Taming the Pushmi-Pullyu: Finding Balance Amidst Competing Demands

Taming the Pushmi-Pullyu: Finding Balance Amidst Competing Demands

In the classic children's book "The Story of Doctor Dolittle" by Hugh Lofting, there is a fantastical creature called the Pushmi-Pullyu. This remarkable beast has two identical heads at opposite ends of its body. No matter which direction one head wants to travel, the other head inevitably wants to go the opposite way, leading to a constant tug-of-war and an inability to get anywhere.


As a woman today trying to show up in my family and life, I find that this fanciful creature is all too much a part of my daily life!


The image of a Pushmi-Pullyu serves as a vivid metaphor for the competing demands that so often pull us in different directions in modern life. We are continually torn between various obligations, responsibilities, desires, and distractions that vie for our limited time and focus. Just as one head of the Pushmi-Pullyu is always at odds with the other, the demands on our attention frequently seem to be in perpetual conflict.


Whether it's juggling work deadlines with family needs, maintaining an exercise routine while binge-watching the latest TV series, or wanting to save money while also indulging in impulsive purchases, we are habitually stretched taut by competing motivations. This constant struggle to choose where to direct our energy and presence can leave us feeling frantic, scattered, and unable to progress in any specific direction.


Pushmi-Pullyu imagery reminds us that trying to split our concentration between too many competing priorities simultaneously will inevitably leave us unclear of intentions, stuck in place, or in a state of tension and paralysis. Staying centered on your deepest personal values, getting clarity on tradeoffs, boundaries, and priorities, having dialogues with stakeholders, and creatively exploring various solutions can help determine the best paths forward when balancing competing demands. Test out changes, get help from role models, and practice self-compassion. With time and iteration, you can find an arrangement that allows you to meet your most critical needs.


So, how do we manage this creature who daily starts a tug-of-war for our time, energy, and attention? Here are some effective ways of approaching decisions about your demands:


Reflect on your values and priorities. What matters most to you? What aligns with your short and long-term goals? Get clear on the things matter to you and know what you are unwilling to compromise on.


Make self-care non-negotiable. Carving out time to nourish your physical, mental, and emotional health will give you strength and resilience.


Map out all of the demands and their trade-offs. Make a list of what you stand to gain and lose with each option. Recognize where there are mutual exclusivities.


Have open conversations with those in your circle of influence. Talk with family, partners, colleagues about needs and expectations. See if creative solutions can open up some compatibility.


Consider scaling back certain areas. Do you really need to maintain the same level of commitment? Can some areas be reduced, deferred, or delegated?


Identify appropriate boundaries and stick to them. Learn to say no where reasonable and stand firm. Protect time and energy for your highest priorities.


See if you can integrate or combine areas of demands. Could you fulfill multiple roles simultaneously? Or in the same location/trip? Look for efficiency.


Ask others how they have balanced similar demands. Get advice from role models who have made it work. Adapt solutions to fit your situation.


Start with small, reversible decisions. You don't necessarily need permanent solutions right away. Test changes and continue iterating.


Accept that imbalance may be temporary or necessary. During intense life seasons, full equilibrium across all areas may not be realistic. Do your best for this phase.


As much as possible, work to reduce the scope of demands and add more resources/support. Did someone say deligate? Pursue ways to make obligations less intensive where feasible.


Looking to tame your Pushmi-Pullyu? I offer a monthly Time Grip Mastermind that addresses competing demands to help you better understand your productivity without gimmicks and hacks. Join my list for notifications on the next offer HERE or jot a note in my contact form below.. Join my list to get notifications on the next offer HERE or send me a note in my contact form below. 


DeShawn Wert teaches intelligent, motivated professionals how to get stuff done so they CAN relax and enjoy the fruits of their labor! Let's explore how you do your best work together. An Ericson-trained life coach and JTS Coaching-trained ADHD coach, DeShawn is a member of good standing in the ADHD Coaches Organization. She's contributed to several books on living with ADHD, including Dr. Dale Archer's book, The ADHD Advantage, and Laurie Dupar's series called More Ways to Succeed with ADHD.






Contact DeShawn Now-Set Up a Time to Talk


You know what I find fascinating? It's our differences


~ especially those of us who can be a little off-center trying to function and find fulfillment in the mainstream world. This world values efficiency and productivity, which can require productivity techniques and hacks that some of us find 

too mundane and soul-crushing, if not impossible to follow.


For me, I've found I can't follow mainstream productivity tools and hacks. I've had to learn to drive my brain, use its quirks and creativity to feel seen, make contributions to the world, and enjoy both work and home.


I like working with smart people who are ready to dump conventional productivity techniques to learn their true personal productivity by understanding how to drive their brains and discover their unique strengths to redesign their days with systems that complement them.


Let's start exploring together!