Ahhh, the elusive work-life balance. What does it mean, anyway? Is it even possible to have a consistent state of balance in our lives? Maybe work-life balance isn't possible at all times, but it has to be one of the best feelings when you achieve it.
I fall in and out of work-life balance, but I always keep it at the back of my mind. For someone who writes for a living, as I do, it is vital to keep a clear mind to stay creative and productive. A clear mind does not come from a cluttered state of being. Work-life balance is crucial because it helps me feel less stressed, have a better sense of well-being, and be more productive at work, at home, and in my personal time. Everyone has their unique responsibilities to balance every day.
Take screenwriter Ricky Roxburgh, for example. Writing is his day job, and when he gets home, he has another big task: being a parent.
Currently, that someone else is Dreamworks. Before that, it was Disney.
He uses that routine to fit in "me-time," as it's often called, and his "me-time" is used for writing his personal projects.
If you're anything like Ricky, every day could look different. Work is a constant, but how do you build time around family obligations and still have time for yourself?
Here's how writers can find work-life balance:
- Set your priorities differently
Sometimes when we set priorities, we think about what we actually have time to accomplish in the day. You'll often see writers setting time aside on their Outlook calendars for this. That's not the wrong way to do it, but what happens when you've set aside writing time at 9 p.m. and then find yourself absolutely drained by then? Try prioritizing your tasks based on the energy you will or won't have for them.
- Know when you're most productive
Related to the bullet above this, basing your to-do list on your energy rather than the 24 hours in a day is a better way to set realistic expectations about what you're able to balance. What time of day are you most productive? Save that for your writing time or any more challenging tasks at work. Need to do some chores around the house? Use the hours where you're more likely to zone out. Our brainpower and creativity only go so far before we need to reset with sleep. You are not a machine.
- Set your writing hours and stick to them
Setting up a writing schedule helps you develop discipline, yes, but it also allows you to set boundaries for yourself and your family and friends. If everyone knows that you write between the hours of 6 a.m. and 7 a.m., then they'll be less likely to tempt you with an invite for a pancake break or that fancy new spin class at the gym. You'll also have an easier time saying no.
- Plan ahead
If you're a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants scheduler, you will be more tempted to let commitments slide. Those commitments could include taking out the trash or writing a scene in your screenplay. Do you know those people who seem to be able to fit everything in? They planned ahead! Know when social outings are coming up, when the kids have soccer practice, and when you've volunteered to host dinner at your place. Then, you can plan your writing time around it and still feel like there was enough time in the day. Or, better yet, give yourself permission to NOT write that day and still be okay with it. It was in the plan!
- Turn off technology
This is a big one. So much time escapes us while we browse on our phones or are distracted by a podcast in the background. Turn. Off. The phone. You will be amazed at how much time you get back in your day.
- Be realistic and reflect
Be realistic about how much you can get done in a day, and remember that life is not just a checklist. Make sure there's time in your day for peace and quiet, observation, and reflection. How did your day go? Was it as planned? What did and didn't work for you, and where did you fall off track?
- Plan for mental and physical health breaks
It is tough on our bodies to sit, and most writers do this for most of their day. Make time to get active, even if it's just playing with your kids. Similarly, our brains need health breaks as well. Try this meditation for screenwriters next time you need to recharge.
- Take your vacation time
If you have paid vacation, take it! Breaks are so necessary for balance, especially for writers. You can't work in a bubble and expect to have brilliant ideas. So much of writing is LIVING. You don't need to spend a ton of money to take your vacation time. You don't even need to go anywhere. But you do need to think about anything but work.
Roxburgh's routine gives him the balance he needs to enjoy his family, enjoy his personal writing time, and still be a powerhouse at work.
It takes time to make time,