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Work-Life Balance? Life-Work Balance? How About Life-Life Balance?


I’ve been getting a little “weirded out” lately.  In the last few days, everywhere I’ve looked, I’ve seen the word “balance.” 

It seems like there’s just been one example after another of people talking about balance.  Heck, I even heard the term “life-work balance” on the radio this morning in an ad for a staffing company!  I thought it would make sense for me to take a look at what I’m doing to stay balanced in this incredibly busy time of life.  Maybe you all would be interested in sharing some of your suggestions, too.

  We often think of balance in terms of placing two items on a scale and making them even; but for me, it’s much more about how a number of different pieces can relate to each other and make me feel fulfilled.  Sometimes there’s a little more focus on family, sometimes there’s a little more on work, and sometimes it’s all about taking a sick cat to the vet.

I’ve been fortunate so far in our short freelancing career, because I don’t have to balance my job and my children.  At this point, my interaction with my progeny is limited to feeling her kick when I put my laptop on my stomach and having to take frequent bathroom breaks!  Still, there are plenty of areas of my life that need to be balanced out.

  It’s common sense that starting a business is going to take up a heck of a lot of time.  Even when I’m not at the computer writing or editing for a client, I’m usually planning out strategy, making mental notes, and generally thinking about working.  Fortune smiles upon me, though, as I can intersperse these mental gymnastics with things like washing the dishes and cleaning the toilet. 

Hm.  That doesn’t sound so fortunate all of a sudden.

Basically, my current balancing act involves the freelancing business, my home, my health, and my other projects.  These things don’t just all get taken care of on their own, either.  I am a huge fan of tools like to-do lists and daily schedules.  Before I go to bed at night, I will often take a look at my to-do list and estimate about how long I think each item will take.  I then transfer that over to a daily schedule that is broken into increments no smaller than half an hour.  If I have a few emails to send, and each will take about five minutes, I group them together and schedule half an hour to get them all done, for example.

I guess that in that ongoing quest for the balance we’re talking about, I schedule in pretty much everything.  I schedule breakfast and lunch.  I schedule when I’m going to take my morning shower.  I schedule cleaning the living room.  By the time my list is done, I’ve generally managed to get in a little housework, a little work work, and sometimes even a little fun.  I’ve even been known to schedule things like reading time and hobby time.

So, now I’m curious as to how you folks are able to balance yourselves out.  We’d love to hear about it in the comments, or you can even write your own post at your blog and let us know with a trackback. Being the consummate list maker that I am, I can’t wait to compile your suggestions.

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    On September 13th, 2007 at 2:47 pm, Melissa Garrett said:

    LOL! I am glad I am not the only one to have, what I call, “The Master Schedule.” I just wrote a post about it on my site a few days ago - scheduling in everything (a load of laundry, even) is the only way I get anything done. With three kids and a fledgling business, it’s what keeps me sane!

    On September 13th, 2007 at 4:59 pm, Katie said:

    I’m also a big fan of the to-do list, particularly because I get great satisfaction in crossing things off!

    No matter how much I -think- I will remember everything I have to od, I don’t and writing it all down is a huge help.

    On September 13th, 2007 at 6:56 pm, Sharyn Essman said:

    In addition to scheduling, I’ve found that tidiness and physical organization are hugely helpful — or at least would be helpful if I could implement them reliably. Some steps can be easily taken however; every small electronic device I own is brightly colored, to give me at least a fighting chance when it comes to finding them. In addition, I discovered a cordless telephone headset from Hello Direct that is so good I can make it all the way to my mailbox without losing a connection, and so completely hands free that I can cook, change diapers, put away groceries, sweep, even discipline, while I’m on the phone. Of course, I do have to mute it when disciplining…

    On September 13th, 2007 at 7:54 pm, lornadoone said:

    Melissa - I totally put “laundry” on my to-do lists. It’s usually added with something else so that at the beginning of that time period, I run down and put in a load or switch them around or bring a load up or whatever! It really only takes three or four minutes, so if I put “laundry” on with four other items during the day, I’m sure to get at least two full loads done.

    Katie - I’ve been known to write “make a list” at the top of my to-do list so that once I’ve written it, I have something to cross off immediately. :-D

    Sharyn - Having a tidy environment is such a help to me. Unfortunately, it is really hard to keep on top of it. When things are all organized, though, I feel so much better and more productive. Your other suggestions are great, too!

    On September 14th, 2007 at 8:45 am, Julie Lenzer Kirk said:

    In my recently published book, “The ParentPreneur Edge: What Parenting Teaches About Building a Successful Business” (Wiley), I think I use the exact same words as you do in talking about balance NOT being like a scale. In fact, I go as far as to call it “The ‘B’ Word” because it seems to get us all in trouble trying to obtain it. In my experience, balance is something that you have to look at OVER TIME. Something sustainable. If you keep stressing over each and every day to balance in and of itself, you’ll go crazy! As you said, some days are all about NON-WORK items. Let that be and don’t stress or feel guilty about it, just make up for it later.

    I own my own business which is home based at the moment and one way I separate from work to family is to do a brain dump before I leave my office. Write down everything work-related that is in my head (sometimes it is quick, other times not-so-much-so). I allow myself to add to the ‘dump’ once I am out of my office, but I just dump and go and continue on with whatever family activity I was engaged in.

    On September 14th, 2007 at 10:02 am, Karen Skidmore said:

    I hate the word balance :) How can you balance everything when you are constantly on the move. To have everything in balance you have to be static and if you are a mum, we all know that is one state that we are never in (unless it is comatose on the couch with a bottle of wine!)

    I am a big planner and goal setter. I use big white boards in my home office which are filled up with scribbles and “to-do”s. Somehow, writing them down makes me do them - as long as they are allocated a day for me to do them in.

    On September 14th, 2007 at 12:30 pm, lornadoone said:

    Julie - Tamara and I are talking about doing book reviews here on the blog, and yours sounds perfect. I’ll have to find a copy. I’m guessing I could learn a thing or two about working from home. Also, the “brain dump” idea sounds like Doug Hall in Jumpstart Your Brain,, which is one of my favorite books.

    Karen - I love whiteboards, although I admit to not owning one. Since my office is now becoming the nursery, I have the computer set up in the living room. It’s not the most convenient (although isn’t as bad as a I thought), but a whiteboard just wouldn’t go with my living room motif. ;-)

    On September 14th, 2007 at 3:37 pm, Derek said:

    Lorna, very nice article! As you know, I’ve been saying a few thing about balance lately and find that the to-do list is a great assistance to keeping things in check.

    As a matter of fact, my list from Wednesday had laundry on there. And it took me 5 minutes to fold one load of laundry, as I remember checking the clock as I started.

    Karen, you are right that the word balance as it applies to work/life is a little bit of a misnomer. Rarely, if ever, will everything be in perfect balance.

    Rather than look at the word balance in terms of equality, I like to think of it like the balance on a bill. This means there is something left on the other side of the equation that needs attention.

    On September 16th, 2007 at 9:10 pm, Daisy said:

    Sometimes balance looks more like juggling in my life. My to-do list includes that which I might forget, but not the everyday.

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