Well, that was intense.
And then again, any conversation about work/life balance (or integration, whatever floats your boat) is intense.
This topic tends to hit to the core of why we are all doing what we’re doing.
We wouldn’t be creating, we wouldn’t have our own business or be in this line of work if we didn’t love it.
But that means that the line between work and life is super f-ing blurry.
How do you separate something that you love when ‘office hours’ are over?
This whole recap is one giant post of emotional processing.
Jump to the good stuff
Letting life inspire work
I wasn’t sure how to kick this recap off. Usually, this first section is a nice little description of the overall topic at hand, but work/life balance is so nebulous and we went in so many directions that I’m just going to dive headfirst.
Here’s the thing about work/life balance - it has that little dash separating the two.
But as creatives, we’re pulling inspiration from the world around us constantly.
And we also totally love what we do. It can sometimes not even feel like work.
In fact, I bet most of our best ideas come when we take a break from work. I once came up with the lead hook for a pitch while I was reading a YA fantasy novel.
It’s ok to let life inspire work.
You don’t have to put away your paintbrushes, sketch pad, or notebook when you’re ‘relaxing.’
Sit down and eat an f-ing sandwich (aka burn out)
Boy all of these sections totally bleed into one another…
So now that you’re allowing life to inspire work, let’s talk about guilt.
It’s not a guilty pleasure to go to the movies.
It’s not a guilty pleasure to listen to Britney Spears and dance in your underwear (or wait...is that just me??)
It’s not a guilty pleasure to take a long walk.
It’s not a guilty thing to stay up late every once in a while getting work done.
Remove ‘guilty’ from all of those statements.
If you’re just grinding away all day every day, letting life inspire work, letting work take over life, pushing yourself to take on more client work, go to every networking event, updating your LinkedIn profile...you’re just around the corner from burn out.
Work/life balance isn’t about completely separating the two, otherwise ‘life’ would always be ‘guilty.’
Part of what we need to do is tear out the dictionary entry for ‘work/life’ (don’t look for it, it doesn’t exist, this is a metaphor).
Everything can be seen as productive or monetized.
When we get back from eating a lovely sandwich or dancing in our underwear, we immediately try to quantify it: “Was that worth it?”
But the moment we try and make every moment productive we get one step closer to burning out.
It’s about finding balance within each moment.
It’s about sitting down and eating an f-ing sandwich at 1 pm every day.
It’s about appreciating your moments of free time and recognizing when you need one.
Organizing your life (and time)
Ok, cool, but how do I start building a structure around my life to be able to eat a sandwich?
One tip is creating rituals around different spaces, or just having a different space for work in general.
If you work from home, make your office space only your office space. If a door can be shut around it, even better.
If not, how can you put your desk so when you’re done for the day you look done for the day?
When you transition between work and play, do you just dive right in the next activity?
I tend to play a game of solitaire or clean something to help transition myself out of work and into play. Tuesdays I never ever ever schedule meetings to give myself one day to either sit down and do a ton of work or have focused self-care.
One Rise & Designer (can’t remember your name, sorry) started organizing her life like she organizes her business. She scheduled 2 times for the movies every month, lunch with friends, and more. For her it was like starting a new habit - now she can’t imagine not having lunch with friends as often as she does.
Jeremy blocks of time in his day for the gym and gets a massage every last Friday of the month. (< life goal)
Where do you need to spend your life?
What do you want to be doing more?
Start intentionally building a life that you’ll love.
Is vacation even possible?
Short answer, of course.
Long answer, of course.
The question is - do you give yourself permission to go on vacation?
Work shouldn’t just be something that lets you count down to vacation.
Vacation is an immense privilege, and not everyone can afford that luxury.
But vacation doesn’t have to include a beach.
Vacation can be a stay-vacation. It can be unplugging your internet and reading a book for a couple of hours.
It can be driving an hour or so to Hocking Hills for the day to go on a hike.
It can be taking the bus to the other side of town to see something.
Vacation is all about what’s manageable with your budget and being proactive about it.
Remember, if you rest now it will benefit you later. It might not be immediate, but it will benefit you in the long run.
So in short, let this blog recap be your permission slip to take a vacation.
You deserve it.
And frankly, you need it.
Treating your business like a client
So you’ve gone of vacation.
Now you’re back and you’re rudely reminded that when you’re not working, no one is.
Leads have dried up, business is stale, and you have no clients.
You always have a client - your own business.
In the day to day we tend to put our own business last because “client work pays the bills.”
So when we have a lull in business we freak out, wondering how to get more clients.
Use these ‘slow’ moments as an opportunity to work on your business.
Jeremy and I keep lists of things we want to do for our business and when business is slow we pivot and get them done.
For me it’s usually writing a blog for my own website, shoring up processes and systems for the next project, and updating my proposal templates.
The quick lesson is: there is always work to be done, and that work you spend on your business will actually help bring in more clients that you actually want to work it.
Which means working on your business also pays the bills.
Still not getting motivated to work on your business?
If I’m still struggling to get shit done I write myself a contract just like I would with a client. Get some ideas here.
Your community is here for you
Let me say that again: Your community is here for you.
Too often self-care is all about what you’re doing for yourself, on your own. Just you and your bootstraps, scrappy style.
Let’s not forget about community. Heck, we all showed up at Rise & Design the day after a major holiday this month because we needed community.
What would the world look like if we asked for help more, reached out more?
Asking for help is the best form of advocating for yourself.
It feels scary and vulnerable to reach out - you worry if you’re imposing on the other person or if you’re asking too much.
But think back to when someone asked you for help: how did you feel?
More than likely you felt great that someone needed you.
Remember that feeling. If it helps to think that asking someone for help is lifting that person up, do it.
It’s critical to set up your support system before the world explodes around you.
It is inevitable that we will experience hardship, tragedy, grief, and turmoil.
Navigating those murky waters alone is like trying to cross the whole Pacific ocean in a life raft. You won’t get very far and very likely die of dehydration.
So here’s your most important call to action of this whole damn recap:
Reach out to someone today and ask them how they are. Do something that reconnects you with the humans that care about you.
What self-care is really all about
There is a really thin line between self-care and self-sabotage.
Self-care is sometimes doing things you don’t like doing, with the knowledge that it will help you later.
A couple of people talked about exercising - they don’t like going to the gym or running, but they know if they don’t do it they would feel worse.
Self-care is sometimes doing what is hard, not what is easy.
So when you’re feeling exhausted or needing a break really sit and think about what you need.
Do you need to just zone out to a really shitty movie on Netflix? (I highly recommend G-Force - can’t get much shittier than secret agent guinea pigs)
Does your body need to feel powerful and need to go to a spinning class?
Do you need to turn off your computer and draw with a real life pencil?
Do you need to grab a drink or a tea with a good friend?
Staying on the side of self-care instead of self-sabotage is all in that first moment. Give yourself the space to truly advocate for yourself.
And please, ask for help.
Your local movie theater or library
The closest Metro Park to your home
The next potluck you throw with friends
This sentence: You’re going to be ok.