Balance and How to Get Better at it (not just for writers)

I was listening to a Creative Penn Podcast on my walk today, and Joanna Penn was interviewing Dan Holloway, author, runner and teacher of how to be more creative (something I need work on – I’m going to buy his book, Creative Doing on the subject.)

But one thread of the fascinating conversation was about balance, and how to achieve it (another thing I need work on). He gave various examples and maybe because I was a CFO (corporate bean-counter) in my career, it appeared to me as a bar chart. Stick with me here – no math required.

I sat down and listed the priorities in my life at the moment. Think of the sum total being 100% of not only my time, but my effort and focus I put on each aspect.  Your chart may look very different from mine, but just try it. Start by listing the pieces of your life. Here’s my list (in no particular order:

Writing –ideation, planning as well as actual typing, and editing. Marketing and social media

Housekeeping – including shopping, cooking, cleaning, taking care of pets – including husband

Physical – working out, swimming, walking, kayaking, etc.

Hobbies – fishing, knitting, reading, motorcycling, travel, relaxation

Education – podcasts as well as writer retreats, conferences, reading, exploring things.

I then put percentages by each as they are in my life RIGHT NOW. Seems overwhelming, but it may help to prioritize them first, then assign a number to them.

40% Housekeeping

40% Writing

10% Hobbies

8% Physical

2% Education

Don’t make yourself too crazy about the numbers – just do it, then assess and reapportion.

Then I put them into graph form to be able to ‘see’ them better.


Okay, I’m a writer, not a chart-maker, but you get the idea.

So then I analyzed where my focus is. Clearly, housekeeping needs to go down. Not getting rid of the husband or the pets, but I could get a housecleaner. Honestly, that would free up probably 20% of the time I spend per week in that category. So where do I want to increase my focus? I’m happy with my writing time and hobbies. I think I’d split that time between my physical (I have a bad back and need to strengthen my core – then there’s always the weight issue) and education.

Once you analyze what categories you want to increase/decrease, you’re not done. You need to break down your categories and decide what to change. For example – for me, Physical has two aspects: weight loss and working out. I’m pretty good at the later, and stink at the former. But I’ve learned over the years that losing weight takes a lot of time and focus. Choosing menus, food prep, and especially focus.

Then you need a plan for how to make this happen. Because as you know, an idea without a plan is just a wish. You can work out how best to do that, but may I recommend small incremental changes.

This will take constant vigilance, and reassessment, but if you want control of the balance in your life, that’s what it takes!


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