Work-Life Balance Baseline (The Sea of Distractions – Creativity Quest)

Here we go again, my wordy little birdies. Continuing on our quest (we are almost done with the baseline tests, and then I promise, we will finally be leveled up enough to face the Sea of Distractions on our epic quest to save the muse). The next stepping stone towards our grand adventure: finding that work-life balance. We all have them: those dreaded extra responsibilities that keep us from living in our dream world all the time. Keep in mind- when I talk about work, I don’t just mean your standard 9-5 clock in and get paid kind of thing. I mean ‘work’ in the broadest sense of the term: it can be taking care of a household, wrangling children, assisting loved ones, volunteering; the list is truly endless. What it really boils down to: responsibilities that you give your time and energy to. For me personally, the majority of this time is spent on a career, taking care of a home, and family obligations because I don’t currently have any tiny tots to chase around, so that’s where most of my personal baseline discussion is going to be coming from. That being said: if you choose to participate in this section, I strong encourage you to take a step back and really evaluate all the different types of ‘work’ you have in your life.

I have been clocking in far too many hours at my place of employment lately, and I know it. My work tends to ebb and flow; some weeks you’ll have lots of room to breath, and wind up with the option of taking a few hours off here and there to recharge. Other weeks you will be coming in early, working through lunch, staying late, dream about the place when you’re in bed- and still be behind schedule. There is rarely a happy medium. In the past few months I’ve been doing way too much overtime. My last time card popped up into the triple digits, which isn’t a particularly good sign. I also recently realized that I’ve cancelled so many vacation days this past year that I actually maxed out on the number of hours I’m allowed to have banked up- I ultimately lost about 45 hours of time I should have earned. Which sucked, to say the least. I have been working so hard that when I get home I am mentally fatigued and a bit grumpy to boot.

I have been working far too many hours lately, and I know it. My work tends to go in phases: some weeks you’ll have lots of extra time to use your flex or take a couple of hours off, other weeks you will be coming in early, working through lunch, and staying late- and still be behind schedule. I’ve been doing way too much overtime. My last time card popped up into the triple digits, which isn’t a good sign at all. I also realized that I’ve given back so many vacation days the past year that I actually maxed out on what I’m allowed to accrue, and ultimately lost 45 hours of time I should have been earning. That…sucks, to say the least. I have been working so hard that when I get home I am mentally fatigued and a bit grumpy.

The overworking until I drop mentality has caused havoc for my personal time. Not to mention, it is simply not sustainable. I haven’t had the time to invest in any of the projects I’ve had on my list, and most creative endeavors fall flat before they ever get a chance to start. My balance has been out of whack for a while.

Luckily, the major projects that were forcing the extra overtime have all concluded. The next big one I have on my radar may not rear it’s head until August, which gives me a little bit of time to recoup and prepare. I am fortunate for the fact that I have a boss who is very understanding of what burnout can do to a person and encourages me to leave early whenever there is an opportunity (and even at a few times when all I can do is laugh because I am up to my eyeballs in paperwork). The next big bonus: this week is thankfully very peaceful, and next week I am on vacation. Nothing big or fancy; my partner/basically husband/whatever you call the man you have been with for nearly a dozen years even though you still aren’t married in spite of his mother’s best efforts- he couldn’t get the time off work, so it will be a stay-cation for me. If I’m being honest: I am thrilled about this. I have a laundry list of projects around the house, a closet full of crafts I’ve only partially started, a pile of books, and a dog that will force me out of the house every chance he gets. This is going to be a game changer kind of break.

So, even though I’ve spend way too many extra hours on work than I would like, I’m about to strike a slightly better balance in the next few weeks. It’s going to be a far more manageable routine. I’m working on getting ahead of a few projects so I can be mentally prepared when they take over again, so I can rearrange my creative endeavors and make them a little less intensive during my crazier work weeks.

