Balance Is Easier When You're Trying To Juggle Fewer Things
Really think of the balancing metaphor. Think in terms of carrying a number of things and having to carefully balance them in order to do so. There will always come a tipping point, when you have one item too many and the whole load ends on the ground. Yes, dealing with work and a personal life is like that.
Back in June, I addressed Shannon Hale's post on caregiving and writing. She has cut her life down to work and raising her kids. Only two things. There are, of course, multitudes of tasks within those two activities, but she is limiting where her time and energy goes to two major efforts.
Balance for all of us is easier to approach (notice I'm not using the word "achieve") if we consciously cut back on the number of things we're trying to balance. That could mean cutting back on professional projects as well as personal interests. There's been talk for years about housework not being a valuable use of time. But as a general rule accepting that we'll never have clean windows or a kitchen linoleum without holes (is that just me?) often doesn't begin to offset all the other things we need to do/balance. Therefore, we may have to assess how much we're really getting professionally from the writers' group we attend and let that go, as well as putting away the hobbies that have nothing to do with our work. We may not be able to justify the weekly author visit to a local school any more than we can justify the monthly hike with a local walking group.
Remember the old clutter advice about only buying something new if you throw something out? Trying for balance could mean only taking on a new project if we give another one up. If we want to volunteer with a writers' organization, maybe we'll have to sacrifice community volunteer work.
There really isn't much hope of achieving anything like balance if we keep trying to carry more and more activities. What's more, we can give a better effort in terms of time and energy when we have fewer things to work on.
Balancing activities in our lives is like managing time. We can't expect to come up with one way to balance things and be done with it for the rest of our lives, just as we can't expect to come up with a schedule that we can work with forever. Everything is situational. We have to rebalance everything in our lives depending on our ever changing life situation, just as we have to change our schedules when our lives change.
I'm not talking different balances during different life phases, as in we have one kind of balance while we're writing as single working people, another balance if we're writing and raising a family, another balance if we're writing, raising a family, and holding down a day job. I'm talking weekly, if not daily adjustments.
We have to keep juggling our tasks not just because all personal lives appear to exist in chaos but because our work situations are constantly changing, too. Sometimes we have to balance our creative work with reactive work--responding to inquiries for appearances or RFPs for conferences or submission deadlines. Sometimes we have to balance our creative work with marketing or research or study. We may be working on more than one creative project at a time and trying to balance that.
And then we have to factor in the personal chaos.
What we're talking about here is creating balance around situation instead of looking for a permanent, all-purpose solution. Situational balance means we are only able to create anything like balance by planning what's going to happen for the next month or the next week or even, sometimes, the next couple of days.
A Zenny Balance Scheme
There is a zenny aspect to the balance scheme I'm describing because it involves recognizing:
- the desire to keep adding more and more professional and personal tasks to our workload may not lead to true unhappiness but it certainly won't lead to balance;
- our situation at the present moment and planning to deal just with that.