BLOG_2021_01_21 Finding the Balance of Competing Devotions

Finding the Balance of Competing Devotions

21 JAN 2021

Today, many women find themselves torn: “How do I take the time to work on my business (or career) while still wanting to take care of my family?”

Some are even struggling to be the care givers to older parents while still raising their own children causing them to do “double duty”. The pandemic is magnifying these family demands for most as well. Unfortunately, research has shown in two parent households, the vast majority of the household and family needs are still left to the woman. As a result, women are left exhausted with feelings of frustration and resentment or worse, guilt and shame. 

Consequently, the ultimate question these days may not be “What is the meaning of life?”, but simply, “Where do I find the time?”

Between our work and personal lives (family, friends, exercise, sports, hobbies, community commitments), most of us have seriously overbooked ourselves, even in the pandemic. We are struggling to juggle our schedules. We strive so hard to “have it all”—build a fantastic business (career), while being passionate about our home lives we work hard to nurture. And to add to our schedules, there are other interests that help us to be “whole” and “well rounded” and maybe even “sane”!  

But with so many competing devotions, so many passions we must feed, we most often find ourselves just plain pooped. The stress can lead to health problems, poor sleep and fatigue, which means we get even less done (or take less pleasure in what we do accomplish). Ultimately, frustration mounts, our relationships suffer, and we wonder what went wrong.  We wonder, “Is that all there is?” 

To break out of the out-of-balance cycle and achieve better balance between our competing devotions, consider some of the following techniques, from the spiritual to the practical.

Know Your Priorities

The near universal advice for creating life balance is to start with some process of getting in touch with your priorities, which reflect your values. What are you about? What is really important to you? Without some sense of these priorities as an anchor, it is almost impossibly difficult to battle the buffeting of daily life that fractures your time. 

Note too, your priorities may change over time and that’s perfectly okay. What was once a top priority may be moved to a lower priority when circumstances change. When this happens, take time out to reassess to make the needed adaptation in your schedule.

Take Care of Yourself

This is not a tribute to the “me generation,” but a simple reality. Your ability to devote time and energy to the rest of your life ultimately depends upon your inner resources. A common trap is to feel selfish or guilty about taking time for yourself—to exercise, relax, enjoy a hobby, cook a special meal and, of course, to get enough sleep. So to avoid that feeling, we often place those activities lower in priority than taking care of the other obligations of our lives. But the low priority items often don’t happen and we end up feeling somewhere on the spectrum between self-righteousness and martyrdom. Either way, we aren’t taking care of ourselves. Worse, these negative feelings can build up and explode later on, possibly causing the relationships within the family to fracture.  There’s a good reason we “put our oxygen mask on first”!

Schedule Creatively

In her book, Coming Up for Air: How to Build A Balanced Life in A Workaholic World, author Beth Sawi offers numerous pragmatic approaches for building balance into your life when your work is absorbing every waking minute. She starts with helping you understand your priorities to arm yourself with the fortitude to make difficult changes. But to shore up that fortitude, Sawi recommends several scheduling techniques as a way of controlling your time.

One of these techniques she calls “pulsing,” which is scheduling late nights working on fixed days—say, Tuesdays and Thursdays—so you protect the other nights. When a special assignment or project comes up, you already know you have extra time blocked out and can better resist the temptation to tackle it on an ad hoc basis. The “off” nights can also be pre-scheduled—for a weekly dinner out with your spouse, for example—to help build in the balance for the rest of what’s important to your life.

Start With Your “To-Do” List

Productivity guru David Allen, author of Getting Things Done notes a typical person has 200-300 tasks floating around in their lives—in their head, on little slips of paper squirreled away in various places, in their organizer (or backed up in their email inbox), on post-it notes stuck to their computer screen, and so on. This backlog of tasks uses up too much of your brain—which is poorly equipped to organize this kind of list—and creates unnecessary stress. He recommends you create an “in-box” to keep all of your “to dos” in one place to help you stay organized.

Allen, however, doesn’t suggest you prioritize these to-dos at all: Fixing the dripping faucet goes on the list right next to planning for the kids’ college education. The key to Allen’s system is getting all the to-dos out of your head and into some trusted system so you don’t have to worry about forgetting them. With your head clear, your instincts take over and you will find the right things are getting done.

Allen definitely recommends reviewing your life from various “altitudes”—from your vision for the coming year to your vision for your whole life—to get in touch with your priorities and your goals for balance in your life…but only after you have control of that in-box.

With your mind clear, you can step back and take stock of your life. Your creative juices will be flowing to help you find that delicious state of grace in which your devotions at work and at home actually enhance each other, not deplete each other.


Block out time in your diary for “work time” and “family time” (the “Balance Blocks”) and stick with it.

Plan your day/week around those blocks so they are not jeopardized by competing interests. In other words, set the boundaries and honor the “Balance Blocks”.

The key is to recognize, not every day or every week will be equally balanced between work and family. Some days/weeks may be heavily balanced in favor of family, other days/weeks the opposite may be true. Be sure to communicate your “Balance Blocks” to others so they help you respect them.



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