What is an hour of your time actually worth from a Work Life Balance Perspective?

It’s a funny thing, time. We never seem to have enough of it, especially when pursuing an art form that is defined by a fleeting moment in our lives. One minute we’re on stage pouring our heart out for an audience, the next, we’re on the way home, thinking about the next performance. Our work leading to that intensive moment of artistic output causes us to value the time we have even more deeply. Hours and hours of work for a performance, and then it’s over as quickly as it began.

Earlier this week, I wrote about strategies to determine the value of an hour of your time, but thinking about your work from a financial prospective is only one part of defining that value. Part of the reason so many artists face burn out in their playing is that, often, they wind up in situations that are not artistically satisfying. Compound that with the fact that it takes them away from family, friends and time for themselves, and the work becomes infinitely more frustrating.

The challenge with art is that we are paid to physically show up and participate in the creation of an art form. One hour of our time in a seat for rehearsal equals one hour of pay. It is difficult to save time in artistically related work, so we must challenge ourselves to identify which work will be left out so we can say artistically inspired and feel engaged in our personal lives.

We are on this planet for such a short amount of time, it’s important to identify what we value most as we take on work. Here are some things that help keep me inspired and excited to keep coming to work.

  1. Schedule your personal time and make it sacred. Just like you make decisions to take work or turn it down, make sure you are making a conscious decision to carve out time for yourself each day to think, read, meditate, create and plan your future. Tip: Block out times in your calendar for personal reflection and work. It’s so important to finding balance as an artist. Shoot for at least two hours a day. If you can manage it, try to block out a larger amount of time (4-6 hours) at least once a week to tackle big personal projects.
  2. Exercise. It is so important to take the time to exercise several times a week. Schedule the time and hold yourself to it. You will feel so much better in the long run and have more energy to do the things you love to do. Tip: I’ve found that incorporating my exercise into my commute (biking) to and from work to be incredibly effective. 
  3. Be there for your friends and family. I find that I get the most stressed out when I don’t allow enough space to be with my family. As a rule, I try to keep 4pm-8pm free during the week and my weekends as open as possible so I can spend time with my wife and kids. Tip: As artists, evenings and weekends can be intense so make certain you consider that as you take on work. Are there opportunities to connect with your family at a different time? Consistency is the key so try to find an ongoing time for family and get it on the calendar before you commit to any work. 
  4. Make beautiful art in service to others. One of the best ways I’ve found to counter-balance work that is unsatisfying is to put myself out there in service to others. Tip: Identify an organization or a group of artists to work with and give them the gift of your art to help make a difference in the world. 

If you don’t have time to do the four things above, it’s time to evaluate your work life balance. Consider making some changes over the next six to twelve months to help you live a more fulfilling life!

What strategies do you have to create more time to do what you love? I’d love to hear from you in the comment section below!

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Nate Zeisler is the Dean for Community Initiatives at the Colburn School in Los Angeles. He envisions a world where students majoring in the arts have a clear path to a sustainable career, where creative minds are empowered and inspired to rule the workforce, and where access to the arts is not just for the privileged few, but for all.

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