Tuesday, March 12, 2013

How I Crocheted My Way To Work-Life Balance

My First Project
Are you feeling overwhelmed? Well I have a bit of a confession: I have a small consulting business, working from my home office. I’m a little bit of a workaholic, cramming work into every spare moment of the day. When I’m working I often feel I should be spending time with the kids; when I’m with the kids I feel like I should be working. In those moments when I feel bombarded by work and life, I want to hide from everything and everyone, hoping it will all go away. Unfortunately this strategy isn’t effective. I end up even farther behind in my work and have to work really hard to catch up. Consequently, I feel more overwhelmed, triggering the cycle all over again.

A couple of months ago I tried an experiment. I was burnt out from working all the time and it was Christmas holidays so I decided to avoid work for a bit. I realized if I was going to procrastinate, I should at least do something more productive than play video games. So, I started a new hobby: crocheting hats for my kids. Surprisingly, I enjoyed it and that was all I did for a week straight. I posted lots of pictures of my creations on Facebook and my friends and family had a good laugh, but regrettably, I didn’t get much consulting work done.

So I made a deal with myself: if I could get a reasonable amount of work done by a certain time of day, then I could take a break for an hour. The results were shocking! I became more productive than I had ever been in the past, and I was taking the time off I needed to recharge, avoiding the whole burnt out cycle in the first place. If I wanted to take a break, it had to be scheduled and intentional. I used to feel guilty that I wasn’t working every spare moment; now I know what finding work–life balance feels like.  Now I have time to read the books I've wanted to, learn things I've been desiring to, and catch up on sleep.

Recently, I read an article on Entreprenuer.com about this topic that made me think of my own experiment. They suggest that “Predictable Time Off” (PTO) forces people to prioritize and increase the coordination of their time, and I couldn’t agree more. With a good planning system (i.e., I use a Franklin Covey priority planner), I was able to finally make the time I needed to take a break and address the priorities in my life. I’m happier, my family is happier, and my work is better as well.

What about you? How do you achieve work–life balance?

Miranda Vande Kuyt is a self-employed project and communications consultant. She is also the facilitator of the "Look Before You Leap: Self-Employment Survival Strategies" online course through www.LifeStrategies.ca.