Working Hard to Find Work-Life Balance

I’m working hard at the moment.  I am not comparing blogging and content creation to shift work in the NHS or cleaning an office block, or teaching 30 kids every day, but I am putting the hours in. The need to generate words and pictures for the hungry social media platforms I am working on fills up all the gaps around family life.

I work before breakfast, during breakfast, after I have dropped the children off at school and until I collect them again. I work most evenings and at weekends, and have done something work-related every single day since I started Not About the Kids last October. Be in no doubt that anyone who is a successful blogger, influencer, content creator or social media specialist is working their arse off right now. I interviewed interiors influencer Lisa Dawson and she acknowledges that the need to maintain engagement on her social media accounts makes it difficult to take even a couple of days off.

Too much like hard work?

Hard work tends to be either glorified, you can’t expect to achieve anything unless you kill yourself trying. Or vilified, it’s a mug’s game for people who can’t work smart and are headed for burnout. As with everything, I’m sure that the answer lies in the grey area in between. But to be honest, I probably tend to be more of a be-the-hardest-worker-in-the-room type.

So I have approached my new venture with, at times, manic enthusiasm. I sense that some people don’t really understand what on earth I am doing, and why I’m in such a rush. To try and explain it little, it comes from a strong urge to prove that I can achieve something for myself. It’s in the pleasure of finding a creative outlet that I had been missing for years. There’s also an irrational element of scrambling to catch up on all the work hours that I missed when I was ‘off’ with the kids.

Flat lay, coffee cup and stationary accessories, ruler, red Moleskin notepad, red and white

And breathe….

There are a ton of holes in my approach. For example, there’s so much that I would like to achieve that I am setting myself fantastically unrealistic daily targets.

A chat with my coach Stephanie last week lifted a huge weight off my shoulders. We tried to work out exactly how many hours I really have available to work each week. Then, how long it takes to complete a task. Writing a blog post might take 5 hours for example, and taking photos can take an hour at a time. When I looked at it all in black and white I realised that was trying to do way too much.

If you set yourself unreachable goals then the negative voices start to creep in “you committed to updating your blog 3 times a week, and you aren’t meeting that, you are failing Helen”. Read about how coaching has helped me manage negative thinking.

I think the answer is in understanding what is achievable, planning brilliantly, and learning to work productively (ha, new targets). It is so easy to get sucked in Instagram holes for an hour at a time (and now I’m on Twitter….watch out for those Twitter holes, they are sneaky). Blogger Amanda Start, the Online Stylist, often writes wisely about the challenge of creating a healthy right work-life balance. Her post about how a morning routine can help you to work more productively struck a chord with me, have a read.

Leopard skin print fabric, wooden ruler, lips and pineapple patches, flat lay
Props from my photography box

So what gives

I’m very happy to work hard, I’m enjoying it so much that I would do 12 hour days. But if I’m giving lots of time over to work, I have to make peace with the fact that some things aren’t going to happen the way they used to.

I’ve been dropping a fair few balls. I lost my daughter’s spot in a gymnastics lesson because I missed the payment deadline. This is not my usual modus operandi. But hey, it gives us our Friday evenings back, so it’s possible the universe was sending me a message. I’m doing no exercise whatsoever. Appointments and plans aren’t making it on to the calendar (Viking Day at school was Suprise Viking Day in our house). And I’m struggling to catch up with friends that I used to see all the time.

This post by tech journalist Sara Lacy takes a little getting in to but makes some great points. She talks about how finding the right work-life balance for you is just as personal as figuring out your parenting style. I’m so into this kind of thinking. We are all negotiating a set of circumstances that are unique to ourselves. She also admits it’s impossible to cover all basis. We just need to figure out which ones are most necessary, and which we care about most.

Let’s chat work-life

I would love to know your views on work-life balance, and what you have learnt about it over the years. Are you starting a new project, or hoping to progress in your career? Or do want to prioritise family time and relaxation in the future?

