Since the dawn of the internet and the always-on, always-connected society, the term “work-life balance” has become quite the buzzword. Just run a Google search and you’ll find thousands of articles and studies. Some claim this elusive balance is achievable with the right collection of calendars, personal life coaches, and morning attributions.
Still other gurus claim there is no such thing. We all get the same 24 hours. We just choose what goes into those minutes, balanced or not, resulting in more of a mashed-up blend than anything resembling structured balance.
And what to do if you have one of those real day jobs, a family, and a passion gig or a creative startup on the side? Here, we’ll suggest some techniques to help manage these colliding worlds.
Dream a Little
You have to start somewhere, so you may as well start with a dream. Grab a pen and paper, or open a blank document on your laptop, and list all the things you wish to accomplish with your passion project or side gig. If you’re in it for an artistic outlet, great. If you wish to turn your talent into a sustainable full-time income, write that down.
Dreaming can help you “know your why” and allows you to clearly communicate what you hope to accomplish.
Calling All Tribe Members
Whether you cohabitate with a spouse and twin toddlers, an old college buddy or two, or your momma, these folks make up your tribe. Trying to split the week’s hours evenly between the tribe, your day job, and your passion project probably won’t work. Dance recitals, pacemaker checks, and the out-of-the-blue angry appendix can derail those gig calendars quickly.
Let your loved ones know what you’re planning. Share your dream and your goals with them. It’ll let them know they’re important and that their opinions matter. If they know your “why,” their support for your goals will increase. It’ll also create boundaries, leaving you time to focus on your side gig.
No more multitasking for you — your brain really can only focus on one thing at a time. When we multitask, our minds are actually flipping switches between tasks so quickly it only appears that we’re doing more than one thing. Hone in on one task, one issue, one problem at a time, and then move to the next one with purpose. When you’re at the day job, be at the day job. When you’re at the dance recital, be all in. When it’s time for the passion project or the startup, turn off the work email dings and get busy creating.
The people you spend time with and the projects you’re working on will benefit from this single-minded energy.
Be a Little Bossy
When it comes to your dream gig, you are the boss. Whether you choose to allow one day a week or several hours each day to your dream gig, let the tribe know and communicate clearly. Set boundaries clearly with discussions like, “When I’m in my studio, please only interrupt for emergencies.” Or, “I’ll be happy to help you with that after I’ve completed this.”
Also, answering the question “Would I be better off doing what only I can do?” is enormously helpful to determine if you’re working on the most important things first. If you’re the artist, only you can create that art. If you’re the author, only you can write the next sentence. If you answer yes to this question, delegate those dirty dishes and overdue oil changes to someone else.
Then go work on your art with laser focus.