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Balance is Bullshit – Stephanie Klein and Jenn Lancaster at SXSW

The following is a recap of one of my favorite SXSW Interactive panels – “Balance is Bullshit” featuring Stephanie Klein (author of Straight Up & Dirty and Moose: A Memoir – who blogs on and Jenn Lancaster (former dot com executive, author of Bitter is the New Black and Bright Lights, Big Ass – who writes on Both very witty, intelligent, and busy women.

The premise is that no one really has it together – there is no secret formula. There are only tips and tools that can help in the balancing act.

The panel was set up as a discussion with the audience, so much of the following is paraphrased and cited where possible.

Omar Gallaga also wrote a great recap of this panel on

From Stephanie, on being away from family

  • When I go out and choose to be on book tour – I am very keenly aware that I am choosing not to be with my family
  • I make peace with it because I know that I am a strong role model
  • I think it’s important that children know that while I love them very much, they are not the center of the universe
  • An audience member: “I think that happy parents are good parents – and I am a lot happier with my daughter when I feel I’ve fulfilled myself.”

Jenn, On setting deadlines

  • I start by making myself write 9-5 – I have to write 2,000 words each day. They don’t have to be great, but I can’t edit what I don’t write
  • I don’t write on the weekends because I want to see my husband
  • When you give yourself a hard deadline – you get it done
  • Students in college who take 5 courses vs. those who take the same 5 courses and have a job – those with a job do better in those classes because they have to

“Work hard, play hard is just hard” @Stephanie Klein #balanceisbullshit

On being too connected to technology to get things done

  • Stephanie: I schedule blog posts in advance when I can – sometimes schedule my tweets using (note: I use HootSuite for this)
  • Schedule time being unconnected – i.e. Silent Sundays
  • Use tools like muuter to filter hash tags
  • “We haven’t lost that desire to connect to each other”
  • Stephanie: I work at Target – the Starbucks has no internet so I get things done
  • 76% ppl who write blogs feel like they don’t get enough done in the day

Recommended Tools for Productivity

  • Tweet Funnel to schedule tweets
  • Muuter to filter out unwanted hastags on Twitter
  • Focus Booster – hides all screens except the one you’re working on based on the Pomodoro Technique
  • The Pomodoro Technique – Work for 25 minutes completely uninterrupted and then take a 5 minute break

On Staying Focused

  • Jenn: Self esteem is setting goals for yourself and achieving them – and that’s what a to do list does
  • Just say no – you have to be comfortable and ok with saying no when you’re too busy
  • On my to do list, I want to make sure that at least most of these things I’m going to enjoy

On following your passion

Stephanie’s Story:

  • I worked full time at an advertising firm in Manhatten and realized I hated it – so I did something about it – Because wishing takes the same amount of energy as planning
  • I figured out what can my company do for me – I learned photography and my company paid for it. Then I was at a party attended by a few celebrities and someone said “you with the camera – take pictures.” And I became a red carpet photographer
  • “I would go to parties and take pictures and give people my card to get the pictures – and send them to my website
  • In today’s economy, it’s foolish to just up and leave – I kept my job and I made my job work for me
  • It doesn’t feel like work if you love it

Jenn’s Story:

  • “I knew if I just worked all the time that eventually I would get to the point where I could have balance”
  • “Writing is something I do that I love and I would do it for free”
  • if you are looking for a literary agent – find books like what you want to write and go to the acknowledgements – they always thank their agent
  • Joseph Campbell said “follow your bliss”

On fearlessly being yourself online

  • Stephanie: I met my husband through my blog – meanwhile, there have been a whole slew of men who have told me “no man will ever love you because of what you put on your website”
  • “If you’re not pissing off some people off, you’re doing something wrong”
  • “I started my blog because I needed something that would make me happy no matter what anyone else said”
  • Don’t worry about focusing your topics – “Be an expert in whatever you are working on in that moment”

How do you handle the naysayers?

  • If it stings, it’s probably because you doubt – so do something about it
  • Our enemies are our best teachers
  • How you can learn is to be motivated by it
  • Support each other – if you are a mommy blogger, support other mothers – make them feel good about what they’re doing

A great session – with lots of tips for tools to try. And I will say – I am about halfway through Stephanie’s book Moose, and loving it so far!


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  • Reply

    Stephanie Klein

    March 20, 2010

    Hey, great recap, and thanks for the summary. Hope you got all you wanted out of the panel. Appreciate your spreading the word. Nicely done.

    • Reply


      March 23, 2010

      Thanks so much for the comment! I really enjoyed the panel ~ thanks for the kind words!

  • Reply

    Kelsey Ruger

    March 29, 2010

    Grreat post. Sorry I missed this panel.

  • Reply


    April 4, 2011


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