Today’s guest blog about work/life balance is from Pam Ripling—lighthouse aficionado and cross-genre author.
When I first saw the title of L.J.’s wonderful blog, “Write First, Clean Later,” I had to laugh. It’s a laudable mantra, not only for authors but for anyone who works out of their home. I’ve had a home business for 18 years, and I had to learn that work—be it writing a novel or balancing a client’s bank statement—had to take precedence over home maintenance. It was tempting, at first, to listen for the washing machine to stop spinning; to “pick up” an abandoned shoe, a coffee cup, a forgotten toy. Success at working independently depends on keeping work and home life separate. And that’s the first step in finding time for yourself.
I mention this because I hear it so much from friends and acquaintances. “I’m so busy, I never have any time. I go from task to task, racing around all day, barely leaving time to brush my teeth before I collapse into bed.” Sound like anyone you know?
Nothing I have to say is particularly groundbreaking or miraculously enlightening. We do need reminding, however, that we are in control of our time. I like to drag out the old paper plate technique for determining… What Are You DOING? The paper plate is nothing more than a hands-on pie chart. You take a marker, and draw pieces of that pie to figure out where you are spending your time. One pie should equate to 24 hours, right? Start with how long you sleep. Be honest. Are you stumbling into the sack at midnight, rising at 6 a.m.? Okay, six hours on your paper plate will look like 1/4th of that pie. Not a lot, is it?
Think about those other areas of your life that are most easily defined. Working at an outside job; taxiing family members on a regular basis; weekly shopping; preparing meals; eating; doing laundry. Do you have other obligations? Classes, church or other spiritual meetings? Volunteer work? Do your best to estimate and draw more lines on your pie. If you’re like me, you might find that you have not filled up that whole paper plate. Where, then, do the additional minutes and hours go? Aha! There’s the rub.
Here’s an exercise that might help. You will need a tablet, pen and a timer. Once you’ve started your daily routine, set the timer once each hour for…one hour. When the timer goes off, grab your pen and jot down what you’ve done for the past hour. You might be surprised at the number of minutes you spend at non-productive, non-relaxing activities. Internet surfing, talking on the telephone, reading other peoples’ blogs (☺) are all time stealers.
When I was writing POINT SURRENDER, I regularly cleared my calendar for quality writing time. I steeled myself against opening my browser or my email program. I found I could be much more productive when I consciously orchestrated my time.
Discovering where your time goes is essential to making room for those things that you long to do but can’t. I suggest starting a second pie chart, filled out the way you’d like your day to be. Start with 7 or 8 hours of sleep, by the way. Then schedule yourself some me time—make an appointment with yourself that you refuse to break. Whether it’s for an hour to read a good book, get a pedicure or take a class in hula dancing, you must nurture yourself periodically and regularly to stay healthy, creative and sane!
What do you do to keep the work/life balance under control? Share your sanity tips! (L.J. really could use some.)