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biz ladies + after the jump: work/life balance (mp3)

by Grace Bonney

For this week’s Biz Ladies post, I decided to write something of my own. Now that those of you reading know a bit about how my life has changed over the past year and a half, I feel more comfortable talking about why I’ve been focusing on changing the way I work and live to be in better balance.

The phrase “Work/Life Balance” gets thrown around a lot, and frankly most people seem to have given up on the concept. So many of us wear our workaholic status as a badge of pride, and it’s time for that to change. It’s true that starting a business involves late nights and sacrifices, but when it starts to negatively affect your life outside the office, it’s time to take a step back.

So for today’s Biz Ladies, I decided to do a solo radio show in which I discuss my personal process of finding balance and share some of the challenges I’ve faced (and still face) along the way. In this brief 30-minute piece, I talk about:

  • Why work/life balance is so important for this time/niche
  • The challenges we all face (and why people aren’t always honest about them)
  • Overcoming the “should” voices regarding your life and business and your real interests, desires and needs
  • Defining your own personal goals
  • Making lists of achievable steps
  • Dealing with the consequences (emotional and practical) and the fear of making changes
  • Building a support group to act as a fail-safe for your new hopes and changes
  • Finding idols/role models
  • The importance of sleep, relaxation and REAL vacations


I hope those of you struggling with this issue will take the time to listen and hopefully share your own ideas, tips and struggles in the comment section below. This is a really crucial issue for bloggers, artists and business-owners alike, and the sooner we’re honest about the struggle, the sooner we can help each other get back to a place that feels happier, more present and balanced. Thanks so much to everyone who inspired this podcast and helped me along the way, and thanks to all of you who took/will take the time to listen and share your own stories. xo, grace


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  • oh good lord, you have no idea how timely this is for me personally. I can’t wait to listen…I’m taking it all in as I try to find my own better sense of balance…will listen just as soon as I find the time (soon!) Thank you. xo – R

  • Absolutely loved listening to this in the midst of an especially uninspired work week. Thanks for the great advice – was so needed and you broke it down so well.

  • grace, i’m in the middle of the show + it is AMAZING… i’m taking notes. :) as a self-employed artist, it is really hitting home with so many good tips on balancing + flexibility. thanks so much!!

  • Grace, this is really great for me and could not have come at a better time! My husband I just got married last October and BOTH of us are currently launching new businesses this year! He just opened up an animation studio with his buddy and I’m launching a new line of made in BK handbags. Starting new businesses is a lot of work, as you know I’m sure, and all we seem to talk about is what else, our new companies and trying to get them up and running successfully. Although we’re newlyweds, we rarely find time to go out on a date night and just enjoy each others company and NOT talk about our start-ups. I’ve recently tried to institute a once-a-week night off of our businesses and so far, so good. It could be more often but for now, this is what we have to work with.
    Thanks so much for this post, Grace. Everything you talked about made perfect sense and although we have to work our butts off getting our new companies out there, we also have to take time for ourselves and sometimes we forget about that.

  • This was wonderful. Thanks so much for your honesty, bravery and taking the lead on this.

    I found myself hospitalized during a business trip for surprise heart surgery at 36 for a mysterious infection that doctors could never explain. It was a clear wake-up call, and for the subsequent two years I took steps to finally leave my day job.

    Of course, wherever you go, there you are and I quickly realized that starting your own business is not a way to relax and bring more balance to your life (ha!) Moreover, if you are a ‘Type A’ person a lot of the challenge is not only changing your circumstances, but changing yourself. Having said that, eliminating the psychological stress of feeling that my life direction was at the mercy of my corporate job has been huge.

    The 4 Hour Work Week was one of the books I devoured post heart-op. I loved the spirit of the book but I found Tim Feriss is a bit too, yeah, macho for my taste. For a more down to earth (and funny) take on taking time out, readers might be interested in designer Stephan Sagmeister’s TED talk on how he takes a sabbatical every 7 years: http://www.ted.com/talks/stefan_sagmeister_the_power_of_time_off.html

    I just came back from a vacation in Ecuador, where I was able to really unplug, stare at the sea and watch birds fly around in the jungle. What a reminder of how important it is to totally recharge. This post/broadcast put a timely exclamation point on that realization, so thanks again!

