Finding Balance: or, How I Realized I’m a Workaholic

There’s one thing that I constantly struggle with: finding balance between my work and the rest of my life. I have this tendency to get super focused on things I enjoy in my work, and spend countless hours on them, to the point that other parts of my life fall way down on the to-do list. Sometimes I get focused on things that aren’t necessarily much fun, but feel like big priorities for, say, a new business. 

For example: I recently decided that I needed to redo all the photography and mockups in my Etsy shop. This was a daunting task, even though it could be done while binge watching Lucifer. I knew it would take a long time (even with the great mockup I had for placing card designs), and it was one of those tasks that, once I start, I just want to plow through and finish. And besides–once some new photos are up, then the old ones just look extra bad. (Kind of like when you starting painting inside a house.) So there was all this pressure (self-applied, of course), to do that as quickly as possible and push all other tasks aside. 

The trouble was, I had other tasks that couldn’t be pushed aside: a developmental edit of a manuscript, a commissioned painting, prep for an upcoming guild show…and the list went on. I’ve been trying to make myself prioritize tasks a little better over this last year, and I’ve tried to make myself break big projects into smaller, more manageable parts. This, in theory, would allow me to juggle multiple projects and not go bananas, and also allow me to slow down and take my time with tasks that need more attention to detail. In theory, that tactic would also stop me from working 12 hours a day.

But lately, despite these plans, I’ve been feeling like a workaholic. Most days, I feel like I’m doing some form of work from the moment I wake up to the moment I go to bed. 

Several months ago, I quit my day job so I could focus solely on my freelancing and my Etsy shop. I thought that leaving that job behind would give me more hours in the day to focus on those things, but somehow I ended up feeling like I had LESS time to myself after I made that huge change. 

My latest trigger was when someone asked me, “When’s the last time you took a vacation?” I had to think hard. It was definitely pre-COVID. I thought harder and realized: before Christmas of 2019. That’s the last time I just took a few days off and did something fun, like walk on a beach. 

I tried to take a little vacation last week. My plan was to only fill Etsy orders, and spend the rest of the week doing fun, relaxing things: watch a movie, read a book, do something outside. 

Guess what? I failed. At the end of the week, I was still tired. I’d done too much every day. 

This week, I’m trying again. (It’s ridiculous to think of myself as failing at vacation, but here we are.) I’m doing less screen time, and taking more time to do fun things I’ve been putting off. One of those things is carving more lino blocks for printing. I’ve been doing so many other things lately that I haven’t taken time to make my own work. And the truth is, I really miss printing. So for a little while each day, I’m carving a block (like the one above). But here’s the caveat: I’m not allowed to carve for 8 hours each day. I’m not allowed to dive in in that way that means I don’t take time to do anything else and then feel exhausted all over again. I’ll carve a little. And then I’ll do some yoga. And then I’ll read my book, and watch a movie, and sit outside and watch the birds. 

It’s really hard to tamp down the workaholic in me and give myself permission to have some down time. It’s easier to do when I can go somewhere different and physically distance myself from all the work-like tasks I can get into at home. I have this feeling that I need to be “productive” all the time, and be using my time wisely. But I know deep down that unwinding and letting my mind wander a bit is productive, too. Those quiet moments are where the creativity sneaks in, and that’s when I get some of my best ideas. This week, I’m trying to remind myself of the importance of that, and get back into a habit of taking some time each day to recharge. This week, I hope you’ll find a way to take a little time for yourself and recharge, too.