Friday, January 1, 2010


Once in a while
you have to take a break
and visit yourself.
—Audrey Giorgi

In an earlier blog, I wrote that balance is “to have equal amounts of the necessary elements such that no one predominates." Here we will be talking about having a balanced life, as distinct from emotional balance (though they are connected).

Life is change, and it will not magically simplify, yet with a little bit of thought you can take steps to simplify it. To do that, you will need greater clarity about what is working for you, and what isn’t.

Ordinarily, a good deal of life runs on automatic, guided by at least a mental calendar of obligations, if not an electronic one with audible reminders set to beep you like a drill sergeant. Rarely do we step back to question which of our activities are necessary, let alone which ones truly serve us. Below is a simple exercise to help you see new choices you can make that will make a little more room in your calendar.

The Housecleaning Matrix
(from The Caregiver’s Compass, due out in March 2010)

1. Take a fresh pad of paper and turn it sideways. List down the left side your
activities in a given week. Then make five or six columns to the right of your list.

2. At the tops of the columns put codes that indicate what you want more of in
your life. You’re going to be rating your activities and commitments according
to which satisfy your needs and values. For instance, the chart could show you
which ones cost money or make money, which ones give or take away your
energy or time. Think of the things that you want more of in your life and you’ll
know what to put at the tops of the columns. Add as many columns as you need
to reflect what is important to you.

3. Save a column to note which activities are for you and which are for others.

4. Below your chart, write a bit about what motivates you to do each one. This
will show you the underlying values. You’re going to be learning about the values
that fuel you in your life and those that don’t.

5. Put plus/minus signs, letters or symbols in each of the columns to indicate
which activities take from you, and which give back. Adapt the system so that it
works for you. If an activity gives you a lot of energy put two or three plus signs.
If one takes just a little time, show a small “t”. If an activity is for others but you
get pleasure out of it too, put both an O for “Others” and an S for “Self.” It will
begin to look something like this:

6. Write down all of your insights as you look at your completed matrix. Is it
severely out of balance in any aspect? Which activities would you be better
off not doing?

7. Now, on a new page, list the people in your life, and rate them according to
which give or take energy, which make your life simpler or more complex,
which support you, and which don’t. Housecleaning comes in many forms.

If it looks hard to make changes to improve your situation, remember, as Henry
Ford once said, “Whether you think you can or can’t you are right.” This is your
life. Preserve your inner resources so that you can do the caregiving to which
you have committed.

Hopefully you now see ways to lessen your obligations. With a little more time
in your calendar, might you be able to practice a little more selfcare?


Donna Webb said...

Hello Holly! I very much like this post on the Housecleaning Matrix. Would you allow me to add this as a post to my blog site, with your name and web address along with it?

JOHN O'LEARY said...

Wow, love the matrix. I think I'll use it for other areas of my life as well. Thanks for the tip.