Achieving and maintaining a work/life balance is an extremely difficult thing to do. All too often, it becomes easy to get lazy and let yourself slip. If you don’t get back on track, you’re likely to develop bad habits. These habits can quickly evolve into a poor routine that ends up leading to a classic work/life imbalance, whether it’s too much work or not enough work.
Common Misconceptions About Work/life Balance
Notice how I said the imbalance can lead to too much work or not enough? That’s the common misconception.
When you hear the words “work/life balance”, you might think that the phrase means to strike a balance with your work so it doesn’t eat into your personal life. In other words, work/life balance means to not overwork yourself. However, this is just one side of the coin.
It is also possible for the balance to sway in the other direction. In this scenario, the weight falls more on the “life” side of the balance. An example of this might be staying out late with your friends too often until it gets to the point where you’re too tired to perform at your normal velocity. This can put your career or your job at risk and it can also lead to an under-challenged type of burnout. No good can come from this.
Perhaps work/life balance sounds like one of those generic things you hear people say, but if you truly want to avoid burnout and achieve lifestyle homeostasis, you need to be aware of what a healthy work/life balance looks like for you.
Now, what we just described as work/life balance is common for what we might consider to be the average human being. Us creatives on the other hand? It’s a whole different story!
As an aspiring lettering artist, we have more commitments. We have a day job or a professional career that we’re using to supplement our income. Then we have our personal life which consists of our family, our friends, our health, and other personal obligations. Finally, we have our lettering “work”.
We’ve set goals for our lettering. We dedicate time to our craft so that we can improve. We publish content. We share our work as well as what we know within our social communities to build our personal brands. We even take on professional client work.
That’s a substantial amount of obligation!
That said, it can become extremely overwhelming at times. Unfortunately, life is too unpredictable to consistently strike a perfect balance between these three things.
Balance vs. Consistency
Picture a pie chart with three equal-sized slices that each represent time and energy. One is for your work, one is for your personal life, and one is for your creative endeavors. What happens when one comes bigger? The other two get smaller.
The three slices of your pie will never consistently be the same size unless you maintain output while one slice demands more than 100%. But this is dangerous.
One day, you might take on a lettering project for a client that demands more of your personal time. You could cancel on your friends to make time, but this might throw your personal life out of whack if you keep it up for too long. Instead, you could stay up late, but this might lead to an exhausting day at work.
In these scenarios, you might think you’re balancing, but you’re really just trying to balance. What you’re actually doing is continuing to maintain consistent output.
Maintaining 100% output between work, “work”, and your life when one of the three is demanding more than 100% isn’t a sustainable way to operate. This leads to burnout.
Balance, on the other hand, is accepting that one aspect of your life is currently demanding more time, effort, or attention than normal. To balance, you must adapt.
My Real World Example
Where I work, we’re currently entering the 4th quarter of 2016 and the project pipeline is gigantic. We’re going to be spreading the team a little thin in order to get things done and meet our annual revenue goals. For me, this is going to require some extra hours during the week and some occasional work over the weekend.
I know myself well. If I’m working hard at work, I’ll need some play time too. So I’ll be spending time with friends whenever I have the opportunity. This means that I’ll have to cut back on the hours that I spend lettering if I want to avoid burnout.
I might have to say no to a client project, but that’s okay. Because in January, things at my job will slow down. I’ll have the chance to catch my breath and relax. I’ll be able to dedicate more focus towards my lettering.
I’ve accepted that this is a natural ebb and flow. Instead of maintaining full output in all aspects of my life, I’m balancing these aspects accordingly to maintain full sanity.
Accepting the Ebb and Flow
Unless you’re superhuman, maintaining a consistency between work, “work”, and life just isn’t possible. But it is certainly possible to balance them by adapting accordingly.
Achieving balance means to dedicate the mental and physical resources necessary to this aspect and cutting back on other aspects in a way that will serve you best.
Understand that this shift of energy is only temporary. Your obligations will change and life will go back to normal. Or perhaps they’ll sway in a different direction and you’ll shift your energy around in a new way.
This is the ebb and flow of life. And as soon as you understand the natural sway of your lifestyle, you will be able to maintain a true balance.