When it comes to other types of work in my life: my balance is getting a lot better. I am lucky to have a partner who splits the housework with me pretty evenly. After over a decade we’ve learned that some weeks one of us only has 30% to give, so the other can offer up 70%, and when the roles reverse we can flip it. But we usually aim for even stevens. I’m also getting better at doing chores when they are still small (ex: do the laundry when you have one full load of dirties instead of waiting until you are completely out of underwear, or emptying the dish washer as soon as it runs instead of waiting until the sink is overflowing and you have to cook the noodles in a crock pot). If I keep chipping away at the CONSTANT trickle, then I won’t get swept away by the raging floods.

My score: 5/10

Creativity Challenge

  • Make a monster out of household chores you haven’t done (ex: dish monster, laundry monster)
  • Create a chore/task game (I used to do this as a kid, and loved it- it can be anything. Put 5 things away as fast as you can and then run an impromptu obstacle course. When I was little I would heighten the challenge- the obstacle course was made up of the toys I needed to clean, so it got easier and my time got faster as I went. You can have any sort of mini game or reward, be as creative as you like)
  • Write a full short story during your break. It could take the entire 10-15 minutes, it could be a hard hitting piece with just two sentences.
  • Take pictures of your daily tasks as though you were an alien exploring this strange world you found, or an investigator trying to unravel a mystery (but don’t take any pictures of anything that could get you in trouble in the workplace- if it’s a trade secret, confidential, or proprietary- it’s best to let that sleeping dog lie)

Escaping an Off-Kilter World (finding a balance when it all falls apart)

In my personal life, I am a political person (don’t worry, I can sense the tension emanating from you with those simple words- this will not be a political post, so heave a deep sigh of relief). So, as I was saying- in my daily life, I am politically minded, I pay attention and I have formed a lot of my own opinions, I join organizations or events that I feel strongly about, I donate time and money to causes that I believe in, I have even gone so far as to attend rallies and similar events to bring light to certain issues. I continually try to read and learn differing perspectives. I don’t force my views onto others, nor do I really talk all that openly about them unless the other person is willing to have a genuine conversation without letting it slip into the hateful and unproductive speeches we’ve been seeing all too frequently. Even here- if anyone wishes to have a conversation about views and opinions, I would be more than happy to share ideas in a constructive way. Though, I must admit, I am sure most won’t be too keen to take me up on this offer.

I’ll be honest, I have contemplated bringing some of my views and opinions to this blog. I have had deep internal debates on the merits and responsibilities towards fighting for what you believe in and bringing light to causes that may otherwise be ignored. I have fought internally about sharing my views so that others might feel like they are less alone, or to share the resources that I have used to personally educate myself on the issues that I care about. This has been a big struggle for me, because writing a ‘fluffy’ piece when it feels like the world is falling apart at the seams- well, it feels wrong. It feels like I’m ignoring what truly matters. And that’s part of why I haven’t been able to write much the past few weeks (well, that and a pretty rough time I have had being sick for over a week now with a fever and sinus congestion that hurts so bad I can feel it radiating in my teeth). I guess in part, it almost feels morally irresponsible to not at least mention the state our society is in. For a girl who processes the world through words, it’s been strange trying to keep myself from writing specific ones right here.

Lately I’ve been overdosing- constantly keeping an eye on my social media and news outlets to the detriment of other aspects of my life. To be honest, I never expected to live in a time like this, I never expected to face the dilemmas we are facing, I never envisioned my country looking the way that it does. It’s easy to get pulled in- after all, these issues matter. The course that we set right now can have a drastic impact on our future. And if I’m being honest, I’m scared for us. Which is why I read, why I ask questions, why I listen, why I play devil’s advocate with my own belief system, and why I fight for what I believe in when it seems like there is no other road to travel.

