We live in a society where ‘by day and by night’ careers are commonplace. Many of us work at typical full-time vocations between the hours of 9am and 6pm and feed our creativity by the waxing and waning light of the hours either side. Some sit at desks for nine hours a day and still manage to make a relative success of part-time exploits. Motivated individuals the world over are nailing the ominous work/life balance. So how do we do it too?
The main element in balancing creativity with a traditional career is applying yourself. There are not and never will be such things as ‘life hacks’. Working hard is a must. Freelancers’ Instagram feeds may advertise a beautiful life of ease but often, behind the filter is a ton of hard graft. But whilst working hard is paramount you can also work cleverly. Using your time and tools effectively is the start.
Use your breaks wisely
Your morning commute, whether it’s a 15 minute walk or an hour train journey, can be used for all sorts of productive means. As can your lunch break, a walk to the shops or a bus journey into town. Use this time to plan and track projects and make daily to-do lists. Note down ideas, doodle and read. It sounds obvious but committing to using these short bursts of ‘nothing time’ save hours in planning. If you’re too tired to think then listen to podcasts on subjects that will inspire your craft. This will focus your brain and mean that for the next few hours your thoughts will be less chaotic and more creative.
Make a tonne of lists
Whether on your phone or in a physical notebook, to-do lists and time plans are an excellent way to break down the day, week or month into manageable sections. The overwhelming feeling of success when it’s time to cross something off is its own reward. A daily plan split into pre-work, lunch break and post-work categories will help you to be realistic about how much you can get done. The joy of this is that often you can do way more than you think is possible in a short space of time.
Technology is your friend. Make, design, take photos and write using the early morning light before work or at the weekend and then use scheduling tools such as Hootsuite, Tweetdeck and LaterBro to post new content and images on social every day. Many of these programmes and apps are free and will make a huge difference to your week. Minimise your time on social media by ensuring that each post is published at key times, then use a shorter window of time to check back and interact.
Be honest with your colleagues and managers about how important your creative projects are to you and be forthcoming about how hard you work to maintain a high quality in all you do. The last thing you want is your full-time friends and bosses thinking you’re making an extra buck on company time. Explain how you achieve a healthy balance and never try to hide your passion from others. You might find that your colleagues have useful skills they’ll be willing to share in order to support you.
Do things on your own. You don’t need a friend to visit a gallery or to sit with you in a cafe whilst you write. Be brave enough to attend those events you’re invited to solo. Once you clock out, head to new places and you’ll notice that you feel more pumped up and inspired with no distractions.
If you’ve been working all week and promised a client or editor to get your project finalised by the weekend but suddenly need to bail out or extend the deadline, don’t panic. Perhaps you’re faced with a family emergency, a travel melt-down or you misjudged your diary and the number of hours in a day. Communicating clearly with whoever you’re working with is the best thing you can do in a crisis. Good email etiquette can save you as can an earnest phone call. Just tell it like it is.
Take the weekend off, sleep in, take photos, read and remember that as a creative person, everything that you do is connected to your craft. Never feel bad for feeling fragile, overwhelmed or needing time out to take care of yourself. Sometimes a balance is just impossible to achieve and whether or not it seems like everyone else is managing to nail it, you must focus on what you know to be reasonably manageable. Never sacrifice the quality of your work or all-important attendance at your job for your passion or vice versa. Balance is essential and tears, anxiety and burn-out are never, ever worth it.
Don’t feel bad for being committed to your passion. If you want to stay at home to work on your craft instead of going out then do it. If you want to spend your lunch hour working on your personal projects, visiting a gallery or meeting a client or collaborator, then do so. Using your time and tools wisely also means being tough enough to say no to some of the things that distract you. Commit to making personally rewarding decisions that remind you of the strength and satisfaction that creativity brings. You can have your cake and you’ve earned the right to eat it too. Screw it, have two cakes. Enjoy.