How to balance work and life

How to balance work and life

By Rachel Segal Hamilton IdeasTap 13/02/13

When your career is also your creative passion, the line between work and life can become blurred. So what’s the secret to striking a balance between the two…?

I have a theory. The less seriously you take your job, the easier it is to achieve a good work/life balance. When I was waitressing to fund my MA, I didn’t then find myself wandering around at home with three plates up each arm, politely asking my housemates if they’d like the bill. Once my shift was done, I was back in Life mode.

When you do something you love, especially something creative, the distinction is less clear. You’re inspired by real-life experiences – conversations with your friends, anecdotes from your past. Your mates double up as work contacts and, from time to time, as clients. Your Twitter timeline alternates between links to your latest professional blog post and photos of your lunch. Life spills into work and back again.

Having a career you enjoy enough to think about outside office hours is one of the more rewarding aspects of working in the arts – let’s face it, few of us are in it for the money – but a creative occupation, which often involves working from home or working with your friends, can make it hard to relax. And this leaves you feeling stressed out, burnt out and uninspired. Check out these tips on finding a work/life balance, and share yours in a comment below.


Musician and musical director Ellie Verkerk: “In my experience, the work-life balance changes roughly every three months and depends on what your priorities are. What’s the end goal? What makes you happy? What inspires you? This needs to be crystal clear. Learn where to place your boundaries, trust your intuition, choose projects wisely and accept work that will inspire you and drive you to become a better creative and a better person.”

Designer Dan Transformer: “Have a set working day and, when it’s done, turn auto alerts off for your work email on your phone.”

Photographer and photography studio manager Richard Battye: “It’s hard to switch off. If I’m at the cinema or even watching a film at home to unwind, I’m watching the lighting and camera angles. What I need is something totally immersive where I can't answer the phone or check email or Twitter. So a cameraman friend and I meet up and ride motorbikes! It’s phone-free, outdoors, good fun, nothing to do with photography and that slight element of danger puts you back in touch with life.”

Dancer and choreographer Rachel Birch-Lawson: “I keep a tally of the number of hours I’ve worked in a week. When I hit 40, I stop! Usually...”

Actor and writer Athena Stevens: “I keep very regular working hours after I ended up over-working myself to the point I went to A&E. Thanks to advice from a close friend I don’t work past 6pm or at weekends. Most people think that would make you less productive but it really helps me. I also always eat good food. Don’t deprive yourself by cutting calories, dieting or saying you’re too busy to eat. If you’re busy, you need all the fuel you can get.” 

Editor and writer Sian Meades: “I try not to switch my laptop on when I get home. I’m all for working late when needed, and keeping involved in industry events outside of a 9-to-5 day, but if I’m faffing about online then, before I know it, I’m writing to-do lists, sending emails and I’ve lost my evening to spreadsheets. Instead, I’ll let my laptop battery run down. When it’s dead, I watch a film, go to the pub or have a conversation with someone in the real world. It helps, and usually that’s what inspires me during my real work hours.”

Dancer and event planner Abigail Oliver: “As a freelancer, it’s so hard to restrict work hours but I try to keep Sunday as my day off – I avoid emails and catch up with friends.”


Useful resources

Lifehacker is a website full of tips about how to organise your work and life efficiently.

This Column Will Change Your Life is a column about wellbeing by Oliver Burkeman.

The Mental Health Foundation has a guide to keeping a healthy work/life balance.


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How do YOU keep a work/life balance? Let us know, below…

Image: Clocks by Leo Reynolds on a CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 license.

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