Balance is the first of ten aspects of our work as creative professionals that I’ve committed to exploring through my blog and newsletter this year.
Balance is an important aspect to consider in the bigger picture of what is involved in our work as creative professionals. It is a topic that comes up frequently in my coaching conversations with artists and creatives. Which is not surprising because building and sustaining a creative practice, business or career necessitates balancing a lot of things. We have to balance putting time, energy and creativity into conceptualizing and making our work along with all of what is required to grow and sustain our opportunities, development and livelihoods. Many creatives I work with also balance freelance work, teaching or other kinds of employment alongside their independent practice or business. Others want to work towards finding a better balance between work, family and social priorities, self-care, learning, travel and other things that are important to them. Balance can mean a lot of different things at different points of time depending on our specific circumstances, needs and desires as creative professionals.
What do YOU need or want to balance this year as a creative professional?
Perhaps you started 2024 feeling determined to make some specific changes to how you approach balance. Or are you looking at your goals and commitments for the year ahead and wondering how you are going to balance it all? However you are looking at balance right now, it might be helpful to consider that:
Balance looks and feels different for everyone! People have different energy levels, physical and mental capacities, priorities and demands they are trying to balance.
Balance is always a moving target. Circumstances change, new opportunities or demands appear that we can’t always anticipate.
Balance is an ongoing practice that requires self-awareness, prioritizing, boundaries, flexibility and self-compassion
Whatever balance means to you this year, wherever you are in your quest for balance, here are some strategies and questions to help you identify actions you can take to practice better balance in your work and life as a creative professional:
Live your priorities as a creative professional. Having clear priorities helps you make decisions and positions you to better focus your time and energy on what matters most to you.
"What are your top priorities this year as a creative professional?"
Take a few moments to really think about this. Write your top priorities down or create a visual representation you can come back to when you are feeling overwhelmed or out of balance.
Be intentional about what and how much you take on and how you pace yourself. Of course you may need to go all out to meet a specific deadline or complete a project - but working at top speed or long hours and taking on too many things for extended periods can lead to mistakes and burn out. Being intentional in even the smallest ways can have a BIG impact on our sense of balance and enjoyment. I’m a big fan of blocking chunks of time in my weekly schedule for projects that I want to take my time with and bring my creativity to and of taking 15 minute walks to get up, move my body and reset my brain before I transition to my next client or task.
“Where could you be more intentional about taking your time (rather than rushing),
building in breaks or making more thoughtful transitions?
Tip: Read how Small Changes = Big Impacts for Creatives where I delve into how creatives can be more intentional at a micro level.
Set boundaries for yourself and others. Clarifying your boundaries for yourself, setting boundaries with others and communicating them clearly supports balance. (I literally just had this discussion with a client last week!)
"Where might you need to set new or maintain existing boundaries
in service of balancing your priorities this year?"
Tip: “No” is a word that frees you from being overwhelmed and supports balance. ”Yes, but” insert your boundary/your expectation/your need here can also be helpful, especially when a hard no isn’t practical or possible.
Structure and routine supports balance (and productivity). Look ahead in the week and pick meaningful chunks of time you can schedule based on your priorities. It’s even better if these can be repeated week after week. With a structure in place, you can better focus your energy and time which helps to create a better sense of balance.
“Where could more structure bring you a better sense of balance?”
Embrace flexibility. Don’t get trapped into all or nothing thinking! The last thing you want is to introduce more stress into the equation by berating yourself for failing to adhere to rigid expectations. Allow some wiggle room in your routine, but stick to things enough to stay true to your priorities. I like to encourage clients to envision a range of commitment and success. This allows room for adjustment and real life.
"What would be an acceptable bare minimum of time/actions/commitment
towards each of your main priorities?
(Observation: Some of my clients have discovered that setting a bare minimum of 15 minutes on a task or taking one action per day or week towards a priority is achievable and transformative.)
What would be ideal?
What would be a happy medium?"
Tip: It may be helpful to set some general objectives and also to consider these questions week-to-week based on your changing real life circumstances!
Check your sense of balance regularly. Awareness - knowing when you have balance and when you’ve lost it - is what enables you to take action to adjust your balance. Make time to reflect regularly. Ask yourself ...
"What is my sense of balance today or this week?"
If needed "What action(s) can I take to find better balance?"
When making decisions, ask ...
“Does this move me towards or away from balance in my work and life"
I appreciate that you likely have a lot that you want and need to balance in your life as a creative professional. I hope you are taking away something that will help you achieve better balance this year!
Download my Wheel of Creative Practice/Business/Career for free to consider the full picture of what’s involved in building and sustaining your practice, business and livelihood as a creative professional.
Image Credit: Michael Evans and Chris Mitchell