While there are obligations I need to meet to contribute to my household, for the most part, I’m accountable to only myself.
Embracing my brand and its affiliated parts — writing (fiction and nonfiction), editing, podcasting, public speaking — requires certain actions to be most effective, efficient, and rewarding.
Recently, I wrote about creating a routine. I hadn’t realized how badly I needed more structure in my day — so that I could stay on track and feel like I was making the most of my time.
This has been a much bigger boon than I think I’d initially imagined.
Creating a Routine
Creating a routine for myself has not always been my strong suit.
Creating my routine has given me not just more focus — but a better look at the goals I have for any given day. It chunks it all down into bite-sized morsels that are a lot easier to chew and swallow. And getting to the intended goal looks, feels, and is easier.
The process is still involved, and I must maintain my schedule. But just having the routine has impacted me tremendously.
I’ve used this to break my day into two-halves — and there are goals to be achieved in one half and goals for the other. Having this has really provided me with more focus. That’s made me feel a lot better about what I am doing versus striving to do.
Also, like anyone working in an office in a more routine job — I have a set schedule. It’s got a ton of flexibility, room for freelance gigs and important matters to be cared for. But I feel better, and I am taking myself more seriously.
However — I still need to remember the work/life balance.
A time to work — a time to play
The upside to being my own brand and business is that I am my own boss. The buck starts AND stops here. I am the big cheese, the head honcho, the dude at the top. My coworkers — my cats — will tell you I’m not all that and a bag of cat treats, though.
Okay, so that written — the downside is that I am the boss. The buck starts AND stops here. There is no HR department to complain to about the harsh conditions. I am accountable to only myself when work doesn’t get done.
Before I began to work with my new routine, my unstructured day meant I was working — but just whenever. Also, there was stuff I wanted to do — but didn’t. It was very easy to become irked with myself for not getting shit done I needed to do.
The danger here is that I need the structure. Without it, work spills into everywhere. There’s nothing that says I can’t do more — but I also need to maintain my life. I need to play, too.
There are TV shows I keep up with. Until we are vaccinated and the numbers drop, online meet-ups with friends for cocktails, games, and chats. I need to work — but I need to play.
The work/life balance has been pretty massively skewed over the last 50 years or so. Too many employers and big businesses have been finding ways to bypass workweeks and hours and so on. Half of the “gig economy” is intended to squeeze the most work out of the fewest people for the least amount of money.
We do not live to work — but neither should we work to live. Still, it’s important to strike a balance because we need both.
Creating a work/life balance
Like pretty much EVERYTHING in the Universe — there is a yin and yang to balancing work and life. This is particularly important if the work you do is unsatisfying.
We need social interactions. Modern human beings tend to be disconnected, and the service economy that dominates our society tends to make nothing tangible. You can’t produce a thing, point to it and say, “I made that!” when it comes to tech support, customer service, and the overall service industry. That can create a disconnect, which takes away a level of satisfaction from the work you do.
So there needs to be more life. Time with family and friends. Hobbies. Games. Watching TV and movies to stimulate the mind. Reading. General exercise. All aspects of life that tend to take place outside of work.
Then, of course, you must overcome the guilt.
Guilt? What guilt? The guilt of not working hard enough. Not doing enough. Because we’re led to believe that work/life balance is not 50/50, but more like 60/40, 70/30, or even 80/20 — you feel guilty when you attempt to balance it for real.
One thing 2020 and the pandemic showed us is just how few 8-hour workdays NEED to be 8 hours. I know whenever I worked an office job or corporate job, during a given workday I frequently only did 2–4 hours of true work.
Yet our culture demands hard work. What we should focus on instead is smart work. But this is going to require a consciousness shift — which is a topic for another time.
A work/life balance is necessary for everyone. Even when you love your work — it is not, nor should it be, your end-all-be-all.
The balance might not be 50/50
We are conditioned to see life as a 5/2 ratio of work/life. That’s because of the (semi-necessary) artifice of the 5-day workweek. Society has come to expect you to work Monday-Friday, take off Saturday and Sunday. Or some permutation of this.
We’ve automatically set ourselves up for a 70/30 work/life balance. In general, this is unhealthy because it lessens the importance of life and time not working. That gets especially complicated when work is more of a chore and an unwanted necessity than something desired.
But even when you love your work — too much isn’t healthy. You need to recharge, reset, and get away from work.
I won’t deny I work more than 5 days a week. Especially with my new routine, I am working Monday-Saturday. However — my day has a much more even work/life balance overall. Because I’ve put some necessary elements of balance in my scheduled routine.
Still, I’m pretty sure I am working from a 60/40 work/life balance. I know it’s still uneven — but just like fencing footwork, this can be to my advantage.
Initially, I was taught to balance equally between my front and back leg in fencing. Then, when I started studying Italian rapier, I learned — for me — it was better to balance at least 60% of my weight towards my back leg. Now, I balance and teach from 60–70% of the weight to the back.
It creates stability and mobility that a 50/50 balance does not. I can still make a good argument for the equal balance — but I’ve found the unequal is more balanced for me.
That’s true of forming your work/life balance, too. Stability is what we seek. Maybe for some, it’s 50/50 — but it’s okay if it’s unequal for you.
No matter what you do, creating a work/life balance is a necessity.
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Thank you for reading. I am MJ Blehart. I write about mindfulness, conscious reality creation, positivity, my creative process, and similar life lessons.
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Originally published at https://www.mjblehart.com on January 2, 2021.