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.

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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? 

 

 

 

growing in 2016

I’m not getting any taller, I promise.

I mean “grow” in the figurative sense. I say that because January seems to be the month of self reflection. Self reflection that is going to inform the year ahead.

Myself and a few friends, Simon and Suzanne (both of whom I happen to have the pleasure of working with), agreed that we would start the year well and spend some time together thinking about how we want to grow and develop in 2016.

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We worked through a work-book (horrible word, trying to think of an alternative) by Susannah Conway called “Unravelling The Year Ahead”. Susannah helps you get clear on what you want to create, how you want to feel and what’s most important to you, all by asking a series of simple and searching questions. In fact, these questions are so simple and lovely that it seems a bit ridiculous that I had never stopped to think about them before!

We shared some of our responses and then spent some time in “Triads” in the comfort of Si’s father-in-laws’s flat by the sea in Brighton.

“Triads”? But what’s “Triads”??

Triads is a conversation tool that we learnt about at an Art of Hosting training week. Three people per triad. One question to mull over. A set length of time per person to talk about their answer to said question.

Our question was “What do you need this year to help you grow and develop?”.

One person answers the question.

One person asks powerful questions (no advice, just questions!) and encourages thought development.

One person listens intently and reflects on the interaction at the end.

Personally I think this is a great way to peer coach… But I haven’t actually had any formal coaching training so I’m just going on the fact that it is really bloody helpful!

The things that came up repeatedly, both in triads and in the workbook, in my answer to this question were:

 

I need to give myself time : I need to put development as an immovable date in the diary, rather than something on the bottom of a to-do list that gets pushed further down in the list of priorities.

I need to give myself space : I need to move away from the places that I associate with the usual routine. Something as small as a different room in the flat to as big as a completely different country.

I need to give myself permission : I’ve found that I often need someone to tell me that something is a good idea before I run with it. I like the affirmation that something is valuable to do. Most of the time I need to give permission to myself. I could psycho-analyse myself all day on that one!

These are things that I have always known but have never really been proactive on. Now, more than ever, I need to be focused on ways to grow and develop my skills, knowledge and just about anything else.

I think it’s fair to say that when in full time employment there is an expectation to get additional training in a particular field. I think it’s also fair to say that when freelancing there is an over riding feeling of guilt when you just look at a training course (and most specifically the cost of said training course), let alone when you have forked out the cash and taken yourself off for a week.

Not that it is all about big long training weekends. It’s also that alternative-business book that I’ve been putting off buying because it’s £15.99 and that’s a bit more than I expected.  And that trip to * insert far off city here * for that conference that isn’t as free as I would like it to be.

“But I’m not going to be “earning” for an entire week!”, “I need to spend that £15.99 on shampoo and extension leads!” and “Train travel AND conference fees?!”

And so starts the panic.

Of course the panic needs to back off. Investment in personal development is so important that businesses will pay for you to do it, so you’ve got to spend the time to do it for yourself. It’s so good intact, that HMRC will very kindly let you take any “trade” related training & purchases off your tax bill, so really there is no excuse!

After having the day with Suzanne and Simon, talking over our desires for the year (as framed by the lovely Susannah Conway) and our needs for development (thank you triads), I have a new found energy to pursue this for the year. Thankfully I won’t be pursuing this on my own, I’ll have S&S to check in on me, making sure I’m moving in the right direction and reminding me how important this is when the panic comes back.

Looks like #2015LEARN is sticking around for a while!

 

 

 

 

 

the added challenge of #2016write

This year is #2016write. If you read my last post then you will be happy to know that two weeks in things are going well!

The one thing that I didn’t mention about #2016write is that I am also seeing it as a bit of a personal challenge.

This blog, nota9to5.me, is my way of documenting how am spending my time outside of traditional employment. Freelancing was an incredibly big jump for me (as someone who has always, more or less, had a fairly secure income) and I wanted to record my time somehow.

In my first ever post I wrote something along the lines of:

“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.”

In #2016write I am going to revisit this paragraph as the framework for some of the things I’m going to write about – both generally and on this blog.

The problem with this is that, whenever I come close to writing a post of a deeper nature, I get an attack of “Why would anyone care about what I have to say on the matter?” or “What if this is more hot air being added to the ever expanding Web?”. I generally end up listening to this inner voice and then delete the draft that I might have started writing.

So in this post of public honesty I’m going to say “screw you” to those voices of misgivings and I’m going to share more openly.

If you want to encourage me on this challenge (and also help me do a little self reflection!) and you have a question or two that you would want me to respond to then feel free to ping it my way!
(Interestingly I almost didn’t publish post for exactly the reasons I’ve told you about… I think #2016write will be more challenging than I anticipated!)

 

a baking confession

I always said that I would NEVER, in A MILLION YEARS watch Great British Bake Off. I always said that it was just another one of those X-Factor/Britain’s Got Talent style money making gimmicks for the gullible, full of over-iced, bland cakes and over-iced, bland personalities.

Obviously I had never seen an episode. I was just being stubborn, difficult and desperate to not be one of those people who won’t shut up about #GBBO.

Now, after being forced to watch an episode one Wednesday many months ago, I am OBSESSED. It’s brilliant! I love them all: the lovely contestants, the male judge, boozy Mary, and most of all… Mel & Sue.

Mel & Sue - Comedy Gold.

Oh, you guys!

The reason I mention all of this is because #GBBO has reignited a love of baking that I have neglected for a while.

If you follow me on instagram then you will see that, at the moment, the majority of my posts are baking related. This last week alone I made: a batch of flatbreads, banana bread (x2), two batches of Maple and Oat muffins, English toasting muffins, crumpets, pizza dough, lemon polenta cake…

I’ve been on a roll! (ba-dum-tishhhhh)

A hot bit of crumpet

We’re having a new kitchen installed at the vicarage so I’ve been inspired to have a bash at some more baking since we now have kitchen counters again. Everything has been a bit of a building site for about a month!

You're a tasty English muffin

But most of this baking has happened because I’ve been lucky enough to wangle myself a 2 day a week job at one of my favourite coffee shops in Bournemouth (The Living Room in Westbourne) making cakes, doodling on walls and making coffees. It was supposed to be a little something that would help me on top of freelancing, but it has become the best part of the week.

Oat and Maple MuffinsIt makes me think: since I’m enjoying myself so much, should I try and run with this full time? If it’s full time will I still be not-a-9-to-5-er? If you have a job that you love, then you add 5 days to your weekend so that could work… The thing that makes me hesitate is the worry that if I try and do something that I love doing as a “job” then will I begin to resent it and not enjoy it any more?

Customer's birthday cake

While I’m mulling all this over I’m going to carry on baking away at a leisurely pace. In true not-a-9-to-5 fashion I’ve got plenty of other things keeping me busy, but in the mean time I’ve booked myself onto a few fun-days and workshops around Bournemouth that will help me learn a little bit more about making and baking. Expect to hear more about that!

Now, I better get back to watching #GBBO… I’m catching up from the beginning and the Series 1 semi-final is looking like a corker!

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!

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