Finding balance

I apologize for the no-show from Agency Lessons this week. I had a post scheduled (or so I thought), but apparently didn't hit the publish button. Whoops! That's what happens when I'm trying to do too many things at once.

Which is what several of you said last week when I mentioned the need to have balance in your marketing efforts. Ah, balance. This mythical state of being in which we are able to accomplish everything we need to get done without losing our minds.


Jonathan Maberry recently shared his method in a speech I attended. During the day he spends 50 minutes of each hour writing and 10 minutes checking email, social media and other marketing/platform activities.

This is a great method, but I think it leaves out a few crucial details.

The first is that it doesn't address all the platform/marketing activities that can't be done in ten minute increments. If you only plan a blog tour in a few ten-minute increments a day, you should be ready to launch in a year or two. That's probably not going to work. The second missing piece of information is balancing life outside of being an author. We all have obligations that have nothing to do with finishing a draft or writing press releases. Things like our families, our health/fitness, and adequate sleep.

How do we find balance for all these priorities?

Salary.com proposes these 14 steps to achieving work life balance. I didn't get past the title. The idea that someone who is swamped with obligations and overworked has time for 14 steps of anything is ridiculous.

I am not even close to an expert in this area and I fail more than I succeed, but here are three tips I'd like to offer.

1. Accept that you will never be done.
You might finish a book, but you're not done writing. You can wrap up a book launch, but you're not done marketing. You can clean your house from top to bottom, but unless you move out it will need cleaning again tomorrow.

Learn to be okay with the fact that you will never have a moment where you sit down and there isn't a single thing you need to do. That doesn't mean you don't sit down. It means you sit and spend some time not worrying about the never ending to do list. No matter how long you work at it, it'll never really be done.

2. Your health is a linchpin in all of your productivity.
If you work yourself to the point of exhaustion, eat poorly or never leave your chair, your body is going to suffer. And when your body suffers so will your productivity. Don't forget that you need to take time to eat more than coffee during the day and a walk around the block can be a good thing.

And good health isn't limited to physical needs. Stress is a creativity killer. I promise if you take a single day to unplug and step away from your computer the world will not end. If you can't force yourself to give up a whole day, then set aside a no-contact period each week. Pick several hours one day a week that is reserved for activities that will help you manage your mental health. You can take up yoga, read a book or just take a relaxing bath. It doesn't matter what it is so long as it doesn't involve solving plot bunnies or replying to email.

3. Not everything is on fire.
At times when I get behind, it's easy to start seeing every pending task as a five alarm blaze needing my immediate attention. When productivity is down, the perceived priority of my work tends to go up. But the reality is the priority didn't change. Only my perspective.

When this happens (and let's just all admit that some days we wake up and realize that we have got to step it up) you've got to be realistic with your prioritization. Triage your work load and spend your energy on the tasks that are most crucial. That may mean disappointing others who are counting on you for tasks that are lower priority. It happens. Communicate your priorities early and often to avoid hurt feelings or a tarnished reputation.

Finding the balance between being an author, marketer, spouse, parent & regular human can be a challenge. In fact, I think it's a bit of a myth that we'll ever feel completely balanced across all our roles and responsibilities. So cut yourself some slack and try not to sweat the small stuff. After all, we're only human.

Your turn. What are your tips for finding balance in your life?