Amateur Notes #6: How I Do Work-Life Balance
One of the reasons of becoming a freelancer was the work-life balance. It was not that I didn't like my job while being in-house. I couldn't dedicate the time I wanted to the people around me in my personal life. Not that this changed from day one as a freelancer. Not at all. During the first six months of full-time freelancing, I was struggling with respect and work ethic. Wrong collaborations. It happens when you are young and you enthousiastic. It is part of the game. During the last summer, 2010 it was, my relationship broke and I burned out completely. No mentions about my financial situation. Lets say I am quite lucky, that the problem of not being paid on time was fixed relatively quick. My three-day-summer-holiday included, a lot of email and phone calls, while I tried to relax reading on the beach.
At this point, my father, a former management executive of a major IT company, told me this:"Child, you have to live. You are too young to wait for your retirement." Note that I am far too proud to accept any financial help from my parents in my late 20s. My independent ego could not…but it did for a short period in order to recap and not accept job offers that burn me again and again. I focused on what I want to do and how. It could not be done in one day. Rome was not build in a day, you know.
Step 1: Professional and personal sustainability I started research on educational issues. There was something missing and I believed that a Postgraduate program would offer me more professional self-confidence, knowledge resources and networking. Besides I focused to run 2-3 projects that could offer me professional sustainability, not real profit for the next months. While being sustainable, I could take a deep breath and work on personal projects or non-profit projects for leasure and structuring my vision combining social and creative approach professionally. I spent more time with my family and some close friends.
Step 2: Outreach Becoming a member of Sandbox, helped me to reach out to the international market but what is more important to like-minded young people around the world. In Greece, I focused on social, cultural and innovation projects apart from the hardcore public relations, advertising and technology. Doing more offline communication than online. I got into fundraising, which is important when you want to set up your own (social) business. Working non-profit is a strategic decision. Even if some can not understand that. First of all, it is something like my personal CSR and being useful is always nice. Secondly, you learn much more than any position in a commercial company in the traditional sense could teach you – You learn to put your ego down when you need to, and rise it when you must. You learn to balance in a human way without leaving your professionalism somewhere.
Step 3: Limits That is the hard part. Drawing strict lines between your professional and personal life, even if you are working with friends. In this case you have to be very clear and sure that it does not work out all the time. Patience, patience. With professional connections the limits became clear. Maybe not every time, in an ideal manner but it has to be done. It was a hard task to stop working after a certain time or certain working hours, not answering emails or calls after this time, and of course demand also this respect. No, this is a respect you have to demand, commercial companies will not give it to you on their own. Still fighting with that but slowly it is coming to balance.
Step 4: Relax Well, this is the hardest part if you are in love with your work. Guess what, you can fall in love with other things as well e.g. a person, afternoon walks, cinema. No need to be on a screen all the time. I started walking every afternoon and cook nearly everyday for one person. Aromatherapy and green tea making their entrance in my everyday life even when I am working at home. Scheduling as much as personal time possible, meeting friends and family day by day if not every day. Having time for yourself and daydreaming. Sleeping as much as needed.
These are not wise instructions about work-life balance but just a personal story about it. Keep the zen in your life!
Konstantina Zoehrer comes to Glass Heel by way of Athens, Greece and writes about her thoughts, her path, her research, the people she meets and ideas that she comes across...and we're just happy to be along for the ride. This post first appeared on her blog, Third Eye.