Building Balance into Your Life Without Trying Too Hard

Building balance into your life can feel like a full-time job sometimes, if you ask me. So much to do and so little time to figure out how to get it all done.

We recently completed a research study at The Mom Complex where we analyzed how, when, and where mothers keep their to-do list — is it on a piece of paper in their purse, buried in an app on their phone, or floating around on six different Post-it notes? As part of the study, we had moms submit pictures of their list-making ways and we weren’t surprised to see list after list overflowing with tasks, assignments and to-dos for everyone in their lives except themselves.

That’s right. Things like scheduling a haircut, downloading a new meditation track, or even buying more mascara never made the list. It’s as if mothers everywhere are saying, “Oh, you know, I’ll get around to taking care of myself if there’s extra time and energy left over after taking care of everything and everyone else.”

Well, I think all of that should stop.

Inspired by what I saw (and didn’t see) in mothers’ to-do lists from across the country, I created a new format for my own to-do list that ensures that I’ve got my eye on the big picture at all times — meaning, I’m not just slaving away checking off boxes for my job, children, and home while completely ignoring my own needs.

In this case, I started with a blank PowerPoint slide and inserted the four main categories that I would typically have to-dos for in any given week: my job, the book I’m writing, my family and, yes, myself. Each day before diving into what I can check off, accomplish and give myself a high-five for, I sit down and contemplate what I need to take care of across these different areas of my life.

I’ve been doing this for three weeks now and it’s been a fascinating experiment in self-preservation. I no longer wait until the last minute to reschedule that dentist appointment I can’t make or to sign up for that yoga class that fills up so quickly, or forget to re-order my moisturizer — and be forced to walk around with dry, cracking skin for days on end. Now, when I look down at my to-do list during the middle of the day, I keep my eye on the prize, meaning: my full life.

I’ve written extensively about saying no to others in order to make time for saying yes to yourself. This new technique is the perfect way to make sure you get there. I can’t recommend it enough.

What categories are most important in your life right now, and how can you keep them (including yourself!) front and center when it comes to that daunting to-do list of yours?  I’ve also found that breaking up one’s to-do list makes it less overwhelming to conquer. There’s nothing like a straight to-do list filled with 26 things to make your head spin and send you off wondering what in the heck you should tackle first.

Starting today, make a pact to put yourself on your to-do list and see what happens. I think you, your sanity, and all of your forgotten needs will be incredibly grateful. Give it a whirl.


Join the discussion and tell us your opinion.

Darcy Maukereply

I love this! Thank you for sharing this strategy. Maintaining some semblance of balance is certainly an ongoing mission!

Katherine Wintschreply
– In reply to: Darcy Mauke

Thanks for reading, Darcy! -KW


I was just curious if you found more people hand wrote their list or used a different form? I am trying to find what works best for me.

Katherine Wintschreply
– In reply to: Sarah

Hi Sarah! I have found more people write their lists on paper and I used to do the same. The problem was that I was always moving about and never had the list with me at the right time. So, these days I just keep my list in a google doc on my phone. It’s always with me and I’ve found it really helful.

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