I bet you know someone who "burns the midnight oil" at work or someone who doesn't take vacations or never calls in sick. Our culture promotes and celebrates workaholism. It makes many feel important if they're working late. Working alot doesn't mean you're important, it rarely ever even gets you a gold star, let alone a raise. In reality, working too much can burn you out, drain you of your creative juices, decrease productivity and effect your relationships with friends and family in ways that aren't so great.
In my first year pursuing my photography career, I booked 23 weddings on top of portrait sessions and other creative gigs. 23. Two weddings were in one weekend. In two cities that were 4 hours away from each other. I tell you this not to brag, but to share that there is absolutely nothing wrong with pursuing your passion and working hard on projects you love, however it's essential to take breaks. After this first year, I took on only 20 projects total. I was wiped out and learned the hard way that it's essential to nourish your creative spirit.
Here are 7 creative ways to keep your mojo and avoid becoming a workaholic.
- Set clear boundaries. Make sure your working hours are consistent. There are plenty of distractions working from home - laundry, floors, Netflix. Create a schedule and stick to it. For example, I worked from 9am to 4:30pm everyday with a lunch at 1pm. I dedicated 4:30pm to 9pm for family time and any time after that was my own downtime until I went to bed. Create your schedule and be firm.
- Eat real food. A side effect of working more is not eating real food. Real food includes fruits, veggies, unprocessed, not fast using a plate and maybe even silverware. Before leaving for work, take time the night before or get up a little earlier in the morning, to prepare your breakfast and lunch. For myself, it takes 30 minutes for me to make both. My lunch usually consists of leftovers from the night before. Most importantly, don't eat while you're working. Savor your food and enjoy each bite. Studies have shown that quick eaters are more likely to overeat and gain weight.
- Get enough sleep! Staying up late to work on a project and then getting up at the break of dawn to get moving isn't the best strategy. Lack of creativity, diminished morale and irritability are a few traits of people who lack sleep. Work smarter, not harder.
- Unplug. In the beginning, I thought I always had to be connected and over time, I found that amazing things can happen when you step away from looking at screens - either on your computer or cell. Most of my killer ideas come to me when I'm in the shower, on a run, driving and basically when I'm not working.
- Make time for family and friends. If you're working too much, you're probably sacrificing time with friends and family. Doing what you're passionate about is extremely important but so are the people who love you. Consider how you spend your time and what is truly important in life. When you are with loved ones, really be there. Be engaged. Ask Questions.
- Listen to your body. If you are working too much you will feel tired and cranky. These feelings are red flags that you need to slow down and it is essential to listen to your body. When you listen to your body, you'll also know when you're sick or jest need some extra rest.
- Cultivate healthy habits. Developing healthy habits is not something that happens overnight. Working on one small behavior change everyday can make huge changes over the long-term. For example, instead of checking my email every time I received a notification, I no longer sync my phone and now only check my email 4 times a day. Also, consider incorporating small changes to your daily routine, like adding yoga, a walk or run, preparing your own food and being present when you spend time with friends and family.
We only have one story. One ride. Be the narrator, be the main character of your story. Sit in the front row. At the end of the day, the questions that we ask ourselves are if we loved enough; laughed enough; if we made a difference? No one ever asks, "did I work enough?".