Could you imagine a store that sold time? Think about it, there would be specialty stores that would sell extra sleep time, an extra hour of work time, an extra 2 hours before your child wakes or the cream of the crop, an extra 15 minutes of nap time while you have a nice glass of wine. Then there would be convenience stores that have quick universal time ups that could be applied to anything, similar to how stores actually sell extra battery power for cell phones.
Hey, don’t forget Amazon Prime—you’d be able to order a package of 3 and have it delivered next day and so on. Sounds pretty sweet right? So what am I getting at with this lengthy whimsical, fairytale idea? It’s not a fairytale at all because being a parent means that time is now a commodity and it is up to you to get it back from what I call the time thieves.
When I catch up with other freelance artists who are parents, we eventually end up on the same topic: how do you approach a work/life balance, especially now with a kid? The amount of work stays the same but now you have less time because of your new parenting duties. Before my son was born I knew to expect a dip in my production, but I thought to myself, “OK, I can plan accordingly, no biggie.” I remember chatting with my friend Jino on Facebook, and I asked him how much of an impact his first kid had on his ability to work, since he was a freelancer as well. Then he gave me the best answer, “Think about how much work you think you will get done and then cut that in half.”
IN HALF. The idea of that sent me into a panic and made me assess very quickly my projects and deadlines. There was the stubborn part of me that said, “No, I still have to create my art and meet my deadlines, and there’s no way I can turn down all these projects.” As reality set in, the days felt shorter and shorter and it seemed as if time was being taken from me. I was trying to sneak away a few minutes here, wrangle a couple hours there just to finish a small project. Very quickly I learned that time was very precious and in order to manage things of high importance, I needed to prioritize. This is the moment when it clicked and I realized time is my commodity. The next step was figuring out to steal more time for my schedule.
Being able to prioritize is hard because you feel like you have to accept every job thrown your way. As freelancers, there are times when a flood of work comes your way and then all of the sudden you catch a drought. When you have several projects coming your way you have to look at your time closely and gauge if this job is really worth it. Is it worth time away from my own projects or time away from my family, and away from me teaching my son about Transformers and Zombies?
I have a simple list of 3 things I like to think about when taking a job now. If 2 of the 3 things on my list are satisfied then I take it. Here are the 3 things:
- Monetary—the pay is good
- Opportunity—the job will lead to greater opportunities
- Passion—it’s a project I want to work on or with people I’ve been wanting to work with
This criteria has been a very useful tool and one of my main methods for recovering lost time.But unfortunately, there is another time thief and it’s disguised as something that is accepted as the norm and is a habitual phrase we say over and over again. “I’m too busy.” As I said before, you make your own busy.
Too often I hear people say “Oh man, I’m so busy, I really don’t have time to do this” or “I’ll play with you later because I am just too busy right now.” I am 100% guilty of saying these things myself and it has taken me quite some time to realize that I am in control of my busy. Yes there are times where you have to take care of something of high importance, there’s a deadline, etc. But even before you get to this point, you are in control of putting yourself in this situation.
This is something you want to realize soon, or else the busy will start to dictate how you run your life. Working in a commercial world, we fall into the trap of trying to please everyone, but remember you can say NO. No is another powerful tool we have to help control the busy, I’ve said no to hanging out with friends and even no to some pretty big projects. It is not an easy thing to do and it’s a long work in process to get to that point, but it will free you up to do the things you want to do and take on the projects that are more worthwhile.
I think the idea of work/life balance is dated. As artists, you need to start changing your mindframe into more along the lines of what’s important, what's less important, what’s a priority, what needs to be taken care of now, etc. If you continue to separate your life and work into 2 categories, then you will always be treating them separately. They need to be grouped together so you can see with clarity what is most important out of everything you are doing. It’s like in life drawing class when your teachers would always say, “Stand back to see if the big picture is working.” Don't stand too close to the page, or else you are going to focus in on all the small details and the whole picture will suffer.
So take a step back and really look at your life, the events, and the bigger picture you are trying to create for yourself and your family. These are things I hope you start thinking about, it takes time to find a balance in your life but you really have to do a little art soul searching, figure out your busy, and your set of prioritizations. By doing so, you are able to dictate your schedule, your life, and steal back your time. I hope this helps, and good luck everyone!
If you have any questions or anything else you want me to expand on, please leave a comment below. Thanks again for stopping by!