Balancing a creative life while still trying to figure out actual life is difficult. Most of us don’t get to pursue our creative endeavors full-time. For most of us, we develop hobbies, part-time projects, or side-hustles to scratch that creative itch we can never fully satisfy.
When we choose to adopt a creative life — because we all choose to show up every day and create, or we fizzle out — we also choose to add more to our day. Starting a project or a side-hustle is hard work. We add pressure to deliver our creations, especially if we have an audience. We have to say no to distractions and outings that will pull us away from our projects.
It’s not easy to maintain balance with a creative life, especially on top of our normal routines. I work from 7:30 until 4:30 every day, using the mornings and evenings to accomplish my side-hustle and write. It doesn’t leave much in between, but I’ve learned a system that helps keep me balanced. Here’s how you can maintain balance without giving up your creative life.
Determine your priorities
First and foremost, you have to know what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. Are you trying to finish a book? Are you wanting to start a business? Are you looking to finally break out of the work routine and start your creative life full-time?
Now you have to take a hard look at your daily routine. What are you doing during the day? If you aren’t incorporating time for your projects, are they really a priority to you?
Within your daily routine, you have to find the spots that detract from your priority. Are you taking the full hour for lunch? If so, consider eating in the office and using the remaining lunch hour to work on a project. Are you scrolling on social media or wasting time with personal notifications? Edit your settings to eliminate those distractions. The extra productivity you get from that time can help you finish work faster and use the leftover time for your side-hustle.
Learn to say no
Whenever you say yes to something — a social night, watching a movie or show, a different project — you’re saying no to something else; specifically your side-hustle, project, or even health. I’ve learned to say no to evening social events so I can get to bed on time. If I don’t sleep, I won’t wake up for a workout or get an article written before I get to work. It becomes a cycle.
You can still say yes to things, just find a way to be more intentional about it. Limit yourself to one unplanned yes a week, or find ways to tie things together. I use my drive to work for podcasts and music and my drive home to talk to my mom or other family members. It helps me make the most of that time where I can’t work on my projects so I can get home and work on them free of distraction.
Because you can’t work on your project full-time, it takes a lot of patience to not chomp at the bit constantly. Taking on a full project with only part-time focus means it will take longer to complete, and that can be frustrating. Patience is key when you can only take on small goals at one time. Starting a coaching business, like I’ve done recently begins with a framework. Now that I’ve set up a framework, my next small goal is to develop the extra resources that go along with it. I can’t tackle it all at once because I’m working full time, but I know that patience is going to pay off when the final product is polished and presentable rather than rushed and sloppy.
Create a structure
The best way to work on your project is by setting up time for it. Know that working part-time on your side-hustle is going to mean spreading action across a longer period of time. It’s important to create a structure that not only allows you to work on your project, but also gives you flexibility to fulfill your other life commitments.
Schedule your side-hustle work into your calendars, clearly identify the action steps you need to complete during those times, and say no to the things that will pull you away. This requires setting boundaries, especially with loved ones, about when you’re available, your priorities, and your goals for completing the project. If it makes sense to you, and makes you happy, don’t let others bring you down.
This is your life
You are in control of your creative life which means you have control over what you bring in. Your number one priority, over any creative goal or other project, is yourself. If at any time your creative life is detracting from your health, your relationships, or your well-being, it’s time to reevaluate where your time is going.
Burnout is possible, and it’s also possible to overwhelm yourself. Expecting to complete a full project in the same time as a full-time person might while you’re only working part-time is a recipe for disaster. Reassess your schedule, cut back, and reflect on your patience. Sometimes we underestimate the work that will go in to a project or overestimate our skills to do it in a shorter time frame. Be flexible when you start a new project and understand that things will not move as fast as you hope, but in the end, your project and creative life will benefit.
Finding balance when only dedicating part of your life to a creative project is hard. There’s so much we want to accomplish, and we want to have the capabilities to do it full-time. Understand how you can contribute to your side-hustle part-time without stretching yourself too thin with your other responsibilities. Health is always a priority, and being able to create a routine, boundaries, and structure to your creative and personal lives is key to finding your rhythm.
Some argue that with changing requirements, there is no such thing as a balance. If that’s the case, we can at least minimize the crazy and develop systems that give us the freedom to work on a creative life we can continually show up for.