the art of finding balance

I received an e-mail today from one of my readers asking:

I was just wondering if you have any advice for the modern career woman who is struggling to have some time for herself. How do you find an outlet for your creative self expression and still manage to balance your financial responsibilities and so forth.

It’s a question that a lot of fellow readers might struggle with so I decided to post my response here on the site.

To give you some background history, I decided at an early age to choose a field outside of the art scene to allow me creative freedom in my art, and to give myself financial security. At first, I struggled at finding a real world job that fit my personality and skill set, but in time, I found myself working in the accounting field of all things…and for me it works.

Contrary to most misconceptions of accounting, I don’t sit in my cube counting beans all day. It is really more intense and exciting than most people realize. Of course, each day varies, but in a typical month, I’ve used a wide range of skills from using my detective skills to solve accounting mysteries to developing processes and procedures to prevent those “mysteries” from happening in the first place. And really, typically, they are never truly “accounting mysteries”, it’s just a way to add the element of fun back into my career. Something that’s missing from most corporate america jobs.

In other words, part of being a successful artist in the corporate world is a matter of perspective. Find elements of your work that you love and discover a way to transform it.

The other key part of finding balance between your work and life is in the art of recycling paper. Instead of throwing paper away that has only been printed on one side, find a place to stack it. Then when you need to brainstorm on an idea, reuse other side. Instead of wasting more paper through post-it notes, use your recycled paper when jotting down notes from phone calls. Part of you will feel good from doing this one good deed. Not to mention, that recycled stack of paper comes in handy sometimes when you realized that you might have thrown away something you need at a later date.

The other very important use of recycling paper comes with daily goal setting. Take of one those sheets of recycled paper and fold the paper in half. Use one side to list your goals for work that day, and the other side to list your personal goals outside of work. At the end of the day, cut the paper in half…leaving your work to-do list at the office as a mental note that it will still be there for you in the morning. Then take your personal list with you.

When it comes to personal goal setting, I have six main sections right now that I’m focusing on: Art, Financial, Health, Relationships, Spiritual, and the Mundane.

With my art goals, I look to accomplish something artistic every day. Whether it’s working on one of my paintings or simply brainstorming for new painting ideas, all of it counts. I also list my goals for the website as well as my recently opened etsy store. Basically, anything that has to do with my pursuit to make art part of my life.

Daily financial goals can be as routine as paying bills to downloading our Quicken statements. Again, remember, those small little steps add up over a week or even month’s worth of time.

As for my health goals, one of my main ones is remembering to take my vitamins. I’ve even taken in a pair of 5lbs weights into work considering I spend a lot of time in the office. They’re great for conference calls. Just put the phone on mute, do a couple bicep/tricep curls. Sure, I do occasionally get a few weird looks. But more often than not, I also get thumbs up for making that commit to keep healthy. Not to mention, I typically stay more focused on the call when lifting weights versus browsing my inbox.

Another one of my main areas for daily goal setting is relationships. From calling my mom on my way home from work (on my hands-free device, of course) to making a birthday card during lunch at work with friends, I always look for creative ways to accomplish my goals. Just remember that you’re not always going to get everything done in time. When it comes to cards, I’m always horribly late. As anyone that knows me will say, my sense of time is always off. But as someone once said, the wait is always worth it for my cards since they are typically homemade.

As for the spiritual realm, it can be as simple as saying a prayer, lighting a candle, or reading something inspirational before bed. The idea is just to make a little bit of time to step back and be thankful for the many blessings in life.

And then there is the mundane…laundry, dishes, mowing the grass…all those things you wish would go away, but never do unless you put a little elbow grease into it. So to prevent the weekend from being full of chores, spread it out throughout the week. Fold some towels one day. Do another load the next day. And if you really need help in this area, check out Flylady, a website dedicated to helping you find balance between life and chores.

Goal setting is just one part of finding balance in your life though. The other main part is your friends, family, and your significant other if you’ve discovered him or her. It’s these relationships that you build that will help you keep perspective, give you guidance when you need it, and inspire you to keep reaching for the stars every day. The important part is to develop these relationships across the different areas of your life that are important to you from work to your hobbies. And if you’re lacking friends in an area of your life, be bold, be daring…make the first step and ask someone to join you for lunch or coffee. Over the years, these friendships will become priceless.

When it comes to finding balance in life, sometimes you discover the secret through trial and error. Other times, you might discover it over a cup of coffee with friends. So if you’re still reading this, what are some of your own personal ways to find balance?

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3 Comments

  1. Posted April 28, 2007 at 4:37 pm by michael | Permalink

    Some good ideas. Thanks. For me, this is a struggle that never goes away. I think it’s a Buddist idea that our disappointments (pain, suffering) are directly proportionate to our desires (expectations, lofty goals). I sometimes find that my expectations are simply unrealistic. I want to “accomplish” so much in a day, week, month, year, etc. and when I don’t quite get there, I get focused on what I didn’t do and totally disregard what I did. I don’t know if I am ready to stop setting goals yet, but I feel like I’m better off setting less goals and making those few very significant to me.

  2. Posted April 29, 2007 at 6:12 am by Sarah Jayne | Permalink

    Thanks for sharing your ideas on this subject. I think the idea of doing something related to your art each day really is the way forwward.

  3. Posted April 30, 2007 at 4:00 pm by Brian | Permalink

    As the hubby to the muse, I have to put in my two cents.

    Natalie approaches nearly every problem in the same way. Whether its works, an art project, or laundry that needs to be folded.

    Somehow, she manages to find a spiritual or artistic reason for doing anything, and attempts to make it a game. I have seen her set timers for herself to see how many things she could accomplish in a set period of time.

    Its one thing to read about it, but its incredibly fun to see her when she is “in the zone,” even if its just doing dishes.

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