Work-Life Balance Tips
Recovering from your Thanksgiving-dinner food coma today? Feeling a little stressed by your work schedule and family obligations during the holidays? Sounds like you need some work-life balance! Lori McNee’s article “Happy, Healthy and Successful” offers practical work-life balance tips for managing stress, balancing parenthood with your work and staying healthy. You can read an excerpt of the article below. The complete article is available on Artist’s Market Online.
Keep creating and good luck!
Happy, Healthy and Successful: Create a Positive Work-Life Balance by Lori McNee
Nineteenth-century French impressionist music composer Claude Debussy stated that “extreme complication is contrary to art.” Yet, in today’s fast-paced world, it is becoming increasingly complicated for people to maintain a positive work-life balance.
There is lots of information on finding balance in our lives available. Nevertheless, for freelancers, small business owners, and aspiring artists, it might seem as though the only way to get ahead at work is to get behind at home. As a professional artist who juggles a busy painting career along with blogging, teaching, writing, social networking and family, I can speak on this subject with authority, because I have been guilty of imbalance myself.
It is essential for freelancers and other creatives to become skilled at organizing their time in order to reflect, design, create, market and sell their product. Striking the right balance is an individual choice, and it sometimes takes compromise. Below you will find some unique suggestions and practical tips on creating and maintaining balanced lifestyle for you and your business.
The majority of my artist friends work obsessive hours without taking the proper time to eat, hydrate or exercise. Here we’ll look at some of the health pitfalls of creative life and consider ways you can avoid or compensate for them.
The dangers of sitting
Like many people who spend much of their day in front of a computer, artists face the same sedentary challenges. Whether you are a sitter or a stander, each pose creates different health concerns. Chances are that you are sitting down while reading this article.
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The once recommended 30 minutes of activity a day is not enough. Interrupt sitting whenever you can to walk around your studio, home or office.
Listen to music
Many people prefer listening to background music while working. Beautiful or classical music can actually help you focus and boost productivity. Slower music is known to reduce blood pressure.
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Get on your feet
After learning about the dangers of sitting, I now stand at my easel. I also use a stand-up desk for all my blogging and computer tasks. Most artists like to stand when creating, but that poses a different set of concerns.
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Over time, long periods of standing can result in varicose veins. Joints in the feet, knees, hips and spine become locked in a prolonged standing position and this can contribute to damage of tendons and ligaments. Here are a couple of ways you can alleviate the physical stress of standing:
• Change your workstation: Use a small footrest to shift your weight. If working in a certain position causes you to have your arm in one position for a long period, try to use something to support your arm to help curb any fatiguing of your arm and neck.
• Keep a stool nearby: Have a stool that will help you stay in your favored working position but also allows you rest. Just a bit of support can help take a tremendous amount of stress off muscles and joints. Position yourself close to the working area, and face your work as straight on as possible to avoid bending and stooping.
Learn to manage stress
The American Institute of Stress has estimated that 75–90 percent of all visits to primary care physicians are for stress-related problems. According to the Stress Organization, job stress is by far the leading source of stress for adults.
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Did you know that clutter is a form of procrastination that causes distractions and stress? The more clutter, the less time we have to focus on working and creating.
Mess = Stress
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Create a healthy environment
Another major concern for artists is a healthy working environment. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that indoor air quality is often up to ten times worse than the air outside, and the air in our studios can be even worse.
Clean the air with houseplants
Did you know that houseplants are beneficial to our lives? For only pennies a day, houseplants help beautify, purify and renew your stuffy studio, office or home. Plants filter out toxins, pollutants and the carbon dioxide we exhale, replacing it with fresh oxygen. Plus, all plants add moisture to the air and can even help prevent dry skin and sore throats in the winter.
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It seems a bit ironic to be writing this section on balancing parenthood, since I just officially became an “empty nester.” That’s right, my three kids are all out of my house and leading their own lives as young adults. I am proud of them, but it is a big transition for me, and I am grateful to have my art career.
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Self-discipline is the ability to do what you know you should do, whether you feel like it or not. It is the most important quality for any person who is juggling parenthood and a busy career. Without it, we struggle between the forces of doing what is necessary and what is fun.
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Build clear boundaries
When the workplace is just a few steps away from the family space, discord with the family may become common. This is why it is especially important to build clear boundaries for the stay-at-home parent. I understand that theses tips might seem “easier said than done.” Nevertheless, do your best to set work hours for creativity and stick with them.
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For the home-based office, this can be difficult. Nevertheless, distractions spread our focus and reduce attention to detail, which negatively affects our work. Distractions may include phone calls, television, Internet, household tasks, social media, and even spouses, partners and children.
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Goal setting and focusing kept me motivated when I was balancing my art career with parenthood. Back then, I was a wildlife artist, so I entered duck stamp competitions and art festivals and donated my art and illustrations to organizations such as the Nature Conservancy and the Wolf Education Research Center. All of this helped build a solid foundation for me as a professional artist. This also gave me artistic goals to achieve when motherhood suggested that I give up!
Since work time is limited, it is imperative to stay organized. Clean up at the end of each work session so you can return to a clean workstation. Organize your projects so you are ready to work and are not fumbling around wasting time. You will become more productive and less stressed.
In the past I have proudly proclaimed myself a multitasker. The best multitasker may appear to be handling more than one task at the same time. But, studies have shown that productivity drops with multitasking because the brain cannot fully focus. People actually take longer to complete tasks and are more predisposed to error.
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Work in small increments
Have you ever told yourself, “I’ve only got 5 minutes” and then been amazed at just how much you were able to accomplish in those 5 minutes? When you are limited for time, get in the habit of doing your work for “just 5 minutes.”
Choose pencil, charcoal, watercolor, acrylic paint and water-soluble oils, which are relatively easy to clean up and are primarily non-toxic.
While my kids were young I found that it was much easier to work on small projects. This way I was able to finish and feel a sense of accomplishment and triumph.
Involve the kids
Toddlers and pre-school aged children are naturally artistic. Consider giving your child a box filled with age-appropriate art supplies so the little budding artist can create alongside you.
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Take time for you
Parenting is a rewarding, but exhausting experience. The only way to maintain the energy needed to juggle parenting and your career is to create some time for yourself. This is important for replenishing your energy and creative levels.
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Finding this equilibrium is particularly important to artistic individuals. Achieve balance by gaining control of your daily tasks, and by making room for some healthy habits. Then you will be rewarded with more energy to create!
Lori McNee is an exhibiting member of Oil Painters of America and ranks as one of the most influential artists and powerful women on Twitter. She was named a Twitter Powerhouse by The Huffington Post. Lori shares valuable fine art tips, art business tips and social media advice on her blog, FineArtTips.com. She has been a talk show host for Plum TV, and has been featured in and written for magazine and book publications and serves on the Plein Air Magazine board of advisors.