks. This makes even blood sugar levels much easier to maintain during the one third of life in which I’m not doing anything (i.e., overnight).

My problem used to be that my willpower was exhausted by bedtime, so I’d scarf whatever snack I could find, if anything, and pass out. Over the years I’ve learned that choosing one reliable and easy snack, correcting carefully before bed, and ensuring I get nine hours of sleep with in-range blood sugar pays off in a big way for very little effort. It’s boring. It’s small. But it works wonders. Imagine it — in-range blood sugar for one third of my life in exchange for a few minutes of now-mindless effort in my bedtime routine each night.

  1. Joking around like my life depends on it.

Little procedural pieces of advice like the one I wrote above always feel a little flat to me. I made it sound too easy, didn’t I? In reality there are complex emotional reasons why I resist letting type 1 put me in a routine like the bedtime routine I’ve described. I want to be spontaneous! I want to be free like everyone else! For me, the emotional baggage around not taking my own advice came from not feeling understood because of my type 1 diabetes. I resented my diabetes for this, of course, so to strike back at it I refused to do simple things like check my blood sugar in public or adopt a sensible bedtime routine. I only started feeling more at peace when I started joking around about type 1:

“Is it contagious?”
“Only if I don’t like you.”

“What are you injecting?”
“Compressed water; it keeps me hydrated.”

“Is that thing connected to you?”
“Yeah, it’s extra bass for my music.”

I felt more at peace not because I was being sarcastic, but because my joking around made others feel comfortable really talking to me about type 1. It seems that my jokes made them feel that I was comfortable and in control, and that I wasn’t about to break down emotionally or have a seizure on them. So, after my jokes, they’d squint at me for a moment and say, “What is it really?” And, just like that, I could tell them honestly, and I didn’t feel so alone.

  1. Playing.

There are professional athletes in almost every sport with type 1 diabetes. How can type 1 be a medical and physical condition that needs a cure when some of the fittest and most physically able people in the world have type 1? I have two answers. One is that type 1 diabetes makes you stronger. The second is that exercise makes type 1 diabetes manageable, in every way. Exercise calms me, it helps stabilize my blood sugar, it motivates me to eat healthier so I’m not full while playing, it makes me happy, it trains me to be steadfast in the face of adversity. Exercise doesn’t have to be torture. We’re all mammals, and even very serious and important mammals like us thrive when they’re playful. Everyone has it in their power to find an active pursuit they love and make a habit of it, and if they’re like me, it will make 80 percent of their life — and their life with type 1 diabetes — brighter.

In short, my opinion is that the good life with type 1 diabetes is well rested, humorous, and active. I never want to underrepresent the difficulties of type 1, but investing in these three enjoyable priorities provides me with a four-fold return on my 20 percent investment. I receive joy to generate resilience when things get rough. And when things go well, I receive the happy endorphins that keep me enjoying checking blood sugar in public and cracking jokes as I do.

For more insights into living well after a new diagnosis with type 1 diabetes, including videos, “Chalk Talks,” and more, visit WelcomeToType1.com.

Disclaimer: The experiences and suggestions recounted in these articles are not intended as medical advice, and they are not necessarily the “typical” experiences of families with a child who has type 1 diabetes. These situations are unique to the families depicted. Families should check with their healthcare professionals regarding the treatment of type 1 diabetes and the frequency of blood glucose monitoring.

Related topics:
If It IS Broken, Fix It!
5 Things You Can Do Today to Reverse a Diabetes Tailspin
In the Spotlight: The Problem With Diabetes Perfectionism

See all seasonal topics >