  • Very heartening, thanks so much for sharing insights into the problem I think many of us are just starting to realize is right there in front of us.

  • Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us! This is a great post b/c we can really relate to this. Balancing life/work is such a hard thing to do. Great segment with the radio!

  • Thank you for having an honest take on this situation. I wish more bloggers talked about it, because I think it’s something we all come across. Last week I was feeling really burned out and going through a few of the situations you described in the podcast and I decided to just unplug for a weekend and it helped me clear my head and refocus. I’m thinking about unplugging every weekend and doing as you said, being present and in the moment and enjoying what I’m doing as opposed to wanting to post about it on instagram or twitter.
    When you’re building a personal brand you definitely do feel a pressure to always be on and showcase what you’re up to but by unplugging this past weekend I realized that not being exposed to a constant stream of information wasn’t all that bad and I didn’t miss it. It was relaxing not having to keep up with so many other lives and other people’s projects.

  • This chat really hit the nail on the head for me. Letting go and realizing not every mistake is a make-it or break-it move is a huge obstacle for me, but as I get more confident in my work, it’s becoming easier to step back a bit! Thanks for sharing, I really got a lot out of this and am making my lists as we speak! You always inspire, Grace!

  • Thank you Grace. For the longest time, you have been my inspiration, and this very honest bit you shared with us, is going to change my life. A week later, I will listen to it again, and then take the steps intended for a leap.
    In a very weird (good weird) way this talk actually made me rethink about my fears and my excuses and gave me the courage to really do what I want to try. Stuff like ‘what might other people say about my style’ and ‘what if I made a mistake’ won’t hinder me anymore. You made me realise that other people think like this too, and that it’s ok.
    Going through a series of personal changes I realised that it wasn’t me being fickle, that I was trying to change myself for the better and you mentioning that bit really made me smile.
    I have finally found a friend who doesn’t judge me, and makes me open up, who’s making me realise that the masses’ opinion about raw, personal stuff don’t really matter. Thank you for reminding about friends also.

    Grace… thank you sincerely.

    • thank you so much ri gal, i really appreciate your comment and am so glad you enjoyed the show.

      i really realized how important friends were over the past year or so. they’re just as important to cultivate and take care of as work relationships.


  • hi grace,

    thanks so much for taking the time and having the patience to really evaluate this problem and create this post. like most creatives, i have a very difficult time balancing work + life and usually allow my own self-inflicted pressures to navigate my life. in recent months, it’s been very troubling to imagine what sort of future i’ll be creating for myself if i continue to only nurture work-related relationships and endeavors. most of the pieces of other people’s lives we see online are candy-colored and perfect — they all seem to have mastered the art of balance. while we all seem to know that that isn’t always true, it’ s still a constant source of frustration AND amazement. as someone who is still continually learning how to balance each day, i really appreciated listening to your insights & experiences.

    • thanks meera

      i know what you mean about nurturing only work relationships, it’s definitely a trap that’s easy to fall into when you run your own business. it’s definitely important to have people who know you only as YOU and not the business you run.


  • I’ve just spent the last six weeks recovering from a virus that was stress induced. Being an Art Director and loving my job was overwhelming me. I love to kick a$$ in every part of my life and I really can’t. Now I’m taking a step back and figuring out how to live a more balanced life. I also have stopped saying, “Yes, I can do that today.” In all stages of my life. Perfection is not reached when you set the bar way too high! Thanks for this post. I really relate to it.

  • I cant wait to listen to this! It has been my main topic for the past 6 months. I was in the hospital with body pain, nausea, vomiting, etc in March. Ended up on cymbalta and anti-anxiety meds that I am now getting off of. I had no idea what was happening to me. I’ve changed some little things in my life (weekly coffee mornings out by myself, exercise, small blocks of time to do things I love, vacation!). I finally feel myself again and am producing better work! This is a really important topic in our culture. Thank you for addressing and sharing yourself with us! It is so valuable. Much love!

