why I don’t have a work/life balance

My not-a-9-to-5 quest was to try and see if there is another way to work, a way that means you aren’t constantly trying to find a “work/life balance”. I really, really, really don’t like that phrase.

I’ve been mulling over my reactions to “work/life balance” for quite some time now. I’m pretty sure that most of you have had to put up with me going on about it.

After lots of revisiting my thoughts, I like to think it comes down to the assumptions that come with the phrase “work/life balance”. Some of them are good and wise, assumptions that we should bear in mind. Other assumptions, however, are downright harmful.

Here are some of the assumptions I have found really damaging:

1) Life is all the stuff that happens when you are not at work.

Say you work 40 hours a week. That’s 2080 hours a year… 86 solid 24 hour days. If your lucky enough to be working from ages 18 – 65 then that will be a total of 4,042 24 hour days of your life that you’ve spent working. Just over 11 years.

That’s quite a lot of time to not consider part of your full and dynamic life.

2) If you work too much it is always a bad thing and it requires balancing.

One of the best bits of advice that I was given when I started not-9-to-5-ing was “Work when you’re inspired to work”. This makes me so much more productive. Sometimes I’m inspired to work for 14 hours a day* and that day is satisfying and affirming. Life should be satisfying and affirming and if your work is doing that for you, GREAT.

What do we consider ‘work’? We’re conditioned to think that we’re only being productive when we’re sat in front of the computer typing away. But as a freelancer, I need to make sure that I include reading, development, meeting like-minded people, training etc. That keeps me inspired, affirmed and is a productive way to spend my time.

*and yes sometimes I’m only inspired for 1 hour a day… I’m still trying to work out how I manage that.

3) It is good/healthy to disconnect your life from your work and vica versa.

This is similar to point number one but what I mean with this is that we shouldn’t have to be two separate personas: the ‘life’ me and the ‘work’ me. I’m just me. I am me in all of those areas of life. I may have different responsibilities in those areas of life but my ‘me-ness’ stays the same.

And, for the sake of this much loved balance, here are the good assumptions that I think it’s fair to recognise.

1) You should make time for different things in your life.

We have lots of parts to our lives; be it work, family, hobbies, travel, friends, self development… and we should make sure that all these things are – over the course of our lives – balanced.

There is a time for this, and there is a time for that. Those stretches of time might be days, weeks, months or years. It would be impossible to make sure that everything is equal every day. I know I would be endlessly beating myself up for not achieving ‘balance’ if that were the case.

2) Your job doesnt define, box or validate you.

Some days this is one I find particularly difficult to get to grips with this, mostly thanks to the “So, what do you do?” question at networking events/dinner parties/any social interaction.

But when I’m having a good day, I remember this: Your job doesn’t define you, you define your job. You bring all that is intrinsically YOU to the role, whatever it is.

The same role done by someone else looks completely different. Your life, your experiences and your personality could make even the most boring job wonderful.

3) Rest is good.

Very good. Good for your body, spirit and mind. If you don’t have rest your body lets you know what it thinks about your lifestyle. My body reminded me to rest by prescribing me a dose of alopecia – as someone who takes pride in their long flowing locks, I got the message rather quickly!

So…

What I’ve decided to settle with is a…

Life Life Balance - Faizal Lulat

(This wonderful image was made for me by an amazing artist called Faizal Lulat, who I met in Brick Lane Market a few years ago. You should check out his stuff and see what he’s about!)

All of this stuff and activity is life. If I ever start to see something as ‘other to life’ then I know I’ll need to have another long hard look at how I am doing things and why this ‘other to life’ activity has become just that.

So, here’s to a LIFE/LIFE balance. May we all feel happier for it.

___________________________________________________________

The inevitable disclaimer: because I always end up talking myself round in circles! 

I am aware that I am developing these thoughts for the context I am in now. No doubt when I am older and with children I will want to revisit this and see if my opinions have changed.

