Whether a passion project, an on-the-side business or a serious venture, our creative projects often take a backseat because earning a wage is a more essential part of our everyday lives. As creative people, we’re often tasked with making a choice between paying the bills and entertaining our own happiness and wellbeing. Being creative on our own terms, be that as an illustrator, designer, artist, blogger, small business owner or something else, can define who we are and how happy we feel but often we compromise, opting to focus on a paying job instead.
Now, there’s no cure-all recipe for how to balance your creativity with your job and all jobs are different - you might work strict full-time hours, make use of flexi-time, work unsociable hours or work part time - but there are ways of ensuring you get to spend more time doing the things you love while still giving your paying job 100%.
It’s important to remember that the key to balancing your creative pursuit with your job is applying yourself. There are not and never will be such things as ‘life hacks’ and working hard while respecting your own limitations is a must. But whilst hard graft is paramount you can work cleverly. Here are just a few ways to use time and tools effectively so you can be more creative.
USE BREAKS WISELY
Your commute, whether it’s a 15 minute walk or an hour-long train journey, can be used for all sorts of productive means. As can your lunch hour, a walk to the shops, your morning coffee break or a bus journey into town. Use this time to plan and track projects and make daily to-do lists. Note down ideas, doodle and read. It sounds obvious but committing to using these short bursts of ‘nothing time’ saves hours in planning. If you’re too tired to think then listen to music , audiobooks or podcasts on subjects that will inspire your craft. This will focus your brain on your interests and mean that your thoughts will become less chaotic and more relaxed and creative.
MAKE MANY LISTS
Whether on your phone or in a physical notebook, to-do lists and time plans are an excellent way to break down the day, week or month into manageable sections. The overwhelming feeling of success when it’s time to cross something off a list is its own reward. A daily plan split into pre-work, lunch break and post-work categories will help you to be realistic about how much you can get done. The joy of this is that often you can do way more than you think is possible in a short space of time. Be realistic and keep running lists for the year to keep your goals in sight too.
Technology is your friend. Make, design, take photos and write using your free time around work or at the weekend and then use scheduling tools such as Hootsuite, Tweetdeck, Buffer, Schedugram, UNUM and LaterBro to post new content and images on social every day. Many of these programmes and apps are free and will make a huge difference to your week. Minimise your time on social media by ensuring that each post is published at key times, then use a shorter window of time to check back and interact. Avoid hours wasted posting and scrolling.
Be honest with your colleagues and managers about how important your creative projects are to you and be forthcoming about how hard you work to maintain high standards at work and at home. The last thing you want is your full-time friends and bosses thinking you’re making an extra buck on company time or doubting your commitment to your job. Explain how you achieve a healthy balance and never try to conceal your passions from others - you might find that your colleagues and bosses have useful skills they’ll be willing to share in order to support you.
GO IT ALONE
Do things on your own. You don’t need a friend to visit a gallery or to sit with you in a cafe whilst you write. Be brave enough to attend those events you’re invited to solo. Once you clock out after a day’s work, head to new places where you can focus your mind on being creative. You’ll notice you start to feel more pumped up, engaged and inspired with fewer distractions.
If you’ve promised a client or editor you’d have something finalised but suddenly need to extend your deadline, don’t panic. Perhaps you’re faced with a personal emergency or you misjudged your ability to complete the project. Communicating clearly is the best thing you can do in a crisis and will mean no bridges are burnt. Good email etiquette can save you as can an earnest phone call so if you think you’ll need more time, say so early on to make time for a solution. Always check in regularly with those you’re working with to let them know where you’re at.
REST + RELAX
Take the weekend off, sleep in, take photos, read and remember that as a creative person, everything that you do is connected to your craft. Never feel bad for feeling fragile, overwhelmed or needing time out to take care of yourself. Sometimes a balance is just impossible to achieve and whether or not it seems like everyone else is managing to nail it, you must focus on what you know to be reasonably manageable. Never sacrifice the quality of your work or all-important attendance at your job for your passion or vice versa. Balance is essential and tears, anxiety and burn-out are never, ever worth it.
Never feel bad for being committed to your passion. If you want to stay at home to work on your craft instead of going out at the weekend then stay in. If you want to spend your full lunch hour working on your personal projects, visiting a gallery or meeting a client or collaborator rather than working out of guilt, then do so. Using your time and tools wisely also means being tough enough to say no to some of the things that distract you. Commit to making fair and personally rewarding decisions that remind you of the strength and satisfaction that creativity brings.
Words: Emily Beeson @boogiemargaret
Emily is a writer and creative based in London. She splits her time between working with luxury brands, writing about culture and creative lifestyles and running her blog younggoldteeth.com.