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Posts Tagged ‘work/life balance’

Sometimes I forget that the best thing a creative person can do is shut out everything else and just take a time out. We all need time to unplug, unwind, and unthink.

I recently wrote about what I would do if I could create my own schedule and how I’d like to find a way to stay on a permanent vacation. In addition to the benefits of spending time away from electronic distractions, staying away from others’ opinions in general can be extremely beneficial when trying to create something new. In the days of hyper-connectivity, it’s hard not to be influenced by other media, including television, radio, internet, phone calls, and even face-to-face conversations.

While I respect and value the opinions of my family, friends, and colleagues, I have come to the conclusion that I need to set aside time for myself away from the phone, the internet, and people if even for a few hours a week. So, I’m going to schedule SaraKate Blackouts – blocks of time when I can just lay outside on a blanket and appreciate the shade a tree offers in DC humidity, do some painting, write in my journal (yes, I actually have a real paper journal … not that I use it enough!), go on a long walk without purpose or destination, make a decadent homecooked meal, well… you get the idea. Basically anything but errands, work, or connecting with other people. I plan to schedule this in a few hours at a time, starting with this Thursday evening. I’m not sure it will be the same time every week or even if the duration will stay the same, but I’ve got to start somewhere and what better time to start than now?

That being said, I leave you with one of my favourite quotes on meditation and reflection:

The gift of learning to meditate is the greatest gift you can give yourself in this life. For it is only through meditation that you can undertake the journey to discover your true nature, and so find the stability and confidence you will need to live, and die, well. Meditation is the road to enlightenment.Sogyal Rinpoche, The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying

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I know this entry is a day late (since I said I was going to post weekly on Tuesdays and it’s now Wednesday), but with good reason and I think you’ll find it fits the content to post a day later anyway. 😉

Over this past week, I took a long weekend and vacationed in Boston. I attended an academic conference on Harry Potter, which was sponsored by the Leaky Cauldron, entitled LeakyCon2009. My roommate and I drove from DC to Boston in my little Toyota Prius and blasted AC/DC and Journey with the windows down. Once we arrived, we napped and showered and met up with some other friends for dinner in the North End. We walked leisurely and took the long way from our hotel via the Freedom Trail, which features many of the historic sites in Boston. I didn’t check my email once.

We spent the next day wandering around the downtown area and met up with more friends and family for lunch, before heading to Cambridge for some shopping (and a new tattoo!), then went back to the hotel for the Welcome Feast on the first night of the conference. By this time, I had all but forgotten about email. I was revelling in the fact I hadn’t touched a computer in 48 hours (though I do admit to having posted and checked twitter once or twice).

The conference was in full swing and I immersed myself completely in academia, discussing religious allegory and feminism in Harry Potter, learning how the publishing of one novel (Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, or for the Brits out there, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone) led to increased enthusiasm for fantasy in children’s literature and excitement for children’s literature in general, and how the fans of Harry Potter took values from the books and implemented them, starting the HP Alliance. During the day, I was an academic, taking notes on lectures by speakers such as Lev Grossman, John Granger (aka HogwartsProfessor), David English, Melissa Anelli, and Gwendolyn Limbach; by night, socialite, connecting with friends and spending way too much money on great food and atmosphere.

It was so energizing and refreshing to get time away and connect with friends on such a purely personal level, face to face and without deadlines looming. I felt like I could get time to myself and that I wasn’t being selfish just taking little bits of time for myself. Without worrying about obligations, my schedule was flexible. No one cared if I wandered into a talk a few minutes late (to quote John Granger, “Don’t worry. Come on in. We’ve just gotten started.”), no one faulted me if I took notes they couldn’t read (they simply asked for translation), and everyone was eager to offer their own ideas and take questions.

It was a lovely little break. Walking through the Commons and the Public Gardens in the sun just made for grand getaway and I wish I could have stayed longer. But, here I am, back at my desk and back to the same old grind. Now, what I need to do is find out how to unplug on a regular basis.

How do I bring a bit of vacation into my everyday life?

This is something I’ve been thinking about for ages… how do I take the proper amount of time for myself without falling behind in the steps I need to take to fulfill my goals. Or, as the professionals say, how do I find my work/life balance?

I need to set aside time everyday to go to the gym, exercise, or just take a walk; I need to read more; I need to journal more. These things sound like a list or resolutions, though. And, in a way, they sound like additions to my to-do list. What I really want is a permanent vacation. And by that, I don’t mean never working or lounging around a pool all day. I mean that I want to find more time to take care of myself.

I plan to do this in steps:

  1. Find out what it is I need.
  2. Make a list of those needs.
  3. Set aside time and money to fulfill those needs.
  4. Reevaluate needs.
  5. Repeat Steps 1.-4.  every so often.

So far, my list of needs includes:

  • reading
  • journaling
  • exercise
  • eating healthy
  • a clean and organized living space
  • adequate sleep
  • face time with friends and family
  • singing (even if it’s just along to music in the car or in the shower)
  • keeping a finances balanced
  • spending time outdoors

I’d really like to know: What are your needs? How do you keep a good work/life balance? What do you consider a ‘vacation’?

Now, it’s just setting aside time and money to fulfill these needs. Wish me luck!

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