By writer and tutor Sue Walker
Work/Life balance: what’s that?
I’ve lost count of the number of times this ‘Work /Life balance’ issue comes up in the media. And when it does - especially on the radio as I am a constant listener - I want to throw my beloved Pure DAB out into the soggy garden!
Why? Well, because, like many freelances I’ve worked with, the whole notion seems to me the preserve of people who don’t work for themselves and have paid time off to get the balance right!
However, my own reactions aside, there is something crucial to be said about getting our time management sorted. What I call ‘the freelance disease’ – i.e., saying ‘yes’ to everything - can, over time, have a debilitating effect on the other parts of out lives and, consequently, a negative impact on our work effectiveness.
It does sound a chicken and egg problem: ‘I can only be happy if I’ve got enough work. But working all the time leaves me no time to relax, see people and enjoy life.’ The following strategies will help with this problem:
Make a realistic assessment of the work that you have in the pipeline already.
- If you are fortunate enough to have some regular work peppered through the year, celebrate that. It may be solid, core business or other related work.
- Even if it’s not your core creative first love – e.g., if you are a musician but have guaranteed teaching work; if you are an actor but have regular gigs doing corporate role-playing; if you are a screenwriter but get regular film reviewing, don’t knock it. This work is a huge advantage and not just in financial terms. It's motivating to know that your work is in demand so reward yourself by planning in some ‘play’ time because you have been clever enough to have secured this work.
If you really do live from job-to-job, planning ahead in the same way is more difficult. However, it's still important to create time for yourself. So, when you get invites to weddings, civil partnerships, parties (day and evening ones) and other celebrations accept them and you will have something in the diary to look forward to.
Also, it is important to keep up personal contact with other people. (My last blog was on the isolation of the freelance - beware that). There are cheap and even free ways of doing regular meet-ups.
If you can’t or don't want to afford expensive coffee shops or bars then go walking; go to a free gallery....or if you can spend a little bit, combine meeting up with an activity: swimming, racket sports,.. whatever presses your buttons and, if your mate is in the same position, you can pick your time of day and get off-peak prices.
But there are not enough hours in the day!
Actually, there are. It may be that you’re not using them all wisely. Although it goes against our freelancing, hard-grafting instincts, it is easy to waste time, especially for those of us who work at home at our PC/laptop. Time on the web and social media is very important for us and for our work but it can seriously devour time that could be better spent doing other stuff. A suggestion:
- Do an audit of your time. Take a week and literally keep a diary of what you do (both work and other things).
- You can then go through it and assess where you could make beneficial changes.
- You might even find that you can get more playtime without feeling guilty!
And there it is: never feel guilty for wanting more ‘you’ time. We all need it and to ignore the call may end up with you being a workaholic...and workaholics aren’t always as smart at their jobs as they think.
Keep it balanced! Keep it fun!