(Today’s post is by Carrie Waller. Carrie’s my favorite artist on earth, and she’s also kind and funny and our friend. We hope she sticks around and continues to take our phone calls. Take it away, Carrie.)
As I sit down to write this blog post, SpongeBob is blaring in the background and my 3-year-old and 6-year-old sons are arguing over who gets control of the remote.
Welcome to my world as a stay-at-home, working parent.
Almost daily I have someone ask me how I balance it all.
I generally smile and “say sleep is overrated”. Truth be told I didn’t have life in balance. The very word balance had taken on a negative connotation in my life. But somehow I always managed to get “it” done, whatever “it” may be: a commissioned artwork for a client, a deadline for an international competition, or cupcakes for my son’s kindergarten class. I worked hard to make “it” look easy.
While trying to figure out how to get balance in my life, I had an epiphany. I came across an on-line article by Fast Company titled Strive for Work-Life Integration, Not Balance. I’m pretty sure you could see a light bulb appear over my head. I decided to get rid of the word balance all together. It all became so clear, I just need to figure out the best way to integrate friends and family, mommyhood and our military marriage into my art career.
Get rid of the word “balance.”
The article in Fast Company went on to say that we need to identify who we are and what our behavioral patterns are like. Do you describe yourself as a person who puts work first? Family first? Some combination of the two. People that put work first tend to allow work to interrupt family while people who put family first tend to allow family to interrupt work. Maybe you’re a separator and tend have blocks of time devoted to both. Or you could be a cycler that goes back and forth between the family/friends and work.
I put myself in the category of a cycler. As a Mom I have to be flexible and stop work to make lunch, wipe noses, pick up kids from school, etc. I have trained myself to focus during times that are quieter and know when I have to put it down and have family time.
After reading this article I really began to analyze my work habits and with my new found knowledge I decided that I could be a lot more productive if I just understood my natural behaviors and scheduled accordingly. I am most creative after 4pm, so why do I try to paint during the morning hours? Forcing myself in to an unnatural behavior usually ends in a whole lot of nothing. I decided to take action and change my working structure. I now do administrative things during the day, I respond to e-mails, face book, mail paintings, talk with clients, etc during the A.M. hours. After the kids are in bed I sit down and get to work on my paintings. My productivity has soared and I have given myself permission to work with the schedule that works best for me.
Eliminating balance in favor of integration has worked so well for me, I’d like to challenge you to try it with these three simple steps:
- Identify your behaviors
- Analyze your work habits
- Take Action
So the next time someone asks, “how do you balance it all?”
You can reply with confidence, “I don’t!”