Here’s a note I got from a reader this week:
How do you find balance with family, career, and of course just fun time playing music? I saw the one post where you talked about work/life balance, but I guess I’m wondering if you are able to get in some “me” time as well?
I have taken a break from a worship leader position and have had some life changes that have me in a tough spot questioning everything I have worked for. I’ve all but lost the desire to play and I feel it’s due to mostly work and family. Anyway, keep up the good work!
Thank you for writing! I wish I had a simple answer for you. I don’t. I’ve been trying to solve this crazy enigma of balancing a life, a career, downtime, and a family for the last 7 years (since I first started dating my now wife), and I’m still clueless.
It seems I’m either pushing my relationships to the side while I drive through an intense work project, or I’m neglecting my work to hang out with friends and family.
That said, I’ve found a bunch of strategies that have helped me manage this crazy balancing act without veering completely off the proverbial highway. Perhaps some of them would help you. Here’s a random list of things that have worked for me:
•I started keeping a happiness log. This helped me figure out what I actually like, and try to do more of it. It also helped me identify areas that really stressed me out, things that I needed to work on, and all the great things that happen in my life every day that I take for granted.
I feel like I still don’t understand how I work, what makes me feel the way I do, etc. Working on this helped me start to be more honest with myself about what I actually like, and what I need to function well as a person (not just a musician.
• I started eliminating any habit or activity that wasn’t necessary, contributing positively to me or others, or was a distraction. This has included things like TV, long Guitar Center trips (yes, I’m serious) and other activities that were mostly me just putzing around with no purpose. This freed up literally dozens of extra hours of time each week for stuff I find really meaningful.
• I made a fixed amount of time I’d like to work every week. By putting a limit on my work, I started having to ask hard questions about what I really need to do, and what’s important enough to merit my precious 8 hours of work I get to give each day.
• I took what I loved and what I find relaxing and morphed it to my circumstances. I’m trying to integrate my down times into hanging out with my son Jackson, and most of my relaxation time is spent with us as a family. This helps me learn to rest with my family, builds our relationships together, and helps us to become closer as a family.
These are the major things I’ve tried to do. Here’s the tiny stuff that has helped:
• I love ice cream, so I try to make sure I get some at least three times a week. This seriously helps me relax and enjoy life!
• I lost 65 pounds, got down to my ideal weight by eating healthy(ish), and work out every day. Physical activity is a vital part of my mental well being.
• I spend at least half an hour a day doodling on the piano. Before I get started on my regular practice, I let myself goof around a bit. This keeps me remembering that music is fun, and I should be having fun with it.
• I’m part of a music meet up group. I go to this religiously because it reminds me I’m not alone, helps me to focus, and I love hearing what other people are doing.
• I am part of an active, wonderful church. The teaching is fantastic, the music is amazing, and it helps me to deepen my relationship with Christ every time I attend.
• I pray regularly(ish). I try to keep my prayer life active, usually while I’m driving.
• I listen to at least one audiobook a week. This challenges my thinking, and keeps me from stagnating.
• I subscribe to about a dozen podcasts and blogs. Again, reading and listening to others talk about what they do or are interested in really helps me keep perspective.
(Note: I am nowhere close to being perfect or close to perfect at these things. They’re all targets. Some days it’s all bulleyes, some days it’s all misses).
Bottom line? I don’t think there’s ever going to be resolution where I find the perfect balance. And I’m trying to learn to be okay with that. My hope is that my family and friends will be understanding enough that when I’m ears-deep in a project they’re fine without me, knowing that I’ll make up for it with a lot of time together when I’m done.
That’s all I got. Good luck, and let me know if you come up with other ideas. I’m always open to trying something new!