As musicians and artists, balancing our work with the rest of our lives can be especially tricky. The work of an artist is not like most. It’s erratic. And if you add a day job into the mix, like so many of us do, it can feel impossible to fulfill all of the aspects of a full, meaningful life. So let’s break down some key aspects of a well balanced life and figure out how to keep all the balls in the air, so we can live it to its fullest.
Make time for friends.
Relationships are the most important factor in our overall happiness throughout our lives. Humans are social creatures who need community. So get out of your studio or your home office or wherever you work, and make time to meet with friends. If it’s hard, start by setting a goal to go out with friends once per week. Then build from there, and it will get easier as you increase the organization and time management of other parts of your life!
Make time to eat healthy.
You need energy to be at your best. If you’re feeling tired or struggling to keep up with your work and with life, the first places to look are your eating, exercise, and sleep habits. Healthy food will fuel you. Make time for it. Buy your groceries online, learn how to prepare your own meals, or get a CSA to save time and money. Do what you have to. But make eating well a priority and you’ll be amazed how much more you can accomplish. If you’re on the road, make your first stop at each location a grocery store, to stock up on portable, healthy snacks like nuts, carrots, celery, peanut butter… anything you can snack on, on the go, without a kitchen. At restaurants, choose mindfully. Figure out what dietary guidelines work best for you and stick to them. Don’t have two unhealthy meals in a row, but let yourself indulge at least once per week.
Make time for exercise.
Exercise, like healthy food, is necessary to be at your best and to help ensure that you have the energy and focus to get everything done. It’s been said before and it’s simple: walk wherever you can, stand as much as possible, find a way to exercise that is fun for you, or even exercise with someone else! Make the time. Try something like Classpass if you get bored easily, or join a local sports team if you love community. Try everything until you find what sticks, but never give up. Do something more intense at least 3 times per week, and something gentle every other day. Then take one day off. If you’re travelling, try an app like Sworkit. You’ll get a variety of different workouts you can do with no equipment and choose what level of intensity you need for each day. Then schedule it in.
Make time for sleep.
People underestimate the importance of sleep, but it is as important as eating well and exercising, if not more, and it can be one of the trickiest factors for a musician doing late night gigs. You can get filters that turn your screens yellow after sun-down to keep the blue light from affecting your body’s circadian rhythm and keeping you up. This will help you get to sleep when you want to. Some great apps for this are “f.lux” and “twilight.” If you’re not gigging, turn off your t.v. a couple of hours before bed time and leave some time to read fiction in bed, which can help relax your brain for sleep and distract it from the issues of the day. You can use lavender or another essential oil blend on the bottoms of your feet and your temples to help your body transition for sleep. The scent relaxes you and the oils seep into your skin to help with this. You can buy portable roller versions to take with you on the road. If you really struggle with an active mind before bed, you can start a meditation practice. Something as simple as focusing on your breath can really help you to fall asleep. When possible, try to wake up naturally. This ensures that you’re body is getting all the sleep you need. When you do have to wake up at a certain time, try to schedule your evening around a bed time that is approx 8 hours before you have to wake up, and use the above techniques to help you get to sleep around that time. If you’re doing late night gigs and getting up early for a day job, you’ll probably need to catch up with naps during the day. You need to try to find a way to get all the sleep your body needs. You can experiment with this until you find what works for you. You can also use a fitness tracker to help track your sleep patterns. There are a lot of options at different price points and all of them track your sleep. If you’re ready to make an investment, the best one out now is the Oura ring, which tracks the quality of your sleep and gives you a “readiness” reading when you wake up, explaining how optimized you are for the day and giving tips about how to get the most out of your sleep schedule and your daily activity. If you stay out late doing gigs and sleep more during the day, all of these techniques still apply. Use blackout curtains to block out the light, or an eye mask while travelling. And if you’re really struggling with insomnia, you can use the trick nurses use and wear orange colored glasses during the day before you go to bed to keep the blue light of daytime from signaling your body that it’s time to be awake. Sleep is extremely important so make the quality of your sleep an ongoing interest and investment.
Figure out how to work best (multi-tasking throughout the day or assigning certain days to certain projects)
There are lots of different strategies for working efficiently. Some will say that interruptions make it hard to get focused, while others focus better and get more done when free to switch between tasks regularly. Pomodoro technique can be a great option whether you switch tasks between breaks or stick with one the whole day. For people who need to focus on only one thing, you can theme your days in advance to make sure you get everything done that you want to that week. Figure out what strategies work best for your time management and experiment with them so that you stop procrastinating and get more done.
Keep a planner.
Planners can be an obsession. They can honestly be really fun. There are a lot of different ways to approach this, and finding the right planning technique can be the key to your productivity, so experiment. The most flexible and personalizable is Bullet Journaling, which requires nothing but pen and paper. You can also find tons of tutorials on youtube and pinterest. I personally like to use an A5 binder planner with inserts for the various things I want to track, including daily, weekly, and monthly layouts, as well as 5-week goal mapping and monthly finance trackers. I use this in combination with Google Keep for lists and Google Calendar. Try a few different methods, and find what works for you!
Track your successes and reward yourself.
I learned this from my goal mapping insert in my planner. Set incremental goals in your work in advance and find ways to reward yourself as you make progress. It makes you more productive and also keeps some play in your life so you’re not completely focused on your work all the time.
Pay attention to all areas of your life.
Try to “check in” with yourself regularly, and ask yourself if you feel that you’re managing your work, your social life, your hobbies, and your personal relaxation time well. Make sure that you’re not ignoring any feature of a well-balanced life. A great resource for this is the book How to Live a Good Life by Jonathan Fields, who sums up your life into three buckets you have to keep filled, and gives exercises and questions for figuring out which areas of your life are being neglected, along with ways to fill them.
Try a media fast or limit unproductive activity.
The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss includes a “media fast” exercise that’s great for helping us find more time and headspace in our media-saturated environments. You can find the details on the Tim Ferris Blog, but, essentially, the goal is to take a short-term break from most input, including social media, television, magazines, newspapers, and blogs. It’s great for carving out more time, and it’s also great for creativity because it limits how many ideas from other people are getting into your head space. I highly recommend looking into this. Simpler versions can also be limiting the amount of television you watch. I like to do this by picking my bed time, then planning to read for one hour before sleep, and planning the hour before that for tv. Then I find something else to do during the parts of my day when I otherwise might be inspired to watch tv. I’ve also had a lot of success with limiting facebook by removing the app from my phone, or at least from my homescreen, and by using an extension called Kill News Feed that removes the feed from the website on my computer.
-Guest post by Allie Mazon