I am also aware I have the flexibility to work doing the things I love (meeting people, supporting community-focused and social-action projects, and exploring Bournemouth in a freelancer-y not-a-9-to-5 kind of way), so my lens probably takes that for granted too. My position could be quite different if I was in a job that I had to have (to afford rent/mortgage/ever increasing cost of living/supporting a family) and that I didn’t necessarily enjoy. However, being the optimist that I am, I would hope that in that situation I could see life in it and the people I was around, even if it wasn’t “living the dream”.

If I HATED my work and the people I happened to be working with, and there was no silver lining or positive spin I could put on the situation, then I would definitely say there has to be something better out there. 11 years is a long chunk of your life to resent.

I’m going to think about this more. In writing this I’ve made a huge list of tangents to go on, books to read and ideas to develop! 

What do you think? 

 

 

 

milestones and hurrahs

I’ve passed a bit of a milestone. It’s a milestone I certainly wasn’t expecting to reach! One year ago, almost to the day, I had my last day at my old place of employment (the ever wonderful Love146) and went full time in not-9-to-5-ing.

Just over a year ago I decided I wanted to be available to be involved with things that inspire me. I wanted to work with a varied bunch of people in Bournemouth (and around the south), and see more great stuff happen with their charities and projects. Most of all I wanted to have 5 days added to my weekend by doing things that I love all week round. I didn’t want an easy life, I wanted a FULL life.

And a full life needs to start with A LIST!

On my list, alongside a vaguely sensible freelancing strategy, I had things like “spend more time reading”,  “spend more time outside”, “spend quality time with people who inspire me” and my personal favourite “breath deeply”. I wanted to be more intentional with the way I spent all of my life, not through having a “work life balance” but instead mingling my “work” and “life” so they were one lovely existence.

The first 2 months I was ON IT. I stormed through 5 books, I foraged for wild fruits, I baked, I made christmas crafts, I got the best tan of my life and I got to hang out with some really excellent people. I did the classic “kid yourself into thinking you’re a lady of leisure” thing when you suddenly have some time on your hands.

Two months turned into three and three months turned into six. Now a year has gone by and I’m still freelancing, baking and creating my way through the seasons. I didn’t think I could get to the point where I could sustain myself by doing the things I enjoy but somehow I’ve managed it. That’s not to say it’s been a year long bed of roses, I’ve had my fair share of worries too. I’ve written out job applications to jobs I didn’t want, just so I could feel a bit safer. There have been times where I’ve had to go into my locked away savings to make the rent. I’ve made quite a few panic phone calls to close friends where I spewed a train of thought that started with “what the hell was I thinking?!” and ended with “maybe it’s time to go back to the “real” world”.

Fortunately those times are balanced out with a project offer coming in at just the right time/a coffee shop needing a part time baker/a well timed tax rebate/a prayerful retreat/a good bit of networking that sees a whole bunch of new things to explore/some good words from friends, family, songs or books that remind me why I gave this not-a-9-to-5 thing a go in the first place. Those times made all the difference to me this year. I would have only lasted the first two months without them.

So I’m shouting a big HURRAH for this past year and a big THANK YOU to all those wonderful people who have egged me on! Life is wonderful (worries and all) and I can’t wait to see what happens next!

Header1013116_10151442181632126_2145390854_nFooter

doing things properly this year

The last 6 months have been wonderful! I’ve managed to get by through supporting charities and projects as and when they happen (The Bournemouth Scene Alternative Map is printing as we speak!!), making a bit of coffee here and there and crafting some christmas delights. While this has been quite joyful, it doesn’t lead to the most sustainable lifestyle. So if I’m going to keep up my “not a 9 to 5” pledge this year, I’m going to have to do things properly. As you might have read in my last post, I’m going to be attentive!

Shortly after writing my #oneword365 blog post I was excited about all the potential for the year. It was about 11pm and I was pumped, there was no way I could stay in the house. So to let off a bit of energy I went for a somewhat stormy and treacherous walk along the beach with my housemates.

Marc, Lenka and me

I found some driftwood and a reel of sandy string and decided to channel my inner KTPX (my dear friend who is possibly one of the most creative people I know!) so I created myself a little crafty reminder of that windy walk and my 2014 promise.

