I don’t work a 9-5. I don’t even work just one job. I suppose it’s the freelance life that puts multiple projects in my lap and my want to always get the bills paid that puts a steady part-time job on my plate and my dedication to volunteerism that eats up some of the time that’s left. Pair these commitments with my entrepreneurial spirit, new ideas and more work are continually coming into my life.
When I dove into the social media sphere professionally about six months ago, I wanted to do everything, read everything, and connect with everyone. It wasn’t so much FOMO as it was a voracious love for learning and building relationships. I live on relationships (just look at my schooling – I majored in people). Shortly after this foray into social as a career path began, I found myself working seven days a week for weeks on end. It wasn’t intentional at first. But then it was. Then it became FOMO.
It was this transition to not wanting to miss out that put an extra twist of urgency into my daily structure. I felt that I couldn’t possibly miss a Twitter chat. I spent time trying to catch up on what had happened online in my absence. I worried that I wasn’t responding to people fast enough. I started letting chats take over my time at home late into the evenings. Social was still fun, but was becoming more work, and I didn’t know how to organize it. My writing suffered, my jobs suffered, and I found I was dedicating my time almost wholly to the laborious side of my life with very little time left for everything else.
In the past month or so, I’ve taken a closer look at how I’m managing my time and have been developing a new balance. Here’s what I’m learning:
Everything takes work.
One of my favorite bits to always come back to is Ted Rubin talking about relationships as muscles you have to flex so that they don’t atrophy. Work extends past what you do to pull a paycheck. Heck, household chores are sometimes more work than any design project I undertake! Know that work goes into everything and take steps to become more efficient so that your available time increases.
It’s okay to say no.
This is something I’ve gotten better with in the past few years of my life in general. I have learned my lessons for overloading myself, and know I don’t always have time to onboard a new client or lend my skills for a project. And I’ve learned not just that it’s okay to say no, but that I can say no to a non-urgent work request to go out with a friend. Social is just as important as business (and can sometimes lead to fun projects!).
Don’t worry about missing out.
Matt Black and I spoke about this some time ago, and he shared that you’re always going to miss something – and that’s okay! It’s not worth the stress of playing catchup for the hours I miss away from the computer while at a job that requires me to go dark. I can check in with the influencers who are making the greatest impact on me and my work, and don’t need to worry about the rest. (I really love my Twitter lists for this!)
Set your own limits.
The truth is that it doesn’t matter what the structure of your work week looks like. It doesn’t matter if you work a 9-5 or a rotating schedule or you’re at home on the hunt for a new position. Each person’s balance is going to be different. Know what kind of time you are able to dedicate to your work tasks without feeling overloaded and how much unstructured time you need to balance that out.
It’s an ongoing process.
Life isn’t stagnant. Sometimes I need more unstructured time and sometimes I need less. There are surprises that come up that may change my needs this month or this moment.
Find your work-life balance. Be meaningful in your work. Make more time for you.