Monday, July 27, 2009

Finding Balance

On July 1, Canada Day, my husband and I went golfing with friends. It was a perfect day. The sun shone, the sky was clear blue and cloudless, and the temperature was a perfect 23 C, about 75 F. As I soaked up sun, (don’t ask about my golf game. My putting sucks) I was very glad my husband and friends had decided on this outing.

I was glad because, left to my own devices, I probably would have spent the holiday holed up in my writing cave, pretty much the same way I have most days. It seems that lately everything I do is related to writing. I’m very aware of the effort and commitment writing and publishing entails. If you want to be successful, you write everyday or most days, no matter what is happening in your life. You do the work, no questions asked.

But maybe it’s time to think about putting some balance into my life. "It's not about 50/50 play/work," says Deborah Gilburg, a leadership development consultant in Holyoke, Mass. "It's really about figuring out how to be sustainable so you can keep your energy flowing, keep yourself healthy in the long term." To be balanced, happy people we need to make time for all kinds of activities, including work and play. How do you find balance between writing and the rest of your life?

If you suspect your work/life balance might be out of whack, try taking the following quiz from the Canadian Mental Health Association. Then follow the advice of Personal coach Laura Berman Fortgang in this article by Sherry Rauh, “5Tips for Better Work/Life Balance”. Fortgang says we should figure out what matters to us most by answering the following questions:

1. If my life could focus on one thing and one thing only, what would that be?
2. If I could add a second thing, what would that be?
3. A third?
4. A fourth?
5. A fifth?

Answering these questions should give you your top five priorities. Fortgang says a typical list might include some of the following:

· Children
· Spouse
· Satisfying career
· Community service
· Religion/spirituality
· Health
· Sports
· Art
· Hobbies
· Adventure/travel

So I thought about my top five priorities. What five things really mean the most to me? It was very difficult to narrow it down to only 5 priorities, but I managed to come up with this list:

- My spouse and my daughters
- My writing/having a satisfying career
- My health/exercise
- Hobbies, such as gardening, golf, reading
- Maintaining contact with friends/extended family

Now I need to find ways to implement my plans. The idea now is to do something every day/week/month to support my priorities. So, for instance I will try to go to the gym three times a week, and call or visit friends and family at least once a week. Perhaps my husband and I can have a “date night”, or play golf together. For writing, perhaps it means continued emphasis on being organized, or revving up my promotion activities. I can try different strategies for a while and decide what works and what doesn’t. And although I don’t have it listed here, one thing all the work/life websites I’ve read emphasize is making time for fun. Thomas J. Denham says in “Work Life Balance: Tips and Techniques”, even if you have to pencil it into your schedule, making time for fun and play is essential.

Creating priorities means that you are less likely to say yes to activities that don’t fall into your top five. For example, that might mean a busy mom might buy cookies for the school bake sale instead of taking the time to fire up the oven.

Do you make time for work and play in your life? What are your priorities? Do you believe that all work and no play means that your writing will suffer as a consequence?


Ban said...

Jana, this was a much needed post - I'm in a writing funk lately and part of me feels sitting in front of the computor (though I'm writing nothing) is needed to show I'm serious but I think it's like sleep ... if you're laying there and can't get to sleep you should try something different instead of just laying there thinking "I wish I could sleep" funny analogy as I've NEVER had trouble getting to sleep ;)
anyway, balance IS the key. love that greek saying 'everything in moderation'. the good thing is - I DO (though I could be more discerning) make time for other events in my day and now I don't feel so bad about turning the laptop off to read a book or play a video game with my husband and friends at night.
that said I still need to allow myself time to 'write' even if it's just thinking about writing !

Karyn Good said...

I'm not sure I'll ever achieve perfect balance but I am getting better at saying no to stuff, as opposed to somehow trying to fit in every opportunity that comes along, somewhere, somehow. It's when I try to achieve Wonder Woman status that I get into big trouble.

I do believe in having fun and making room for the things I enjoy doing. Right now writing is taking a backseat to a lot of other summer stuff. There is time to write, I'm just not making use of it but I'm working on achieving better balance.

Jana Richards said...

Hi ban,
Most of the stuff I read online about work/life balance was geared towards people working a 9-5 type job, not writers. Writing takes a lot of time, at least for me. You've simply got to put in the time to be successful. But you can't neglect the other aspects of your life while you're writing. I tend to neglect friends and forget to make time for fun when I'm busy. But that just makes me feel kind of cranky and lonely. I can't get so caught up with writing and work and chores that I forget to have fun. All work and no play makes Jana an unhappy girl!

Glad this post spoke to you.

Anita Mae Draper said...

I'm with Karen. The hardest part was recognizing that I will never be WonderWoman no matter what I do and the next hardest was realizing no one expected me to.

My top 5 Priorities:
1. My faith (me and God)
2. My family (hubby and 4 kids)
3. My writing (me and my laptop)
4. My extended and church families
5. My Leisure time

My leisure time is spent reading, (1 book every 3-4 days), blog surfing, working on my collections, exercising (am in the process of moving this one up to #5).

When we were kidless a couple weeks ago, I was all ready to write and hubby says, let's go grab a movie so I left off writing to spend quality time with him. And we're talking 3 hrs total travel time, movie, Pizza Hut, shopping, etc. It took 8 hrs out of my writing time but it was worth it.)

I like your list Jana. I notice you haven't listed housework, either. LOL

Jana Richards said...

