In my previous post on this subject, I suggested we relax our hold on the myth that we can achieve a perfect balance between work & personal life, online & offline, etc. This philosophical musing was inspired by the following question from a friend during an email conversation about Twitter:
How the hell do you balance your workload at your design firm, constant tweeting, blogging, a personal life…..and all the multitude of other things you clearly have managed to balance? I’m desperately trying to balance all of my work, personal, and web-based endeavours, and I’m not sure I’m really getting it all in balance just yet, so I’m curious!
Such a deeply flattering question, and yet so staggering to me when I read it. After all, I felt it must be obvious to everyone that I’m lagging terribly behind on my blogging, twittering, and so on. But then I stopped to re-assess, and thought that perhaps, in addition to my “stop comparing yourself to others” advice, I could offer some practical advice on the subject of juggling all my various commitments. I’m going to focus fairly heavily on the tech stuff, because a) that’s what I do for a living so a lot of people ask my advice on it, and b) I hear a lot of people telling me that the input they get from technology is the focal point of their overwhelm.
So here’s what works for me:
- I have stripped down my email subscriptions in a huge way. (I wrote a post about this last year.) I can only take so much input before my output suffers. I don’t want to spend all my time reading when I could be writing or working on my business.
- I try and keep my Twitter follows under control (though I’m not awesome at this — there are just so many interesting people to follow!). And I use Tweetdeck to organize them. Tweetdeck was a real game-changer for me with Twitter because I can hive off the lists of people whose tweets I find interesting, but I won’t lose sleep if I miss a few. Not only that, but my columns are thematically linked (e.g. designers in one column, funny people in another) so that I can parse the content more efficiently. (For more on grouping your Twitter contacts effectively, check out Alexandra Samuel’s take, which was the siren song that lured me back to Tweetdeck after an initial “meh” response.)
- I have an iPhone and I use it constantly. I use it for Facebook, Tweetdeck/Twitter, my personal email, calendaring, to-do lists, and fun stuff too. I check Twitter & Facebook when I’m on the bus, waiting for a sandwich, in line at the bank, and so on — and all those little bits of time add up to plenty for monitoring social media if it’s not your full-time occupation.
- I don’t check work email outside of work hours. That includes weekends. The only exception is when I know a client’s site is undergoing problems. It helps that I don’t have it hooked up to my iPhone, and I keep my personal email totally separate.
- I have a business partner and staff who help me get my work done. This is huge, and I really want to emphasize what an impact it has. Nobody does anything alone, no matter how many people like to describe themselves as “self-made” men or women. I have a lot of help. (It’s probably also worth mentioning that I don’t have kids. No way I could do this much stuff if I was parenting as well — at least, not without even more help than I have already.)
- And as I mentioned in my last point, I have a system for setting goals. It’s pretty basic. I like to-do lists. I like ‘em big & ambitious (like those life lists that everybody’s making these days, though I don’t have one of those per se), and small & detailed (like the one I use every single day to manage my work). I keep a work to-do list and a personal one. I try and make sure they are reviewed regularly so that they are both achievable and reflective of my big-picture priorities.
That’s it. No great magic bullet. But it’s working pretty well, all things considered. I’m glad at least one person thinks I’m managing to achieve balance, funny as I find that.
I’d love to hear if any of this stuff is helpful, or if you have suggestions of your own. If nothing else, please share your thoughts on what makes your life feel balanced — or unbalanced, for that matter.
Oh, and for those of you who haven’t joined us on Facebook, I’d encourage you to get over there if you’re interested — we’ve been having some great discussions of late!