Does work / life balance exist? Or is it as attainable as a mystical unicorn?
What is keeping you from your art? Last time we talked I confessed to you that the love of my art and my desire to spend my time working on it often gets in the way of the rest of my life. Your responses were touching… Many of you have experienced the same thing (over 50% of poll responders, in fact) and others wrote to me expressing their wish to have more time to dedicate to their neglected art and how life just seems to get in the way.
I believe that many of us have found ourselves in each of these circumstances. I currently find myself at a point where I am ready to tackle the impossible and try to find some sort of harmonious balance. You may remember I mentioned to you that I am reading “The Accidental Creative” – an incredible book full of great insights and practical suggestions for continuously producing excellent creative work. While I am not quite done with the book yet and I am nowhere near finding that elusive “balance” here is what I’ve learned…
Creating a multi-level structure for your time can help prevent you from simply spinning your wheels doing smaller, sometimes relatively insignificant, busywork.
This one gets me all the time! I wake up in the morning and sit at my desk ready to tackle my day. I have tons of energy and a glass of my favorite iced cafe de olla by my side (let me know if you would like the recipe for this one… It is delicious!) I am certain I’m going to have an incredibly productive day! By the time 2:30 rolls around and I need to leave my house to pick up my daughter I look at my to do list… And almost nothing has been truly accomplished!
Don’t get me wrong. I have not been distracted all day. I have not once turned on the TV, surfed the Internet or been lured away from my desk by the siren song of the book I am currently reading (“The Testaments” by Margaret Atwood). I have been working the entire time. But what have I really been doing? I have been focusing on those quick easy items that are fast to check off my list. Responding to email, posting to social media and uploading a video or two. Satisfying, yes, but not bringing me much closer to my long-term artistic goals.
So how do I fix this? I have begin the process of creating different levels of organization and have begun bullet journaling. I’m a huge fan of this by the way! Type the words “bullet journal” into Pinterest and prepared to be blown away! Seriously.
At the beginning of each season I do a large brain dump: a listing of all big projects that I hope to accomplish in the next few months. Some of these things are even longer projects that could take a year or more that I would like to be a focus of my work in the coming weeks.
Then I look at these and pick just one or two things that are the most important to work on this month – ideally one that has to be done and one that I really want to do. What one or two things, if I were to accomplish them soon, would make me feel like I was truly moving forward with my goals? Once those have been chosen I break them into smaller bite-size pieces and place them into my weekly calendar to actually get them done!
Obviously email still needs to be responded to and social media posts still have to be made (or do they?!?) but I begin my workday with those truly important items that are central to my work and will help me move forward step-by-step towards my goals.
So what does this all have to do with finding that elusive work life balance? Nothing, maybe. I’m beginning to feel like “balance” is the wrong term altogether. My “work” and my “life” will never be “balanced”. And honestly, my work in my life are so very intertwined it is hard to measure which is which sometimes. I feel like organizing my workdays in the way I’ve described above helps me do one simple thing. It helps me work well and effectively when I am working and not work when I am done for the day. That is the hardest thing for me – turning off the work when the family comes home and turning off the work when everyone is in bed. If I can feel like I have truly accomplished something during my working hours I can often (but not always!) find the peace to close the computer, play on the floor with my daughter and truly connect with my family in those precious moments that we are together.
Have you found a “balance” in your work and your life. What does it look like?