However, I’m learning that there must be limits. I have kept myself informed, but I’ve torn myself to pieces in the process without providing any solace to build myself back up. We all need an outlet; somewhere to go when the world gets too crazy, somewhere to hide away and recharge when we feel battered and bruised. That doesn’t mean we are being socially irresponsible or burying our heads in the sand; it just means that on occassion, we need a time out. It means that we need to remember why balance in all aspects of our lives is so crucial to our general wellbeing. We need a place to feel strong after the world has worn us down to the point we are far too weak to take another step. That was always what this blog was about; it was about finding my place in a world gone mad. It was about fostering a dream that I still carry. The novels I write in the future may be different, the words and the tone may reflect the state of the world that we are currently living in. But this spot right here is still going to be my sanctuary. True- I am not promising that my views may not occasionally slip in, that I might not have some personal insight to share, or mention of a book that helped shape me. But rest assured, every word that I write here will be one of peace and understanding. Because these are the values that I was raised to believe in. 

My friends, I am a political person. But that does not mean that I have to be one right here- and it took me months to come to this simple realization. This is where I go to hide away and remind myself of the life that I am fighting for, the dream that I am carrying, the hopes that I still hold. And truthfully, if this desire to speak up about policy and opinion persists, well, then perhaps a sister-blog may be in my future, one that is more geared towards that side of my life. But for today, I just needed to touch base with something that matters to me outside of the political sphere. Tonight I needed to remember that the written word can bring comfort, not just opposition and hatred. And tomorrow, I will be back, charged and ready for what comes next. Balance is key, I cannot forget that again.

My friends, if any of you need anything, or just want to talk- my door is always open, my inbox is always waiting. You can contact me anytime and know that I will welcome you with open arms and respect. Because that’s what we’re about here. Small acts of kindness will always find their way into our hearts and lives; that is where we will find our hope. This blog is a small act of kindness to myself, and I hope that others may feel the same way. Goodnight my friends, may tomorrow be a brighter day.

September Goals

This year seems to be slipping through my fingers faster than my dog when he realizes it’s bath time. September is almost upon us, and with that comes a new set of goals and aspirations, something I have been talking a lot about the past week. So what will be on the agenda this coming month? (drum roll please)

September is going to the month of returning to my roots, of refining what I have, its going to be the month to go back and make things shine. I have a large number of projects in some stage of the editing process- in my mind they are still not ready for beta readers, although I know of at least one that is so close I can almost taste it. I have far too many projects languishing in this semi-unfinished state. So this month I am going to hone in and start the tedious task that is editing. I’m actually really excited about it. When I was cleaning out my desk yesterday I came across on of the notebooks containing all of my plot notes for my Twisted Fairytale (I have yet to commit to a name, so nicknames will have to suffice at this point). This one is the closest to completion, and it was one of my all-time favorites to write. That’s probably because when I started it, I meant for it to just be practice, there was no pressure with the prospect of future eyes roving over it in judgment. Along the way, I fell in love with the concept and have been pouring more of my heart and soul into it. It’s about time that the little creation see the light of day and get some input that will really make her shine.

I’m going to also take the time to refocus this blog, getting back on track with quality content that will hopefully interest a few people. I am feeling rejuvenated, and I want that to show in my work. I am going to run with this energy while I have it. I am excited to plunge back into the research and start jotting down lines for a few of the topics I have lined up in the coming weeks. I feel like I’ve lost my voice recently, and I am finally getting it back.

Personally, I am going to keep in mind that balance I’ve been talking about. The plan is to keep up with my journaling, even if it is only for fifteen minutes at night. I will start getting up early to work out, my body is just as important as my mind. I am going to work harder at staying in the moment and giving my full attention to whatever I happen to be doing.

So here we go, the goals, simply laid out:

  • Journal 5 days a week for at least fifteen minutes
  • At least 5 blog posts a week
  • Edit Twisted Fairy Tale until it is ready for beta reading (I am hoping to work on a few other projects, but this is the one I want to have done by the end of the month)
  • Work out 30 minutes five days a week
  • Follow meal plan
  • Walk the dog every day (or substitute another activity to keep him sane)
  • Research projects: 15 minutes a day minimum

I am so excited for this month, it is going to feel fantastic to start getting my projects ready for others to see. It’s terrifying, but that’s the name of the game. I can do this, I know that I can. I just have to make sure that I don’t burn myself out this time around. I have to stay mindful and keep on track. It’s going to be a beautiful month, I can feel it now.