The problem with working sixteen hours a day, often into the night, sacrificing anything resembling a personal life, often eating junk food and barely walking more than a few steps to put the kettle on, means there is no balance.
The other areas of your life, which are all incredibly important in terms of physical and mental wellbeing, suffer and in turn so do you.
Stephen Covey’s “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” is one of the books that has profoundly affected me and changed the way I live my life. It may sound like a “corporate productivity” book, but it very much looks at how to balance work and life so that you can be effective in your work and enjoy a life outside work.
Making music for a living, I am fortunate to enjoy my passion on a daily basis. Music used to be a hobby and doing it professionally has definitely changed my relationship with it. As a freelance composer and music producer I feel there are two issues that need tackling on a daily basis:
- Switching off
- Finding balance
Because I’m self employed and I love what I do, it can often be very difficult to switch off.
Employed people go to work and then leave. And when they go home they generally leave their work behind until the following day (I appreciate that there are exceptions).
As a freelancer, you never switch off. Because it’s your baby and your livelihood you are constantly thinking/obsessing about it. Morning noon and night. Weekdays and weekends. If you have a home studio there is the additional issue of having no clear separation between work and home which poses challenges.
I have found that setting clear cut off times to be very helpful. It’s not always possible but by setting a finish time you often become more productive.
Parkinson’s Law stats that if you give yourself a month to do something you’ll spend a month doing it. If you give yourself a week you’ll find a way to do it in a week.
I also advocate physical exercise once you hit your cut off time. Whilst our brains are working overtime, we live increasingly sedentary lifestyles and we spend inordinate amounts of times sat on our arses. Cue back problems. Physical exercise not only tires you physically, but it can completely switches your focus and helps you to switch off.
Because (for most) you are pursuing your passion professionally and because of the nature of making music, it can be very difficult to know when to stop. Quite the opposite problem of being employed where you often countdown the minutes to being able to leave.
When I’m immersed in a project it is often hard to stop myself and walk away. I invest all of my time and energy in my work and fail balance work and life.
You don’t notice it at first. It happens very slowly and it’s quite intangible. But this imbalance can have a hugely negative impact on you, and often those around you.
I have friends in the industry who have suffered from agoraphobia (fear of leaving the house), and have suffered debilitating physical ailments as a result of this imbalance. When I’m busy on a project I find myself in a permanent state of stress and unable to sleep. I’m slowly starting to get a handle on it… for now.
The “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” helped me gain some perspective and taught me how to balance work and life. I’m actually reading it for the third time. And each time I try and put more and more of it into practice. Something which will probably take a lifetime to master.
I also can’t speak highly enough of meditation. I find that making music makes my head fizz with thoughts and ideas. Meditation helps me get a handle on this.