Loving what you do is an incredible gift. It’s also a trap. Maintaining a healthy work/life balance when you do what you love is tricky, but not impossible. First, we need to think about it less in terms of balancing two separate pieces, and more as integrating them together. There will always be weeks where work takes over. When we let this rule our life, though, we begin to tumble. We need to set boundaries so we can continue creating work we love without hitting burnout, and this is how.
Burnout is real, and no one is immune
As a workaholic-in-recovery, it’s very easy for me to go from working hard to overworking. I enjoy my career, and I have big goals. But after going through multiple periods of burnout myself, I want to share an obvious yet under-listened to statement: working constantly isn’t healthy.
We’ve heard it many times, yet we continue to do it. Even those who have the greatest passion in the world for their work experience burnout. Over time, I’ve learned how to recognize the early signs so I can stop sooner than last time:
- Turning down plans to stay in and work multiple times in one month. Big dreams require sacrifice, but turning down every dinner or drinks invite is a clear sign that priorities need to be realigned.
- Letting the to do list rule your life. There will always be more to do, but your mental and physical health is more important. When you begin to focus too closely on your list while ignoring your needs, burnout is near.
- Burnout is an evolving process. Even if we think we can work constantly, we can’t. We need to set clear boundaries to protect our mind, soul, relationships, and the work itself.
Work hard so you can “clock out”
Setting boundaries in work require hard work up front so we can enjoy our lives later. If you’re in a freelance or entrepreneurship role, you’re never really “off.” It comes with the career, but it doesn’t have to define it.
Create a strong work/life integration by creating a schedule. This only works when you stay focused, though. Limit social media and other distractions and just work. Once you’ve hit your pre-determined “clock out” time, stop working.
There will be moments where an emergency arises, but when you prioritize integrating work and life, you have a better opportunity for a more fulfilled life.
Take one full day off a week
Taking one full day off a week is integral to our creative and mental health. It provides a day to rest and reconnect with your community before getting back into the fray of contracts, meetings, and creative work.
This means no scheduling a few posts before everyone else is awake. No flat lays before heading to dinner. No email while waiting at your favorite coffee shop. It’s going to be a difficult transition but your relationships and mental health will benefit.
It doesn’t have to align with the conventional idea of a weekend. Maybe you want Thursdays off instead. Pick a day that works for you, and commit. If you have an idea, write it down in your phone’s notes and get back to living in the moment. Investing in relationships is more important. I promise.
Thriving through work/life integration is possible. It requires clear boundaries and self-awareness, but it will always be worth the effort. If you’re ready to begin investing in relationships while not letting the to do list rule your life, begin setting goals and putting the structure in place to reach them. We’re fortunate to do what we love; we just have to integrate it.