A friend of mine sent me an email today that contained 3 questions about Twitter. The first two were standard “how-to” questions (inquiring about such things as the simplest way to send a direct message), but the last one gave me pause for thought. Here’s what she asked me:
How the hell do you balance your workload at your design firm, constant tweeting, blogging, a personal life…..and all the multitude of other things you clearly have managed to balance? I’m desperately trying to balance all of my work, personal, and web-based endeavours, and I’m not sure I’m really getting it all in balance just yet, so I’m curious!
Short answer: I don’t! Not even close.
The thing is, there are really two answers to this question. I’m gonna split them into two posts. This first one has to do with the implicit comparison in her question.
I read her question and nearly choked — because every day, all the time, I feel like I’m falling behind. My inner critic reads “constant tweeting” and chortles at how little time I carve out for Twitter. And blogging? I know dozens of bloggers who put my paltry output to shame.
As for the workload at our design firm… well, let’s just say I’ve been clocking a lot of overtime lately and there’s not much of an end in sight.
However, all is not bleak. In fact, none of this is bleak. It’s just completely and utterly normal. And the only time it doesn’t seem normal is when we read Other People’s blogs, tweets, portfolios, and so on and make the mistake of believing that their amazing and inspiring public output is the result of their attainment of some seventh level of perfection that we have not learned to access.
The big secret is that very few people feel even remotely balanced. We’re all being pushed and pulled in a thousand directions. I think the best we can hope for is to fall in love with the living of life and enjoy the ride.
I have to remind myself of this all the time. I read tweets from designers I admire and wonder how in the world they can afford to attend all the conferences they travel to, and produce such great work, while managing volunteer projects and creating art. There’s some part of my brain that wants to idealize everyone and imagine that they are doing all of this while still having fun and sleeping eight hours a night — even while I know damned well that they still have to put their hipster jeans on one leg at a time.
What I do know is that the people who are doing a lot of really cool stuff have two things in common:
- They are madly in love with what they do, so it doesn’t feel like work. (And that includes Twitter, Facebook, and the rest — if it isn’t fun for you, you’re unlikely to do it. That’s why I try and help my clients to find social media outlets that work well for them, whether it’s video blogging, tweeting, or organizing in-person meetups.)
- They have some kind of system for setting goals and meeting them. It might be a formal system like Getting Things Done, or working with a personal coach, or just a good friend who keeps them accountable — but whatever it is, they are clear on what they most want to do and how to make it happen.
The ironic thing is that the gal who asked me this question is herself a total overachiever: She sings, she writes, she does event planning and media relations, she’s a smart marketer, and she’s a mom. I mean, holy hell, this girl’s got skills. There are a thousand people who look at her and ask the same question she asked me. So it’s all about perspective.
But I feel like we all need to let go a little bit of the balance myth. It’s a lovely ideal, and a noble goal, but we rarely find ourselves in that perfect place where everything feels like it’s just as it should be. And that’s totally okay, because everyone is struggling with it just like you are. You’re still allowed to have heroes, but try and remember they’re all a little unbalanced, too.
I’ll post Part 2 tomorrow, in which I’ll try and answer the question in a more practical manner.