Slicing the Pie

August 16, 2023

If we look at life as a pie (and why not? I vote for peach-blueberry!), we divide our days into slices: this much for sleep, this much for work, this much for exercise (ha!) Some of these slices are non-negotiable, such as hours spent doing certain jobs. Others are more flexible (a nice big wedge for weekend sleep-ins, say, and a teensy sliver for jogging), but deep down we know we need a decent balance, to keep us from psychological indigestion.

After 20 years in my church position, I’ve been freer in retirement to re-cut my personal life pie, and let me tell you, it ain’t easy. If I use half of my waking hours surfing the internet for literary inspiration, for example, what crumbs remain will NOT get a story done and submitted.

So, what’s the most effective way to divvy things up?

I always appreciate a go-to formula of some kind, and am I in luck! Because there is indeed a foolproof calculation for us freelance writers. It’s called the 25/50/25 method. 25% of my pitches/pieces should be sent to publications I am confident will accept them; 50% should be to those bit of a stretch places, and the final quarter of my work should be submitted to the long shots, The New York TimesAtlantic Monthly, etc.

I already do this, sorta, but I confess to erring on the side of sending to far too many (poorly paid) "sure things". The middle 50% needs more of my focus in the months to come. These are the places where my essays may have previously been rejected with a “but do send us another!” encouraging note from the editor. Stupidly, these positive comments tend to paralyze me--what if I send that editor something else and they hate it? Better to cross that magazine off my list, than risk embarrassing myself with a total stranger! As for the top 25%, that’s where my imposter syndrome really kicks in. Who on earth am I to approach The New Yorker? I am, in the immortal words of Garth in Wayne’s World, not worthy.

Clearly my 25/50/25 needs a little work.

But that shouldn’t stop YOU from trying it! 

When you plan the week’s dinners, 25% should be can’t-miss entrees like PBJs, 50% should require an actual recipe, and 25% should require a degree from the Culinary Institute of America.

 At the office, try spending 25% of your day getting coffee, 50% doing the minimum at your job, and 25% sending your resume out to Bill Gates.

For the medical professionals, spend 25% of the day scribbling illegibly on prescription pads, 50% telling patients to lay off the desserts (especially pie) and the remaining 25% giving neurosurgery a whirl.

See how easily and effectively you can focus your efforts?

I heartily recommend the 25/50/25 method, at least until I learn about another way to organize.

Now if you’ll excuse me, there’s 50% of an apple pie left in the kitchen. Duty calls! 


    I am an author (of four books, numerous plays, poetry and freelance articles,) a director (of Spiritual Formation at a Lutheran church,) and a producer (of five kids).

    I write about my hectic, funny, perfectly imperfect life.

    Please visit my website: or email me at



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