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As a sector, the arts industry is getting better at recognising and talking about well-being in the work place. And yet, the talk and the reality remain out of kilter when it comes down to getting our work-life balance right.
Most people working in the arts tend to excuse long work hours and the encroachment of “work” into “home time” as normal, given that the division between personal passion and one’s career choices can be blurry territory. But the inability to demarcate work and a personal life is one of the biggest problem the sector faces.
Going to the theatre or an exhibition opening, or reading a new release book are all pleasurable pursuits, but for many they can also be about being seen, networking, being in the know and on top of the latest news; gauging where your own work sits in comparison.
Learning how to recognise that you are doing too much is key to maintaining a healthy work/life balance. Here are five tips to keep in mind.
1. Unplug – time
Articles such as these persistently offer lists that sound great, but in reality are too much hard work to take on. They reek of “diet mentality” – sounds good but hate doing it.
If there is just one thing you do to foster a better life-work balance then make it time.
Some of us are better first thing in the morning; others are better later in the night. Regardless of when you do it, set aside 10 minutes every day to mentally declutter. Put an alarm on your smart phone to help you develop the habit.
Don’t use that time to think through the grocery list or the day’s schedule between picking up the kids and going to the post office. Use that time to disconnect. Some gurus like to call it meditation. That word gives me “the willies”, as I am the kind of person who can barely sit still for a half hour.
Every morning I do a few simple stretches and think of five words that describe what I want my day to be. These are "me words" – my life words – and they keep the big picture in sight.
2. Unplug – devices
We are all told that being active on social media is healthy for our career, but the work day never ends as long as you are scrolling through your phone and social media channels.
Simple rule: don’t let your smart device rule you.
As you would with a business meeting, allot time to when you are going to use your phone for work. Use scheduling programs to pre-load work posts during that time. Use that time to filter and look at emails. But then switch off.
Most of us scoff when we go to a restaurant and see a couple sitting opposite each other but lost in the world of their own phones.
You are that same image every time you pick up your phone during home time.
3. Unplug – ambition
One of the most unhealthy contributors to a good work-life balance is ambition. It can skew our perspective as to what is required for a solid and successful career.
Think of the crash diet. We have all been on one – they are great at first and you see results but then they usually crash and die. That intensity can not be sustained.
It’s the same with work-life balance when we take on too much too quickly. Cutting your working hours from 60 to 50 hours a week, and replacing that 10 hours a week with a daily walk will immediately create a better headspace and a more effective work pattern.
4. Unplug - perfectionism
Different to ambition, perfectionism can undermine even the simplest task. We all aspire for the perfect life, the perfect career, the perfect relationship – but the reality is that such balance does not exist. We are human, after all.
A girlfriend of mine once said to me, ‘What is so wrong with being mediocre?’ She came from a family of high achievers and found that the constant pressure of striving to be the best was exhausting.
As you climb the ladder at work and as your family grows, your responsibilities mushroom. Perfectionism becomes out of reach, and if your strain yourself striving to reach it, the habit can become destructive.
Identifying a standard that is acceptable, instead of the constant push towards an illusive and ever-changing goal-post, is a much healthier place; one that allows balance in life.
The key to avoid burning out is to let go of perfectionism.
5. Unplug - unnecessary
About a third of what we do each day is unnecessary.
Is it necessary to drive an hour across town to see that exhibition? Is it necessary to have that meeting to discuss X? Is it necessary to spend an hour on Facebook and post those stories?
If your work time being gobbled up by less constructive people, then find ways to diplomatically limit these interactions. To some, this may seem selfish. Rather, it is about being honest.
Think of the aeroplane metaphor. If you have a child, you put the oxygen mask on yourself first, not on the child.
The better in balance you are then the better you are going to be in all other aspects of your life.
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