It’s Not About Balance. It’s About Priorities.

When Kenna Cote asked me to speak on the topic of work/life balance at the Central Soapers Workshop this weekend, I was thrilled. At first, I didn’t have a clue what I would say because I don’t think there is any such thing as work/life balance. There’s just life and all the stuff you have to do to make it great. Balance is a distraction. Priorities are what matter most, and if those are straight, then balance is a non-issue. That’s what I planned to say in Kansas today. As you now know, I won’t have a chance to say it. Instead, I am actually living it out.


As this very hour, my presentation on “work/life balance” (not) is being delivered by Lela Barker, an Indie Business Network member, and I know she is doing a super job. Meanwhile, I want to share the gist of my presentation with you now. Here is why pursuit of balance is a distracting waste of time. It’s not about balance. It’s about priorities.

No One Owes You Balance

Often, people throw the term “balance” around like we’re entitled to feeling balanced all the time. “If only I could get more balance in my life, I would be able to do such and such …”

Well, balance (such as it exists) is not going to fall into your lap, so stop waiting for that to happen. There aren’t enough spa days in the world to produce the state of happy, blissful nirvana that most people think about when they say they want balance.

After all, were are not owed some sense of “balance” simply because we exist. To the extent balance can be created, it never lasts long, so why bother wasting time creating it today if you’ll have to recreate it in a few weeks (or hours …) Don’t spin your wheels this way. Instead, take balance out of the equation, and focus on taking actions only on your highest priorities — the things that really matter to you.

In other words, go from a quest for balanced living to a quest for prioritized living. If you can live inside of that, balance becomes a non-issue. Here are three steps to moving from balanced living to prioritized living.

  1. Set your priorities. It shouldn’t be a surprise that this is the first step. Many people don’t want to take it though, because it puts all of the responsibility on them. Well, that’s where it should be.

    What are your priorities? I’m sure the list is long. Write down the top 3 or 4 of them, then write down the rest of them. How much of your daily activity feeds the top 3 or 4 and how much feeds the bottom part of the list? If you’re honest, you may be surprised …

    Hanging out on Facebook for too long? Does that feed your top priorities?Spending too much time talking with stay at home parents who don’t have a business, while your work piles up and has to be done at 2 in the morning? Taking on too much work for *you* and not being able to get it all done?

    You’ll never be empowered that way. Set your highest priorities, and then you never have to wonder or seek balance. Optimal pleasure in life comes from living out your priorities. Do that and balance won’t matter.

  2. Establish and stick to boundaries. Again, the ball is in your court. It does no good to set priorities if you don’t also establish the boundaries needed to act on those priorities.

    Friends think your business is a waste of time? Draw a line around yourself that insulates you from their negative reactions to what you love to do. (Or you could find some new friends.)

    Family members don’t understand how important your passion is? They don’t have to understand, but draw the line when they don’t respect it enough to give you the freedom to pursue it. Oh. And one more thing. Get off of Facebook 🙂

  3. Measure your results In order to know for sure that setting priorities and acting only on things that feed those priorities is leading to great results, you have to measure your progress. You can do this in a few ways.

    One way is to track your business statistics. When you are living your top priorities, you should see almost immediate increases in sales, newsletter subscribers, blog readers, site page visits, Facebook likes, and just about every other business metric.

    In your personal life, use trusted friendships to help you track your progress. An accountability partner, coach, or Mastermind Group will help you tremendously, especially if the people working with you are NOT very personal friends. Objectivity helps a lot here.

Prioritize Your Life, and Expect others to Follow Suit

When I stopped trying to help other people find “balance” in their own lives, my life improved. This does not mean that I stopped helping my friends and loved ones, and being supportive. But it does mean that I stopped prioritizing things for them that they should have been prioritizing for themselves. I put my priorities at the top of the list, and everything else fell into place when I began acting on those priorities and not keeping up with whether others were doing the same.

As women entrepreneurs, at the end of the day, what we crave is to be empowered to do the things that matter most to us. In order for that to happen, we don’t need balance. What we need is a specific collection of non-negotiable priorities that we live by. If we have that, then we know exactly what to do in even the most difficult situations, even the one I find myself in right now.

Choosing to make sure that my children could put their heads on their own pillows in the midst of an urgent and unsettling family situation was not an easy choice. It does not bring me a sense of balance. It doesn’t even bring them a sense of balance. In this moment, I simply cannot provide that for them.

But what I can provide for them is a right decision, and one that sets a good example for them to know that you can find peace and contentment even when you don’t experience balance.

It’s not easy. It’s not balance. It’s life. And all we need to live it successfully is the knowledge that we are doing the very thing that we are called to do, day by day, hour by hour, moment by moment.

Life owes us nothing more. We owe life nothing less.

What do you think about work/life balance? Does it exist for you? In what way? What is your response to my approach of pursuing priorities instead of balance? I’d love to hear about your experiences and tips!

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It's not about balance. It's about priorities.

it's not about balance. It's about priorities.

it's not about balance. it's about priorities.

Best and success,


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About Donna Maria Coles Johnson

Donna Maria is an author, podcaster, attorney, and the founder and CEO of the Indie Business Network, providing affordable product liability insurance and mentoring. Donna Maria teaches Makers and Creative Entrepreneurs how to use technology and community to build a profitable, sustainable business.