8 tips for coping with work and art

How do you do it?

A friend recently asked me how I manage working full-time and doing film stuff in my spare time. He got his first full-time office job recently, and has been struggling with having the energy to do anything else.

Hard workIt’s hard.

It. is. hard.

Now grab a seat, and let me tell you a bit about me. This might seem a bit like blowing my own horn or getting too personal, but, well … it’s my blog and here you are reading it.

I grew up always doing something, always having something on the go. I had two part-time jobs when I was at College, as well as playing Hockey, learning 4 musical instruments, being in 2 choirs and 2 music bands, being a Brownie Leader and a Ranger. Whilst studying two degrees at Uni, I ran the Music Social Club, I worked a part-time job, I had dance classes. Whilst working full-time I kept running the Social Club: running up to 3 gigs a month, administering websites and mailing lists; I made films; I kept up the bellydance; I looked after my house (as much as I could). Then I studied part-time while I was working. Now, in London, I’m focussing on the filmmaking, the administration job, the bellydance, networking and exploring.

It works for me. I enjoy it.

I am a stress junkie. It’s what I do. I have been doing “too much” for years. I put quotation marks, because it’s relative. If I don’t think I’m doing too much, then who is anyone to say I am.

Now, when you work full-time, here is your usual day:

Get up. Get ready for work. Travel to work. Work. Travel home. Unwind. Make dinner. Spare time. Sleep.

Your spare time during the week could be 2-3 hours max. Depending on your day job, you could be exhausted by then.

This is where it is hard.

Try to be creative when you’re tired.

Try to be creative when you’ve spent 9 hours thinking.

Try to be creative when normal people are relaxing.

and then if you had kids?!?!

One of my film lecturers pointed out that anything you achieve when you’re working full-time is amazing, because you have such an uphill battle every day.

There are a lot of us out there who have the full-time job, and then work on our other career in our spare time. There are varying reasons. It involves a lot of time management.

Time managementIf you want something done, ask a busy person to do it.

Either because we’re gluttons for punishment, or we just know how to multi-task. Really really well.

So, what can I suggest?

1. If you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life. It’s a lot easier if you enjoy your day job. And your other jobs. Which leads to…

2. Do things that you enjoy. I recently volunteered at a film festival. I’m a film geek, and meeting people who love film and getting to see films for free was so awesome that I was full of energy and smiling at everyone. I was tired afterwards, but invigorated.

3. Use your spare time wisely. Lunch breaks are when I catch up on personal emails or meet people for film meetings. I listen to film podcasts at work. I stay at work later to apply for film jobs. Write first thing in the morning.

4. Hang out with your friends. I catch up with different friends at the same time. Group events are great. Then my friends get to meet new people as well.

5. Exercise. Endorphins, and you’ll have more energy for running around.

6. Always carry a diary. I’m getting double booked a lot less now I have an iPad with my work and personal calendars, and my FB event invites. While you’re at it, write down ideas as they come to you.

7. Clear up clutter. For some reason, your space gets cluttered when your mind is cluttered, and your mind gets clearer when your space gets clearer. (Which reminds me, I must clean my room).

8. Learn how to de-stress. Give yourself a break. You’ll need it.

– as an aside, when you get really stressed, it can be difficult to see the forest for the trees. Being told to relax and have a bath used to really annoy me. “Don’t they know I don’t have time for a bath?!”

Then I read a story about holding a glass of water. It’s an analogy for stress management. Seriously, have the freaking bath.

Things will get stressful. Things will fall behind. You might miss some important appointments. Or run late to things. (Hey, I’m not perfect.) All you can do is apologise and keep on keeping on.

Believe me, this lifestyle isn’t for everyone. Before you start booking yourself for multiple things all day every day, ask yourself:

  • What are you trying to achieve?
  • What are your reasons for packing your life so much? Is it to look cool?
  • Would you be more efficient or better at what you do if you did just one thing?
  • Can you handle high stress?
  • How far in advance will people need to book you? How far in advance is acceptable?
  • How long do you want to do it for?

(Before any of my friends ask, yes, I have asked myself these questions and have answers that I’m currently happy with).

There are downsides. One in ten people will have a form of depression in their life. Looking at creative people I know, I think it’s more than that. Continued stress at high levels can have negative affects on your mental health. And lots of people won’t understand your lifestyle. (“Come to the pub.” “I can’t, I’ve got a production meeting, and then I’m checking emails, and then I’m … “).

But, it’s like that.

How do you cope with stress?

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