My job arguably has many perks — making up stories for a living, working with a talented group of people, doing the thing I’ve always dreamed of doing — but, a short working day is not one of them. Couple that with a 30-mile commute (which translates to roughly an hour on a good day and two hours on a bad day… each way), and that means I’m out of the house for at least 12 hours a day. And that doesn’t even take into consideration the days I have therapy or when I have after-work events.
So how do I balance work, self time, my marriage, outside writing projects, social time, and being healthy? Simple answer: I usually don’t. My friendships suffer. I mainly see my husband as a sleeping body during the week. My only workout usually consists of sometimes taking the stairs at work. And don’t even get me started on the sad/pissed off looks I get from my dog. But, another side effect that comes from having considerably less time: you learn to prioritize.
The aspect of my life that tends to take the biggest hit during my work season is sadly my social life. Back in my twenties, I would say yes to everything either out of fear of missing out or guilt that I was. It left me with an amazing social life, but I was also very worn out and sick all the time. That wasn’t good for anyone. Now, I try to limit my social obligations during the week to one night max. It doesn’t always work out that way, but I try. And when I do get together with friends during the week, I make sure I have a hard out at 10pm. I’m not a kid anymore, I need my sleep in order to function. Most friends understand that when I’m on a show our face-to-face time will mainly be regelated to weekend hangs. For those that don’t get it, I make an effort to spend lots of time with them when I’m on hiatus or during the holidays. But, it’s hard. I end up sending a lot of “I miss you” texts.
Another realization I’ve had about myself and time management is it is vital for my health that I carve out self-time to schedule, meditate, and do the things that make me feel both emotionally and physically strong. That means having to get up at 5-6am most mornings (another thing that makes it easy to have a 10pm cut-off time during the weekdays). Some people can roll out of bed and head out to work right away. I am not one of those people. But, by waking up early (as in, sometimes way too early) I have a solid hour or two to take care of myself. And I even manage to get 20 minutes of working out in. It’s not as much as I would like, but it’s at least something.
Unfortunately, this still doesn’t leave much time for writing. During hiatus, I try to tackle many projects at once so I can have a good head start on everything I want to accomplish that year. It’s not unusual for me to be balancing five different projects at once during that time. Obviously, that workload becomes way less once my show starts. I’m trying to post on this blog once a week. That’s been a struggle mainly because this type of writing comes naturally to me in the morning and my mornings are usually spent battling traffic. Today I took the train and got into the office early to write. I’m going to have to do that a lot more, it seems. I also try to stay at work an hour later so I can work on my novel because I’ve realized that kind of writing comes most naturally to me at the end of the day. It sucks staying an hour after work has finished, but it allows me to wait out traffic. And I’ll be honest, some days I stay, but some days I don’t. I try not to put pressure on myself. Pilots, features, and first drafts get regelated to the weekend when I have the most time to focus on them. Sometimes that means having to turn down a social obligation, but sometimes it means I just don’t have the time to work on them. But, that’s okay for now… I don’t have any deadlines or notes looming.
This is all to say, managing all of it is really hard. And I haven’t even added kids into the mix yet, lord knows what my life will look like then. But, there are ways to do it. You just have to realize that you’ll have to give some things up in the process. Like a clean house, amazing social life, and a small waistline. But, that’s okay. We make the most with what we have and we learn the things that are truly important in life.