People often ask me why I decided to start helping musicians and creatives with their well-being and figuring out their own work-life balance. One day in April of 2022 I woke up at 4AM and wrote out a gigantic brain dump of how complicated work-life balance is for artists and how I could help this problem. I think this sudden inspiration hit me after I had been putting a lot of thought and work into my own work-life balance as I was juggling my desk job, teaching, and going to grad school… plus trying to figure out married life as a newlywed and my social life. I had a lot going on and while I felt “success” in some aspects I also felt very stuck, like I was just going through the motions of all of these things, but not really making any progress towards my goals. I know I am not the only musician who has felt this way.
I have always been interested in the intersection of wellness and productivity—and when I say interested I mean spending countless hours watching videos on YouTube, reading books, and listening to podcasts about these subjects. With all of that information in my back pocket, it was a strange sort of wake-up call to find myself on the edge of burnout. I was trying every productivity “hack” and trying to meditate extensively to feel some semblance of balance but was just constantly feeling overwhelmed. I realized I had been going about it in the wrong way; I was prioritizing goals that I thought I was supposed to be doing or should want as a musician.
The big moment for me when all of this clicked together was a conversation with my therapist (surprise, surprise!) in 2021. It was one of our first sessions together and she had me figure out my values—the principles and priorities that guide my life decisions. Something so simple doesn’t sound like it should be mind-blowing to me, but it truly was. It explained so much for my day-to-day behavior and why some things were difficult to overcome. For example, one of my values is comfort—I love having a clean home, and just being able to relax at the end of the day. Being in a clean, orderly area attributes to the comfort factor for me, so if I was trying to practice or get work done with things in disarray, I would procrastinate by cleaning. Or, if I didn’t clean my practice would be so unfocused or I couldn’t relax later. Defining my values helped me figure out how to manage my time even better. I began scheduling cleaning regularly and ahead of my practice sessions, and such a small change seemed to make a big difference. Defining my values also helped me make clearer goals for myself that felt truly aligned with me… not with what I thought I “should” be doing.
The Eight Pillars of Wellness
Knowing my values was helpful but I still found myself feeling overwhelmed at times, so I wanted to find a way to feel more balance. I found myself gravitating towards the eight pillars of wellness that encompass various aspects of our lives: physical, emotional, mental, spiritual, financial, occupation, intellectual, social, and environmental. While these pillars overlap and influence each other in a variety of ways, I discovered that very intentionally doing things to support each one helped me achieve more balance. One of the best things I started doing when I felt particularly overwhelmed was a “wellness reset” where I dedicated two consecutive days that I had mostly free to doing things to improve each area of wellness. It could be simple, like check my budget, or more complicated, like deep cleaning my kitchen. I had to strike the right balance of simple and more complicated tasks to be able to get to everything I planned, but the most important thing to me was doing at least one small thing to support each category of wellness in those two days. If you are interested in the reset, I have a whole guide on it here. When my schedule was consistently hectic and I often felt out of whack, I would do these resets more often; it helped me stay responsible for my well-being rather than making excuses that I didn’t have enough time. Now I have more habits and routines in place to support my well-being, but I still find myself doing the wellness resets after particularly busy periods to “reset” back to normal.
Boundaries play an important part in all of this, too. I had to learn how to say “no” without guilt, shame, or the “fear of missing out.” This is often challenging for musicians and creatives who are taught to say yes to every opportunity. Of course, there are financial considerations for paying gigs, but I became more discerning when making those decisions. When I started implementing boundaries that supported my values and goals, I found myself being able to put more time and energy towards the things that really mattered to me - family, friends, practicing/creating, and just being at home to truly relax!
The magic combination
Understanding my values, supporting my well-being in all areas, and establishing boundaries seemed to be the perfect combination to help me feel less stuck and find more balance and clarity. I was growing happier with my everyday life because I could see how the way I spent my time aligned with my values, so I didn’t feel as overwhelmed, even with a lot going on. I no longer focused on what I had not achieved yet or what I wasn’t able to do. I had a better understanding of what I wanted for the future so I could progress towards my goals with ease. A big bonus was that I found myself comparing myself and my musical path to that of others’ much less. It’s important to note that productivity tools, habits, and time management were, and continue to be, very much intertwined with this process, but that’s a post for another day!
All of this was so impactful on my life, and a topic I just love talking about, so it was natural for me to start helping other musicians and creatives with their own journeys. I like to remind the members in Forging Balance, all creatives who are working towards their own version of balance, that I am on this journey with them. While I definitely reach points where everything feels good, aligned, and not overwhelming, life is always changing, so I’m constantly adjusting as I need to, and encourage clients to do the same. There is no right answer that is going to fit everyone to magically create a perfectly balanced life. But when we ask the right questions, we can begin to identify the tools, techniques, and mindsets that will help us achieve greater balance (we do a lot of this exploration in Forging Balance!). I would love to hear your thoughts, please share in the comments!