Pursuing a healthy work/life balance is something that is often on the minds of creatives — especially for those of us that work for ourselves, are freelance, and/or work from home. It can be a slippery slope when you know you could technically work many more hours than the traditional 9-5, or that your schedule can be so flexible that perhaps you don’t leave the house for several days in a row (not recommended) because then you’ll get a complete day or two off later in the week. Soon, you could find yourself un-showered and bleary eyed, pushing through day two of not even interacting with another human (guilty), before you realize that’s probably less than ideal. This is why finding a happy and healthy work/life balance is so important.
Luckily, if you find yourself in need of a little balance, Becky Simpson is here to share tips that have worked for her in her own design and illustration business. She’s also made a helpful flowchart (which you can buy, too!). She designed the flowchart with both humorous and helpful guidance to bring you back from the brink, and remind you that self-care is vital in avoiding burnout! Below you’ll find Becky’s advice for mindfulness and work/life harmony. —Rebekah
Image above: Becky at work on one of her illustrations.
Image above: Becky lays out the steps, in handy flowchart form (and in greater detail, below), to at least attempt a work/life balance.
Work/Life Balance. Alternatively called the Land of Tension. Most of us do not want to be defined by our career even though we care for it deeply. We want to have it all: Excel in the office and be fully present at home with our family and friends. You know the old saying, “A lady in the spreadsheets but a freak with the treats.” By treats of course I mean baking. I’m talking about baking as a hobby.
This post is for all of you who, like me, want to pride yourself in quality “me time” over your ability to work late just to check one more thing off the never ending to-do list. Seeking this harmony can feel exhausting, but I’m finding peace with it. It reminds me that I still have skin in the game. For someone whose work is rather colorful and optimistic, I constantly have to make the decision to play. The good news is that: 1. It is possible to both have fun and not be productive (though one might argue that taking care of ourselves is the most productive thing we can do…) 2. Having fun gets easier.
Image above: With technology (and work emails) right at our fingertips, sometimes we need a little support to know whether we should actually be checking it or not.
Let’s talk about five perspectives that will help us make space for things like self-care, introspection and you know, hobbies.
- Make it easy by making it fun. Let’s spend time on things we actually like doing. Not things we want to like. Things we really like. Jane Austen is one woman’s “woo!” and another woman’s booooo. And once we find the things we love to do, let’s stop it with the rules around them (“Must read 20 minutes every night before bed”). A quick way to bum ourselves out is to fail at rules we invent out of thin air. Oftentimes the things that light us up are the same things we liked as a kid. For me: Dancing, transportation via two wheels, doodling cartoon characters, playing dress-up, taking photos and rewriting the lyrics to Mandy Moore songs. I still do most of those things.
- Let’s give ourselves permission to start small. And then celebrate. Celebrate the first draft, first day or first iteration because starting is almost always the hardest part. Let’s make space for hobbies that serve no other purpose than to bring us rest or joy. Instead of waiting until we have the time and money to be Instagram famous hip hop dancers, let’s consider starting small by bopping our heads in the car to the radio then perhaps graduating to following YouTube tutorials. Why not start where we can, in the tiniest ways, and be damn proud of ourselves for carving out time to do what we love? It’s okay if sparks didn’t fly. Things are usually awkward when they’re new — remember, the fun gets easier!
- Consider the moments, not the accomplishments. Our life *is* the journey. Nothing is attempted or accomplished without living through a series of moments along the way. Instead of fixating on the future, what if we asked ourselves, “What in this moment will rejuvenate me?” What if we could appreciate these little moments in real time, as they are happening? Could that be as simple as taking in a deep breath in lieu of a longer, more formal meditation? Yes. Could it be choosing to read just one page of that novel you keep in your purse when you show up early (instead of watching Instagram stories)? Absolutely. How about practicing gratitude during that minute or two of brushing your teeth? I don’t see why not. A lifetime of these moments is a good life. Whatever the activity or non-activity is, the point is to be totally present. Dwelling on the past or the future takes us away from the one thing we have now: the now.
- Don’t forget about the Blunder Budget. We all mess up. The more we try new things or put ourselves out there, we’re opening up the possibility that we might fail. We might fail big and we might fail publicly. The blunder budget is like a savings account for blunders. Just as one should save for a rainy day, the blunder budget saves up for those, “that didn’t go according to plan” moments. There will be broken promises, forgotten appointments, hurtful comments, typos on what would have otherwise been hilarious and very reTweetable tweets, broccoli in the teeth, etc. We are allowed these tokens of forgiveness to ourselves and each other simply by being human. All that to say, if we fall back into our old workaholic ways, remember that we are allowed to and we can get back on the pony once we cash in our tokens of forgiveness instead of confining ourselves to an imaginary prison.
- Doing is practicing. It’s easy to judge our own efforts on a pass/fail grading system (“I want to start meditating but whenever I do it for a few days, I just give up and go back to my old habits”), but the reality is whenever we do something — whether consciously or subconsciously — we are practicing it. We refer to yoga as a practice. Thinking of life as a practice takes away the pressure to get it right on the first (or 100th) try. The warm-up is less tense than the recital.
And if nothing else, maybe these flowcharts will do the thinking for you so you can just have fun already.