The Majestic Rainbow Unicorn (AKA Life Balance)
If there has been one constant in my life, even before starting to work full time as an artist, it has been a constant struggle with Life Balance. Life balance is this majestic rainbow unicorn - does it exist? Will I ever find it?
What is life balance? It's that content calm you have when you feel like you're putting in the right amount of attention, energy and presence to each important area of your life. Notice how I said 'important area of your life'? This is the kicker - it is 100% up to you what the important areas of your life are. For some, family is an important area of their life, for others it's not so important. You decide what your priorities are.
Why am I talking about life balance? Why is it important as a creative business owner? I have found over the years, that the closer I am to achieving a comfortable life balance, the more creative, mentally alert and passionate I am, particularly within my business. Running your own business isn't just having a career, switching off your computer at 5pm and heading home. Running a business is intertwined throughout your life. It occupies part of your heart and a lot of your mind. Coming from a family where my father was a work-a-holic (like a bad one - not a 'hustle hard girl' type work-a-holic), I am constantly fighting the urge to stick my head into work. It's my freedom space. I have control and passion. It's easy to escape into it and ignore the difficult parts of life. So let's not do that...
Have you heard of the Wheel of Life? Founded by Paul J. Meyer, one of the originators of what is now known as life coaching and the founder of the Success Motivation Institute, developed the wheel of life's modern-day version in 1960. Each piece of pie in the wheel is one of the important aspects of your life. You choose those aspects: career, family, friends, health (mental), health (wellbeing & fitness), home, finances, education, travel etc. It's a means to measure where you would like to be spending your energy and focus in your life and where you are actually spending your time and energy. You can read more about The Wheel of Life over here and even fill out your own 'Life Pie'.
Compartmentalising / Time Blocking
My husband also owns his own business. His personality is very different from mine. He is an all-or-nothing type of guy. The two of us have worked very hard to time block our weeks so that we don't talk about work some days. We don't think about it. We don't touch it. We don't have discussions around it. I feel like I do this well. I don't open my laptop at home. I rarely check emails after 5pm. My phone says it's bed time at 8pm and it won't let anyone call or message me. I love it. I write my to do list on Sunday afternoons and we plan our weeks together (ie. school drop offs, pick ups, adventures, sports, gym, friends/family visits, house reno time etc). This gives me a weekly overview to be able to allocate urgent projects to certain days during the week to ensure I meet all my deadlines.
My husband on the other hand always has his laptop on and I often find him on the computer 'in between tasks' just sending a quick invoice or looking something up. His brain doesn't seem to want to compartmentalise like mine. So this might not work that well for some people.
Realising that this is just one moment in one day in the thousands of days in your life. What would you prefer to be doing? Thinking about work or being present with your kids? Being present at the gym? Being present at the grocery store? Take a few deep breaths and go through the 5 senses. Think of five things you can see, four things you can hear, three things you can smell, two things you can feel and one thing you can taste. You will now be present and in your own skin.
Be bloody organised and have some foresight
This one is a hard one. Especially for the creative mind. I've had these organisation skills drilled into me since I was a kid. I have a paper diary and I write everything into it. I carry it everywhere with me. I also have another note book which I write everything else in - shopping lists, peoples names and contact numbers, random thoughts, quotes that I hear, the finances for the month. That's it. That's everything I need to know in those two books. I then sit down on Sunday afternoons after I have put my clean clothes away and after meal prep for the week and I allocate different projects to different days. If I have a day where I have multiple deadlines, I will time block out my day to make sure I have enough time to spend on each project. Otherwise I just end up writing blog posts or buffering social media posts all day. I also have a habit of flicking a few weeks ahead in my diary to make sure I am prepared. For example, if I know I need to grab supplies for a workshop at the end of the week, I will check a few weeks ahead and grab extra supplies to cover all upcoming workshops. I know it sounds simple, but it can be hard. It takes a lot of work but it frees up brain space when I need it to create.
Meal prep / pre prep outfits / booking out of school care
I briefly mentioned this above, but meal prep is a must for me. We make so many decisions during the day, that I will do whatever I can to free-up brain space by taking away some of those decisions. I will pre-prep my lunches and snacks for the week so I don't have to think about them - I just have to throw them from the fridge into my lunchbox each morning. I will fold and stack my clothes for the week according to what events/meetings/studio time that week. I put them in a pile in my bathroom and when I wake up, I stumble to the pile, put on the clothes on the top of the stack and keep going. No brain space needed. I pre-prep dinners and allocate the cooking to myself, my son or my husband. I pre-book my son to after-school care if I'm stressing about the lack of time during the week. I try really hard not to feel guilty about this. Also, a cleaner. Cleaning is not a talent of mine, so I outsource that. Nobody has time for cleaning, except the cleaners.
Recognise that life will never be balanced
There will be times where you might be kicking goals at work but you haven't helped around the house for weeks. You may be winning as a parent but you forget what your partners face looks like. Life is a balancing act. I recently read Anya Hindmarchs' book 'If in doubt, wash your hair' and she talks about a wonderful piece of advice given to her when she was young: If you can accept that life will never be perfect, you're kicking goals. Clearly I paraphrased that, but keep your expectations in check.
My assistant and I rate our stress levels by how much it feels like our 'hamster wheel' brains are churning. When we are at a 9 or 10, our poor little hamster brains are not shutting off or resting at all. We're cooked. This is when we go to yoga together and meditate. Now, as much as I advise meditation as a 'tool' to help reduce your stress and help align your life balance, it is always better as a daily practise rather than a bandaid. I try so hard, but it's an ongoing goal that ebs and flows. I drive to my studio and sit in the car and listen to Calm's Daily Jay in the morning. It only goes for about 8 minutes. Some mornings I am just too excited to get my day started and only get 2 minutes into the meditation. I'm trying. You should try too.
Daily gratitude and fun
This is a sneaky little extra that my husband (who is a giant hippy) suggested. I watch him, bleary eyed every morning sit up in bed, look out the window and pause. He tells me he is concentrating on one thing that he is grateful for. What a great way to start they day! Finding it hard to be grateful for something, then bring in more fun to your life. It doesn't have to be huge - it could be doing your daily Wordle. It could be a text to someone you love, just telling them how great they are. It could be roller skating or playing basketball (these are mine). You deserve to have fun. Fit it in to your Wheel of Life.
What else do you do to find balance in your life?