Working from home is a lifelong endeavor for most freelance classical musicians. As traditional jobs dwindle and competition skyrockets, it has become increasingly more common to harness multiple streams of income as opposed to relying on a single source. Although it may seem like a dream to many, it does come with its own set of difficulties...
…such as finding that perfect balance between work and life.
Having worked exclusively from my apartment in the Philadelphia suburbs for almost two years now, I have found the solutions to this dilemma to be a daily challenge. The line between work and personal time is easily blurred and the affect that this has on productivity, happiness and well-being is not always obvious.
Have you ever found yourself practicing at midday only to realize that you’re still wearing your pajamas and have yet to brush your teeth?
What about checking your email during sitting a night out with a friend or loved one and finding your mood immediately darkened by a last-minute gig cancelation?
Or perhaps you’ve worked yourself into the ground all day but you still feel low and dissatisfied?
If any of that resonates, you’re not alone. Here are a few tips that I have discovered in my ongoing quest for the perfect work-life balance. Be sure to share yours in the comments below!
1. Don’t Look at Emails in the Evening
Phones allow us to monitor every single aspect of our lives at any given moment. While certainly useful, it can also be detrimental because it puts us “on the clock” indefinitely which requires a mindset incompatible with personal time.
As described above, you could be enjoying an eagerly-awaited night out only to casually check your email while your companion is in the restroom and learn that a gig has been canceled at the last minute. Your mood changes in an instant as you think about the lost income. A cloud now hangs over you despite your best efforts to remain in the present. The words of the email gnaw at you and your precious personal time has been ruined.
By constantly checking our phones for updates, we have become addicted to an endless “seek and reward” loop that provides the release of dopamine, a pleasure chemical in our brain. You check your inbox and you’re rewarded with an email to read. You check Facebook and you’re rewarded with a like or comment notification.
To better preserve your personal time and enjoy life outside of work, I recommend that you set yourself a time in the evening where you don’t look at emails. Turn off the auto-notifications in your settings and don’t check your email until the following morning. People can always call you in an emergency. If you’re really that concerned about missing opportunities, set up an auto-response to say that you’ll respond in the morning or between certain hours.
2. Introduce a MORNING Routine
One of the greatest challenges to finding work-life balance is ensuring that you’re productive so that you can enjoy personal time guilt-free.
There is a wealth of information around the topic of productivity but one of the most successful strategies that has stuck with me is implementing a morning routine.
When your morning starts productively, you set yourself up for a productive day.
Start with something simple and manageable such as making the bed and then sitting in silence for a minute as you reflect on the day ahead. Do this every day for a week and once it becomes habit, start adding a few more similar tasks. The goal is to institute a routine that makes you feel accomplished, positive and ready to conquer.
My routine starts with taking the dog out for a leisurely walk, followed by making breakfast and reading “The Week” magazine over a cup of coffee. I then spend some time stretching and doing a few simple exercises before having a shower. After I’ve reached my desk, I read a short passage from “The Daily Stoic” to get my mind in a positive state, briefly organize my email to declutter and finally start knocking off items from my to-do list.
3. Assign a Time to EACH Task
No matter how much or how little work you have to do on any given day, you should always create some kind of game plan. This can be in the form of a to-do list but a step further is to assign a approximate amount of time for each task.
It’s common for us to be overly confident in the tasks we set ourselves and when we don’t finish them, it can derail us. Personal time is then shortened in order to make up the missed work. Or you struggle to enjoy your personal time because of guilt.
Assigning a time for each tasks helps to create realistic goals. This then allows you to achieve them more efficiently and the confidence helps you continue to do more in any available time you have left.
Lastly, it permits you to stop working and gives you the freedom to grab a coffee, go for a walk, meet a friend for lunch, and other important personal goals that keep you sane.
4. Leave the House
This one seems like a given but there are too many times when practicing just a little longer, or answering a few more emails prevents you from actually leaving the house. Before you know it, an entire day has gone by and although you may have accomplished a lot, it can come at the expense of your mental health.
When this happens to me, my mood gets worse, my patience wears thin, and I actually become less productive.
Once I force myself to go outside, I instantly feel better and return feeling refreshed mentally and physically.
5. Accept Your Limits
No matter what you pursue in life, you can always do more. This is a quandary because where do you draw the line? How much practice is enough? What else can you do to improve?
Some people have a staggering amount of dedication and strength to go beyond the average human. Others can do less and still achieve greatness.
But what it ultimately comes down to is your own personal limit. Sure, you could work seven days a week without much downtime, but will this last for you in the long-run?
You need to accept your limit and be OK with it. Just because Sally on Facebook appears to be crushing it with her relentless work ethic and zero downtime, doesn’t meant that it will work for you too. If it’s not in your DNA, then you risk burn out and constant dissatisfaction or even injury.
This is all about self-awareness. If you truly know yourself, you won’t be guilted into being someone that you’re not. Be happy with a path that aligns with the person that you are, not the person that you think you should be. This will ultimately help you find the work-life balance that resonates.