  • Love the promotion of honesty, no matter how much we (or others) grimace through it. Without it, it really is like trying to stuff your foot into the glass slipper which really just doesn’t fit and can indeed be quite painful. Thanks!

  • Grace,
    I just listened to the first half and it’s totally struck a chord with me. I’m heading off to work now and can’t wait to get home and listen to the last half. Beautifully worded and straight from the heart. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate this. ;)

  • Grace, I am an avid follower of Design Sponge, my first website when I sit down at my desk every morning, I have been self-employed for many years and I identify with so much of what you say. I am going to say something very personal to you and I hope that you will not be offended. I have found one of the hardest things is balancing my work and my marriage and my role as a parent. Everyone respects you so much and you have shared so much about your marriage in the past and I hope as time goes one you will be able to share a little more about what happened in your marriage especially with respect to women being more successful than men in a relationship. You are an amazing person and an inspiration to so many and some of the advice that you are giving is a little hard to put together without understanding more of what happened which was a huge surprise to many of your followers Just a thought and again I apologize if it is too personal request which would be totally understandable. Ann

    • ann

      thank you for your comment. i plan on keeping my private life more private from now on (one of the lessons i learned from last year) but i can tell you that what i went through had very little to do with my work and nothing to do with perceived success levels between partners. that was never an issue in my relationship and i was always very thankful for that.


  • Grace, thank you so much for writing back, I really appreciate it. I have found and I am a little older than you that success can be difficult in a relationship, and I certainly understand and respect the need to keep your personal life more private, I am a very private person, a little bit of a change for your readers, but all good.

  • also one other comment about blogging, I think the issue of sharing a lot of personal information is a difficult one and then at some point regretting it or wanting to curtail it is true for so many bloggers and the online community in general and I think a lot of people would be interested in your experiences with this as well. You are amazing Grace and you talk in your radio-cast about having people to look up to and a lot of people look up to you and that is why hearing more personal things is meaningful and yet is not always good. For me and my stress level, one of the things I really like about Design Sponge is the focus on the “simpler things” in life, I ate up the post on making your own picnic kits etc, made them right away and went on a very nice outing with them, a easy way to some fun. Thank you so much

  • Grace,
    I listened to this while painting my son’s room this morning. :) I just wanted to say thank you-I find all of your After The Jump podcasts to be so inspiring. I’m in a completely differend field (education), but I find so much of what you say to be completely relevant.

    I also wanted to add that I hope you don’t feel compelled to share more of your personal likfe than you feel comfortable. One of my favorite things about D*S is that it seems so real, not just a ‘look at me’ show that many big blogs have dissolved into. Your mature and mindful voice rings very clear without the pomp and circumstance. :)

  • This was amazing. I own a creative agency with my husband, and am balancing not only work/life, but work/marriage too! Your segment was so down-to-earth and I could relate to every part of it (including the mysterious sickness, which I have also had). I am buying all three of those books! Thank you, thank you, thank you!

  • Thank you so much for this podcast! As a type A perfectionist who often neglects to savor the moments, this really hit home. I second the recommendation for Brene Brown’s book “The Gifts of Imperfection.” I also recommend her other book “I thought It Was Just Me (But it Wasn’t).” Best wishes!

  • I love this Grace! Thank so much for sharing! I am freelancer and mom of 2, so balance is a problem for me. Sometimes I don’t have a choice in balancing because my budget doesn’t allow me to, but it definitely comes down to the little things. Since I am also trying to build my business, I really like your part about making a list of the short term and long term goals. It makes sense to write it down and make it a concrete list. I want to be present in my work and as a mom, but it is so challenging and I hate that one or both suffer at times. It does feel like the internet culture is that you have to be doing all of this stuff and make it seem effortless, and that just isn’t realistic. I feel inspired and ready to make some changes!

