How to Balance Writing Time and Chores

your work done first, then you’ll never write. Here’s a five-step process I’m trying out to set boundaries around my writing time.

  1. List Your Chores and Rank Them by Importance

First, list all the chores you have to do on a regular basis. How you define “regular” is up to you — I interpret “regular” as “daily or weekly.” For example, vacuuming is on my list, but filing my tax return would not be because I do that only once a year. Chores you might include are:

  • Vacuuming
  • Sweeping
  • Mopping
  • Rinsing dishes
  • Washing dishes
  • Loading the dishwasher
  • Unloading the dishwasher
  • Budgeting
  • Making phone calls
  • Cleaning the bathroom
  • Tidying
  • Folding laundry
  • Dusting
  • Cooking

Once you have your list, rank the chores by how mandatory they are. For example, making my bed is at the bottom of my list because while I like to have my bed made, nothing bad will happen if I don’t do it. Cleaning out my cat’s litter box, on the other hand, is very important because if the box gets too full, then my cat will poop on the floor.

  1. Rank Your Chores by Preference

Next, decide which chores you like least and best. For example, I prefer vacuuming to almost any other chore because I find the job kind of relaxing and meditative. I’m also not a huge fan of rinsing and washing dishes because I feel like dirty dishes multiply just to spite me.

  1. Decide Which Chores to Delegate and How to Do So

In my case, this step is simple. I do everything myself. Except I need to pay someone to mow the lawn because my rental contract says I have to mow every other week, and I don’t have a mower. However, if you have someone come into your home to do chores, or if you live with other people, then this task is more complicated.

If you have paid help come clean, cook, or do other jobs for you, then you’ll need to decide when said professionals will come, what they’ll do, and how much additional work you might need to do to cover the cost of these services.

If you live with a partner or a roommate, then you can meet with them and divide household labor in whatever way you decide is fair. Or, if you don’t think your roommates will do anything or just don’t want the drama, then decide to what degree you want to be responsible for common spaces and how you can co-exist with these other people. In the past, I’ve sometimes just accepted that the apartment would be a mess because I didn’t have the time to constantly clean up or create a collaborative plan for common standards of tidiness.

If you have kids, then you’ll need to decide what jobs your kids will do. You’ll also need to decide when and how often your kids will do these chores, how much oversight they’ll need, and when you’ll check on cleaning performance or provide cleaning lessons.

  1. Make a Schedule

Decide how much time you’ll dedicate to chores on a daily basis and when you’ll do given tasks. For example, on work days, my alarm goes off at 6am, and if I actually get up then, I’ll feed my cat, start a load of laundry if necessary, and make my bed. If I don’t get up on time, then the cat still eats, of course, but the laundry gets delayed and the bed just doesn’t get made.

I can talk to my mom on the phone between 7:00 and 7:30, and I can do some chores during that conversation too. For example, I can clean out the litter boxes.

Then, after work, I give myself 15 minutes for chores. This is when I vacuum, take out the trash, and so forth. After that 15 minutes, I’m done, and I have to accept my apartment as it is for the present. For example, on Monday I picked up groceries on my way home from work, and that meant I didn’t get to vacuum in order to remove the tufts of cat fur taunting me from the carpet.

After dinner or while making it, my boyfriend and I do dishes and clean up the kitchen. Or, at least we do in my scheduling theory. I’m really bad at leaving them in the sink so we can keep watching TV and spend more time not cleaning together before he goes home.

In the hour before I go to bed, I can tidy things up if I have time after showering and so forth.

  1. Accept Imperfection

When I write that schedule out, I see a lot of time theoretically spent on chores. But in reality, I always feel like I have more adulting to do. However, since chores are never-ending, I have to accept less than perfection if I want to do other things with my time.

You probably have to accept this compromise too.

Review your schedule, and adjust it so that your chores and other activities have time slots more proportional to your priorities. And then decide where you’ll compromise. For example, I originally allotted 30 minutes after work to chores, but I cut back to 15 when I realized that I would rather have a less-clean house than less time for creative projects, dinner, and my relationships.

I don’t follow my schedule perfectly, but I like this arrangement and acceptance of imperfection more than my obsessive desire to clean everything every day.

What trade-offs have you accepted?

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