Balance is one of the most difficult things in my life. Between my husband, my kids, my dreams, my friends, my extended family, and life’s basic demands; it is hard to figure out how to get it all done. I often find myself on the edge of the wall wondering if I am destined to plummet to my death. I feel like all it would take is one more push.

As I just passed the 25,000 word mark in the first 12 weeks of writing my first novel (while dealing with three kids during summer break), I have had several people ask me where I find the time.

I have learned a few things that have helped me with organizing all my to-dos, but note that I did not say this fixed the imbalance issue… it simply helps me see when the imbalance needs more attention. You might say these things are the rope that I keep tied to my ball to keep me from rolling over and cracking my skull on the cement below.

1. Define your priorities. Write down the things that are really important to you and your family. Don’t just jot down the first items that come to mind, really think about them. Do your priorities mesh with your spouse’s? If you are trying to go two different directions, you need to talk about it. Even if you are single, you need to define your priorities so you can use them as a reminder to say “heck no” when what you are being asked conflicts with what you are after.

Photo by capgros on stock xchng

2. Balance your checkbook. This may seem silly, but realistically a lot of people don’t balance their checkbook any more. When everything is automated and paperless, no one knows (or cares really) where the money has gone. They just know there isn’t any more and then they gripe about their boss, the President, the economy, or their stupid spouse who must be overspending. The truth is that where we are spending our money reveals a lot about our current priorities. Perhaps golfing, cable, restaurants, or pedicures claim a higher percentage of your funds than they should be entitled to based on your priority list. How will you ever know if you do not add up the expense? Balance your checkbook and then establish a budget you can stick with that aligns with your priorities.

3. Check your calendar. Much like your checkbook, your calendar should reflect your priorities too. How many of the things you spend your time on are absolutely pointless? When, for example, was the last time a TV soap opera positively impacted your life? Sure we all need “down” time, and we all have some things we feel obligated to do, but when those items start eating up too much time, it is time to flip off the TV, log off of Facebook, or say no to that “little” volunteer request. (It REALLY is ok to say no.)

3. Set up (and stick with!) a to-do list. I keep a very long to-do list on a tablet. I then set up myself with 10 to 15 chores for the day that align with my priorities. Laundry aligns with my priority of family, writing a blog post aligns with my priority of my pending career, and hitting the treadmill aligns with my priority to maintain my weight loss and health. Keeping my to-do list manageable makes me feel accomplished by the end of the day. And keeping a running list means that I am giving myself permission to stick with today’s to-do list because I know that I am now accountable for doing the new chore tomorrow. If I don’t write it down, I will inevitably get sidetracked and either do it NOW or not at all. Either is equally as regrettable in the long run.

4. Allow room for change. If I am consistently doing the items above, I am not quite as stressed when a child gets sick, or company comes for a visit, or if there is some other unplanned-for event. The money needed to buy a new refrigerator is there because I have not spent it at Starbucks, and I am caught up enough on laundry, cleaning, and writing that I can take a breather while my in-laws are in town. If I have neglected any of the items above, however, I am destined for a straight-jacket.

I know that this simple strategy will not work for everyone, but it is working well for my anal, list-making self. Hopefully it will be a starting point for you as well.