Balance. A concept that’s often illusive for the majority of people. It’s not out of the ordinary for me to admit that I feel the pressure to juggle the commitments of an intense career with the demands of family and friends – with hobbies and interests thrown in for good measure. Being super busy seems to be the aspiration of women trying to prove that they can have it all, but it’s also having a significant impact on our overall wellbeing. Zipping around from meeting to meeting, jamming our diaries full of social commitments and trying to always make time for everything from yoga sessions to weekly face masks can leave us feeling exhausted; much of what we do is counter productive, but in a time when we’re used to doing three things at once with a smartphone permanently attached to our hands, it’s no surprise that something has to give. For years I barely gave myself a moment to breathe, let alone have a day off or weekend free from commitments, and honestly it started to take its toll.
Last year was intense. Juggling two businesses with planning a wedding in a matter of months is enough to give anyone a breakdown, but somehow I managed to muddle through and get to the end of 2017 in one piece. As soon as the holidays hit, however, I realised that I’d been forcing myself through and my stress levels were at an all time high; I felt uninspired, exhausted and a little bit lost, unable to focus on any one thing and constantly feeling like I should be filling every free moment with something productive. I’d lost the ability to effectively juggle my work life with my personal life, and I needed to re-address the balance.
The problem with being self-employed is that the boundaries blur and your working hours often spill over into evenings and weekends, but after spending five years building up my brands 2018 was the year that I needed to start living for me and enjoying life just a little bit more. I made a conscious decision to take a step back, stop filling my diary and to actually enjoy little moments for myself – and there were a few things that helped me on my way.
REALISING WHAT I WAS WORKING FOR
It took some time for me to understand this, but at some point around Christmas a lightbulb went off in my head; it was a revelation, and one which has totally changed the way I structure my life. I worked tirelessly for years to build up a brand I was proud of in order to have the freedom to do what I wanted, but I wasn’t enjoying the benefits of that success because I was too focused on moving onto the next thing. The purpose of working hard is to have a more enjoyable life and a better balance, but if you don’t take a step back and reap the rewards then what’s the point? My channels offer readers and brands longevity and authority, so I didn’t need to be present 24/7.
REDUCING MY WORKING WEEK
I’ve made a conscious decision this year to stop working at weekends and in the evenings unless absolutely necessary. I’ve also started to take one or two Fridays off a month in order to meet with friends or simply treat myself to a haircut or manicure, and you know what? My business doesn’t implode. Having that time to myself makes a huge difference, but up until this point I’d rarely take a day off unless we had something specifically planned. When you work in an office you’re allocated a set number of days holiday a year, but working for yourself it’s much harder to take those allowances and enjoy them; in 2018 I’m giving myself a generous 30 days holiday and making the most of it.
MAKING TIME FOR ME
Whether it’s sitting down with a great book, running myself a bath or actually just taking an hour over lunch to eat away from my desk with an episode of Friends, I’ve learned that it’s so beneficial to have something outside of clicking, swiping, typing and scrolling. I’d always eat on the go or answer emails on the train, but actually putting down my phone and looking out the window is so much better for the mind. I’ve started to get back into morning yoga, have an acupuncturist appointment every Monday and have learned to love running errands during the week when the world is much quieter. I know I’m in a fortunate position to be able to do this, but assessing how you manage your time and who you give it to plays such a key role in achieving that balance.
STEPPING AWAY FROM SOCIAL
I don’t think I realised how much time I wasted scrolling through social media, reading other blogs and generally trying to figure out how the latest Twitter spat started. Social platforms have such a vital role in our lives, but they’re also incredibly damaging if you don’t get that balance right. I’ve learned to step away and not get so engrossed in everything I see online, rolling my eyes instead of responding to something I think is wrong, and leaving my phone in the other room when I need to really get stuff done (or actually enjoy a full telly programme.) I’ve stopped worrying so much about having something to post on Instagram or pinning a hundred different images a week, instead focusing on what’s important: creating content I’m proud of and enjoying moments with loved ones.
If I don’t land a
campaign? Not the end of the world. If I don’t reply to that email for a
few days? Not the end of the world. If I don’t feel like attending an
event or launch? Not the end of the world. Few days without any blog
posts? Not the end of the world. (You see there’s a pattern emerging
here!) For such a long time I’ve set myself goals and tasks that have to
be achieved by a set time (whether that’s scheduling in my social on a
Monday morning or getting six posts a week up on this site,) but if
they’re not ticked off it really doesn’t make much of a difference; those targets are set by me, nobody else. When
I took almost a month away from working to get married and go away on
honeymoon, nothing really changed – it’s both comforting and reassuring
to know I can stop living life through my laptop.
I’m incredibly fortunate to have some really amazing friends and family members in my life, but admittedly I’ve not necessarily prioritised seeing them over everything else that’s been going on. I started to notice them assuming I was ‘really busy’ or ‘short of time’, when in actual fact I was dying to catch up with them over coffee or spend an evening drinking copious amounts of prosecco; for the past few years I guess they’ve seen me always flitting here, there and everywhere or having to shoot off to take photos / catch up on emails / finish a really important project. Undoubtedly it’s my own doing, but as I get older I realise those relationships are to be cherished and I need to make a concious effort to nurture them. Although I’m definitely no longer a ‘yes’ person (saying yes to every social invite is not my bag,) I’ve started to reach out more and arrange activities rather than waiting to see what dropped in my inbox. The result is I see more of the people that matter to me, rather than just having a close personal relationship with my iPhone.
Don’t get me wrong, finding a great work-life balance is not an easy task and something that continually evolves throughout our lives. However, I definitely feel like I’m at a cross-roads and am far less focused on being a #GirlBoss and far more focused on enjoying living my life. I don’t want to look back in ten years time and find that I missed so much while I was busy trying to build an empire; there’s more to life than being the best, and it starts with putting down your phone and looking around.
We should work to live, not live to work.
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Photos Taken By Kaye Ford: www.fordtography.co.uk
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