Guest post by Kenneth Weene, PhD
As a married man, semi-retired and with no kids at home, I might seem an unlikely source for good advice to you, a single woman trying to run a business – and especially to those of you who are also moms. You may be among the busiest and most harried people on earth. You are also constantly being evaluated, observed and measured. Your every piece of clothing and accessory can be held against you. Your looks are constantly being judged. Men do have it easier.
So what do I have to offer you? A single word. Balance! I know that deadline is looming. I know that sale has to be made or that presentation given. I know the kid is sick and by the way needs some cupcakes or crudités for the school party. I know your home needs cleaning. I know, I know, I know.
Make a graph. Across the top list the important needs, demands, and wants in your life. Once you’ve made the list you may want to arrange it so it goes from most important to least. Don’t forget your relaxation and health. Without taking care of yourself, you won’t get very far for very long. Don’t forget your spiritual needs. Without your sense of serenity you can’t keep your focus clear. Exercise is on that list. Important in itself not just part of health, recreation, and appearance but in itself. Have you added long-term security? You have a future, and so do your kids. Socializing – within the family and with peers, is important. So is looking for a mate if you want one.
When you finish your list come back.
Now let me guess you forgot one very important item – thinking. We often forget that just spending time in thought, rehashing our ideas and trying to expand them is important. (Part of that thinking time is usually spent reading. Matter of fact, you’re doing that now. But the reading should be about personal growth. Education and professional development are important but they are their own separate entries in the graph; the thinking entry is for something more personal.)
Now add one other column, waste. That will become useful later in this exercise.
OK, you’ve got the horizontal axis of your graph done. Time to go to the other axis.
This is what you spend your time doing, the activities of your life. I suggest that you list these according to the amount of time and effort you expend in each. It is helpful if the size of the entries varies according to the time and effort expended. If, for example, you spend eight to ten hours a day at your desk working that is likely to be way at the top of the list and perhaps an inch down before you draw a line to enter the next item. (The one exception to this organizational plan is sleep, which usually is at the bottom.)
Try to remember all your activities and indicate their time frame. Don’t be afraid to subdivide your activities; that often helps us to see our priorities. For example, if you divide getting dressed into putting on clothes and grooming and makeup, you may end up wondering why one is so much more important to you than the other. If you divide child time into making meals and checking homework and playing games, you may recognize that you have made prioritizing decisions without thought. (You get the idea)
There may be a few activities that you want to add at the bottom with just a straight line, those are the things you wish you were doing but haven’t taken the time for.
Now for the big task: Go through each box in your graph and indicate how each activity serves each of your priorities. You can divide each line percentage-wise. For example, if your top time use is work, it certainly contributes to income needs, hopefully to long-term security, possibly to socializing, etc. This is primarily a judgment call; try to be honest how your efforts really serve you. Remember to be honest with yourself and include the waste time. If one of your activities is using the computer and you play a lot of solitaire, that may be recreational, but it is more likely waste.
Once you have completed that matrix, once you have written down what you need and what you are doing, take a good long look. Is it in balance? Does the allocation work out? For most of us, it doesn’t. We get our lives skewed. If your matrix isn’t balanced (and remember it is yours and yours alone), you need to start rethinking.
When I was a kid and learning to ride a bicycle, I learned that the faster I went the less likely I was to fall. But that isn’t how life works. We need to find the center of our own gravity and keep the balance in our own lives.
Ken is also a poet and fiction writer. His poetry has appeared in numerous publications – most recently featured in Sol and publication in Spirits, and Vox Poetica. An anthology of Ken’s writings, Songs for my Father, was published by Inkwell Productions in 2002. His short stories have appeared in many places, including Legendary, Sex and Murder Magazine, The New Flesh Magazine, and The Santa Fe Literary Review. In 2009 Ken’s novel, Widow’s Walk, was published and in 2010 a second novel, Memoirs From the Asylum, both by All Things That Matter Press.
To learn more about Ken’s writing visit:
To learn about Memoirs From the Asylum visit