    • best of luck with all your changes and goals, keely :)


      *one good thing to remember is that stress-induced health issues end up being WAY costlier than cutting down on work a tiny bit. ;)

  • Keeping a balance and most of all perspective is just so bloody hard. I wonder if it’s a generational thing? We’ve kind of being sold that we can have it all and should be able to have it all if we are ambitious and work hard. It is a constant battle to try and stop the conveyor belt and remember what REALLY matters. Good on you for you honesty Grace!

  • I’m a creative who has been working from home since 2004, and can say 100% that the biggest challenge I ever had while I was working a normal work week for a company is putting down the stylus and closing my email and messenger at the end of the day. I was working for a start-up at the time, and if any of you have ever worked at a start up with real promise, you know how obscenely hard everyone works – we all drink that kool-aid:)

    Even now after being let go from that company in 2010, the urge to push through to get work done is incredibly strong, even with the entire family here in the house, and my toddler son wanting to play. For too many, it takes discipline to really put down the work tools and open yourself up to how much is really out there.

    This is my first comment, and I shamefully came in here hoping to push our Kickstarter project which deals with this subject. If I could indulge for just a moment, it’s called The Wireless Generation, and I keep telling people that at it’s core, it is a manifesto for work-life balance. The people we profile in this film decided to upend their regular lives and found a way to take their careers on the road with them, traveling the world and collecting experiences rather than stuff. We have a week to go in the project, which you can see by going to http://thewirelessgeneration.com (It redirects to the kickstarter page). I am sorry for the shill, and I would not do it if I didn’t think it would fall in line extremely well with your messaging here. I hope I haven’t overstepped too badly here.

    Regardless of the film though, I think the discussion is becoming an increasingly important one to have. People too easily fall into the trap of thinking all of the hard work they are putting in is meant to create some perfect ending, a payoff for that work. What tends to happen though, is that people retire and have no idea what to do with a life not full of work. They don’t realize that the journey is your life… okay I will stop now, I am going to go into every possible cliche ever if I keep going. Thank you for your time and your blog, Grace.

  • Brilliant post/episode, Grace! Based on the comments, it seems many of us have gone through this.

    I went through a bout of wrist tendinitis when I started my business 12 years ago (overworking and non-ergonomic setup was the culprit). Being a graphic designer who relies on the computer, it was scary having to slow down my workload and rest. But it taught me to create a better work-life balance. And now, I know the importance of regular work breaks and daily stretching/yoga.

    Now that I have a 1-year old baby, I’ve had to again review my work-life balance. He’s taught me to carefully prioritize my day and focus on things that are essential to my business or passions. I’d rather go home and cuddle with my little boy than work late. Speaking of…it’s 6 o’clock, time to punch out!

  • I saved this Design Sponge email update, because I knew I would want to listen to this…I finally took the time today to listen by turning up the computer speaker, going to my 7 month old son’s room, and listening while playing in the floor with him. I studied Psychology as an undergrad, and I’m continuing my master’s in School Counseling, and I think this entire interview is SO important for everyone in society….especially the young people. I see so many people, young and old, around me who spend way too much time at the office, and I think it’s definitely something that needs to be addressed. Being in the moment is such a simple statement that I don’t think people truly “get.” Thanks for sharing this…and I hope to somehow find the time to look into each of the 3 books you mentioned at the end of this. I’ll definitely be sharing this audio clip with family and friends! Thank you! Oh ya, the parenting quote about, “Whatever works until it doesn’t” is so, so true. :)

  • I am a huge fan of the site, and of this podcast. In agreement with all the other commenters here, this episode was especially fantastic, as the internet really enables us to take our work with us everywhere. I personally find my e-mail overwhelming, and sometimes it saps my energy before I’ve even had a chance to be creative. You have to have nerves of steel sometimes to log off, close the laptop and engage with the rest of the world. Everytime I feel tempted to just see what’s happened once I’m at home or on vacation, I’ll pull up this post as a reminder to take an actual break. Thanks Grace!