Hi Karyn,
No, I don't think I'll ever find perfect balance either. But I have to be conscious of doing other things that I enjoy. Lately I've been trying to fit more reading into my life. Somehow I've let that slip. And next Monday on the holiday, my husband and I are going golfing with our friends. I plan to invite some other friends over for a barbecue soon, even if the house isn't perfect for company!

I know that superwoman complex. When I try to do everything, it only makes me exhausted. Remember that balance includes looking after ourselves, and treating ourselves well.

I'm sure your summer break will help you get fired up to write in the fall.

Good luck,

Silver James said...

Excellent post today, Jana! It's interesting how the various stages of life can affect that list of priorities. Five years ago, the family would have been the top three. Now that the DD is older, not doing sports, and planning a wedding. Family is still number one but I find the older I get, the more of a priority the things *I* want become. Maybe that makes me selfish but I put everybody else first for the majority of my life. My dreams are finally coming true (writing career) and luckily, my family recognizes how important that is to me so they are very supportive.

My spam word is a hoot: strayer LOL!

Jana Richards said...

Hi Anita,
No, housework is not on my list. Unfortunately, I still devote time to it. How'd that happen?

My oldest daughter was staying with us for about 3 weeks and it was great spending time with her since she lives in Toronto now. The four of us did some family stuff together, and we all went to a family reunion on my side of the family. Like you said, it took time away from writing but it was so worth it.

Exercise sucks Anita, but I make myself do it. My youngest daughter and I have been going to a Pilates class, which is good because we're doing it together. Helps to keep up the motivation to have a buddy, especially one that won't let you skip class.

All the best,

Jana Richards said...

Hi Silver,
No, I don't think it's selfish at all. I think we've earned it. This is our time to shine!

See you in the Garden!

Anita Mae Draper said...

Jana, I know what you mean about having a buddy for exercise class. I don't have a live one and it's hard to keep motivated. I do have an online one, which I'm very thankful for.

Since hubby has finished most of the renovations in our garage/rec centre, I've been able to set up my exercise equipment in one corner so I've been doing my pilates and rowing. It's not perfect yet though, because the floor is cement and my exercise mat is covered with these white chalk-like foot prints. Hubby even took a photo because he saw one where the individual toes showed up perfectly. LOL I'd love to put a big mat down on the area but for now I have to pick the exercise mats up every night while he's still working in there. I've been averaging 3 times a week with the program which I guess is better than nothing.

Jana Richards said...

Hi Anita,
If you've been exercising by yourself, I admire you for your tenacity. I've tried exercise tapes and I had an exercise bike, but after a while, I didn't use them. I find that unless I pay money for a gym membership or have a regular time for a class, I don't stick with the program. Dedicated to exercise I'm not!


Stacey Joy Netzel said...

I agree--skip the housework. :)

I was laid off about a month ago and I've been treating the writing like a job: M-F and then the weekends for more of the family/fun stuff. I still need to find a better balance, but it's working pretty good for now. I'm hoping it's easier when the kids are in school.

Mary Ricksen said...

Balance, what the heck is that?
I need to have the time and brains to think about that one. I usually just got through life doing what work needs to be done at the time I should do it. Factor in a husband. What time left is mine.(grin)
I wonder if I'm just to old a dog?
But women might do better to think about balance. Maybe I should make more time for me? As if that will ever happen.
Great post, it got me thinking.

Suse said...

Hi Jana, again another timely post for me. Thank you for the links. I just need to make the time to answer the questions in the articles. My top 5 list of priorities would be:
1. Family (husband & kids)
2. Writing (still working on the direction I want to take - I have too many interests, but I suppose if I took the time to think about it instead of floundering with what to write next, I would be happier and more focused.)
3. Reading - somehow that has fallen by the wayside, but I really do enjoy it.
4. Exercise - I was just asking my daughter about Curves last weekend. I told her I need to find a way to sweat that's not related to just standing in the heat.
5. Friends & Extended family

3, 4 & 5 may not necessarily be in the correct order but 1 & 2 are correct.

At work we have a couple of sayings that we try to remind ourselves of for self-care:

1. If it's not a definite "yes" then it's a "no."
2. Whatever happens just adds to the fun of the day.

My biggest issue is not putting writing in the #2 spot. I do have time to write, but I let it take a backseat to other things.

Jana Richards said...

Hi Stacey Joy,
Welcome to the Prairies! Thanks for joining us.

Sorry to hear you've been laid off, but I guess the silver lining is extra time to write, which is always great. Don't forget to leave some time for yourself, for self-care, for doing a few things you enjoy and for having some fun.

I hope you can join us again sometime.

Stacey Joy Netzel said...

Thanks so much, Jana. Yes, the silver lining is pretty bright in my case. I know it's not for everyone out there, but I am grateful for the opportunity to get some major writing done.

We've been spending lots of family time up by the grandparents by the lake cabin, too. Bonus!! :)

Jana Richards said...

Hi Mary,
Thanks for joining us on the Prairies. Welcome!

I have to admit I mostly act as you do, doing whatever needs doing when it needs doing. Sometimes that means not a lot of time left for me. But lately I've been thinking a lot more about what I want and need. I need to consciously think about doing things that make me happy. Honestly, I think that taking care of myself makes me a better person and maybe even a better writer.


Jana Richards said...

Hi Suse,
I don't always make writing #2 priority either. Sometimes life interferes, pushing writing down the list. But at least if I have a list I have a tangible reminder of what is important to me. I can work towards my priorites. It's a work in progress.


Kelley Heckart said...

Great post. I also find myself too involved in everything relating to writing and never getting out of my room. It helps me if I go away for a weekend with my husband. It clears my head and I come back refreshed.