IMG_4057

So I’ve had that in mind this January – mostly because I see that sign every time I sit at my desk! I’m setting myself up, a little more formally, to do the thing I’ve been doing all along… Charity freelancing: supporting people and the charities they care about, in any way I can. My friend Debs, who I’m working with in this charity freelancing adventure, describes it as “filling in the gaps that charities may not have the capacity to fill themselves”. Gaps like:

copy writing and story telling // project or events management // a social media boost //  research // fundraising //  impact reporting  // systems streamlining // bookkeeping // ideas generating // tools set up // an outside pair of eyes to bounce ideas and drink tea with

Those kinds of things.  I’ve worked with some great, passionate people and the charities they care about. Passionate people have an amazing contagious energy and so you can’t help but be excited about work. So long may this continue!

Did you decide on a word for 2014? Have your #oneword365 words given you a fresh perspective this year?

Woops!

The inevitable has happened: I’ve managed to get behind on posting on this blog. I always knew this was going to be an issue, I can get very easily get distracted and even more so when I have a bit of writers block!

So I’m discarding the post I’ve had half finished in my drafts for the last 3 weeks and starting fresh.

In the mean time, now I’ve made my excuses, here are 5 things  that have brought me joy over the past few weeks.

(1) Nutella Hot Chocolate. Nutella + hot milk = done. Apparently I’ve failed at youth for not having done this before the age of 25.

(2) Seeing Cat Empire at o2 Academy Bournemouth.

(3) This playlist on spotify. (Best listened to in candle light.)

(4) These illustrations by Mother (Mica Hendricks) & Daughter dream team.

(5) And finally this little poem by Hafez

Screen Shot 2013-10-24 at 17.46.54

my ‘goodbye 9 to 5’ to do list

I knew that if I didn’t write anything down I wouldn’t actually get anything done. I would instead waste away my time without actually doing anything that I wanted to do when I set out on this funny little journey! So these are some of the things that made me think, yes that’s how I would like to spend some of my days!

Header

Spend more time reading – My reading list is huge. No matter how much I read I always seem to have an increasing ‘To Read’ pile. I think this might have something to do with living a 4 minute walk from Waterstones… I’m making my way through a lot of social-economics, theology, poetry and a bit of fiction on the side. Which makes for a very interesting plot mix up when I start reading 4 books at once!!

Find a part time job around people – I love people. If I could spend more time around people and be paid for it that can only be good. The ideal is a coffee shop job… which I now have! Result! Job done!

Do ‘The Artists Way‘ in some shape or form – A lot of people have recommended this to me over the past 9 months and whilst I don’t really think myself as a creative person I think it could open up some unexpected learning experiences! One part of it is writing 3 pages of stream of consciousness. I’ve given it a go in the past but only manage a couple of weeks. Let’s see if I can actually stick with it!

Spend more time outside – Hopefully this will involve swimming in the sea at least 3 times over the next month.

Meet and spend quality time with 3 people who’s lifestyle/work ethic intrigues me – Meet, learn, share and collect stories. Hopefully with a few beers. Perfect.

Breath deeply – Sounds silly but I don’t think I stop enough. I would like to stop and be still a little bit more.

Learn a new craft/find a creative output – I want to learn how to do something and see myself improve at it overtime, I get a lot of satisfaction out of this.

Drink more coffee – Because it’s delicious and coffee shops are a delightful (biased but true).

Footer

goodbye 9 to 5!

This summer has opened a new and mildly terrifying door for me. In July I had my last day of working at a fantastic NGO (a 9-5 administrative/events management desk job), and my first day of my time exploring the world of unpredictable freelancing and “being available” for things that catch my attention!

Rather than let this new world pass by me I want to evaluate, explore and share little nuggets that I’m learning along the way. I think it will involve a lot of slowing down, a lot of honest conversations, plenty of story sharing and hopefully stumbling on the unexpected in the everyday.

I suppose this is what this blog is about!