10 Comments

  • Hey you!
    I can’t help you with this one accept to say you will find your way.
    Don’t they say work smarter not harder?
    Planning ahead is the only way I can have time off!!
    I love it so not complaining !
    Xxxx

    • I love it too Ashley. I’m really trying to plan my time better, with varying degrees of success, depending on what day it is!! I have a couple of holidays coming up (a good problem to have) so I really need to think about how I am going to manage that with my content. Thanks as ever for your support. H

  • Ah Helen!! I completely hear you and just sat here nodding along to ALL of this! Your enthusiasm does carry you away and then along for eons. Never in my life for any job have I felt so motivated to succeed as I do for the blog and I too struggle to get any balance still. But understanding whats realistic in terms of weekly posts is key. I have now said two posts and if I can manage a third one then I’m winning as opposed to committing to three and feeling like a constant failure. I’m also embracing the catch up week. If you put in a week off blog posting every once in a while, you can get ahead of schedule and the feeling that brings is THE BEST! The other thing I’ve had to make myself do is NOT compare my blogging progress to someone else who has no children and who has a team of people working with them. I have done this for years – how daft! You are doing brilliantly well – keep going and keep loving it! And thanks so much for the shout out! Amanda xx

    • Thanks for your thoughts Amanda, it’s so so helpful for me to hear from more experienced bloggers. Yes, I have scaled back to a twice-a-week blog post target, and am trying to come up with a few ideas for shorter posts. The catch up week is a brilliant idea. At the moment I am lurching from one week to the next, but with holidays approaching I really need a more medium-term plan. I do really love it, it’s such a great outlet. I can write about whatever I like! Much love, Hx

    • Great saying, there is a lot of truth in it. My social life has taken a hit, but that’s ok. I’m so keen to make a go of this that I’m happy to accept that something has to give. Hopefully, I can prove Nigella wrong further down the line. She always has lots of friends in her (working) kitchen! Much love, Helen x

  • I’ve heard that saying before, ‘work, family, social…choose two of the three’. It’s good to hear you’re enjoying your work and throwing yourself into it, and it’s absolutely ok to let some things slip, not everything has to be perfect. I chose to work for myself so that I could keep the flexibility of looking after the kids. My work got manically busy a while ago, which coincided with moving house and taking on a major house renovation which I project managed. I got to the point where I prioritised everything above my health and happiness…I had an injury and couldn’t even find time to see a doctor. Luckily I realised I couldn’t cope before I cracked…I handed my notice in to all my clients with almost immediate effect and the weight that lifted off my shoulders was huge. I took 9 months off, sorted out my health, finished the house project, saw friends often and generally chilled right out. Last September I felt ready to get back to work and am really enjoying it again…but…I have learned my lesson and won’t get myself in that state again. I now take at least one day off a week and don’t do any work that day..I book in time to see friends and I make sure I’m around when the kids need me. It seems they need you just as much (if not more) when their teenagers as when they’re tiny. I’d like to grow my business at some stage by taking on someone else, but am not in a big hurry…yet! Sorry…have rambled, but I think it’s a topic I’ve given a lot of thought to over the last couple of years. Whilst you’ve got the passion and motivation to work hard, then do it…just watch out for when you begin to feel you don’t want to do it anymore. It’s more likely that you just need to take your foot off the pedal and then you’ll remember what you loved about what you were doing…at least that’s what it was like for me 😉

    • Hi Melissa, a great response, thank you. I’m so interested to hear your (very pertinent) perspective. It’s such a good point that even if you have to take your foot off the pedal for a while, it doesn’t mean that you lose your passion and enthusiasm. Not everything needs to be perfect, and life wasn’t perfect for me when I didn’t have my own creative outlet. Taking on this project has involved (is involving) quite a readjustment for me and the family. Expect more rambling blog posts about how we work it all out!! Thanks so much for your support, so pleased to hear that you’ve discovered a better work-life balance. H x

  • I struggle too – especially because I work full-time in the day. Sometimes I just want to collapse in a heap when I get home from work but then I feel guilty for neglecting my side gig and like I’ll never get it to where I want it to be if I do. I guess we’re all in the same boat though, right? It’s all about balance.

    • It can feel like a bit of a daily battle to pick yourself up and carry on, can’t it? Especially when we are not sure of the outcome…. Some time off and perspective is always much needed. Something like a pizza making workshop 😉 Thanks for popping by Mackenzie xxx

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