Work-life balance

This post is less publishing related and more general and personal than the previous ones, I apologise to anyone who was hoping for some publishing wisdom. However I think it’s an important topic for any self-employed person, including in the publishing business, so here goes.

Questions we’re asked often are “How do you find a good work-life balance? How do you keep your work and home life separated?”

As a self-employed couple who live and work together, it’s an important question. When you’re passionate about your work, as we are, it’s very easy to let it invade every aspect and moment of your life. I don’t think a single day has gone by in the last few years when we haven’t discussed some work-related stuff, even when we were on holiday. So many times we’ve caught ourselves talking shop when we were supposed to be enjoying time off and had to explicitly state: “No more work talk!”

Ladylit HQ - AfterOne of the things we did after deciding to try to make Ladylit a full-time business for us both, was find an office space outside of home. It was important to me to try to keep work outside of the home as much as possible, after several years of working from home and finding myself replying to emails from my laptop in the couch at 10 p.m. (which partly had to do with the time difference with Europe, but was also definitely related to the fact that home equalled office and work).

This outside office for me to go to every morning allowed Harper to have a dedicated writing space at home where she could create in complete isolation, without me around to distract her. It also gave us a space to discuss work related issues, leave them there when we went home, and the ability to say, “Let’s talk about this at the office tomorrow,” whenever we found ourselves drifting towards a work topic over dinner or when we were supposed to be off the clock. This definitely helped achieve some kind of balance and is something I can highly recommend to any freelancers/entrepreneurs.

Of course this does not stop us completely from talking about work even on our days off, especially since we’re in the business of creating and the world around us is a constant source of inspiration. An experience while on holiday can spark an idea for a new story for Harper to write. She will usually bring it up and we’ll discuss it and make some notes in order to not forget. And I think that’s okay because that’s the fun part of our business and it doesn’t feel like work. But as soon as we start on things that do feel like work, we try to stop and make plans to discuss them later, when we are at the office.

This balance that we’ve found in the last couple of years is going to be thrown overboard somewhat starting in February next year. You see, we have decided that part of what helps us be happy and inspired and balanced, is traveling and seeing new places. We’ve come to realise that we value experiences much more than things.

We love going on holiday and discovering somewhere new, and being in Asia for several years has allowed us to do just that. But staying somewhere for a week or two is too short to really experience a place fully. So we’ve decided to take advantage of the fact that most of our work can be done pretty much anywhere and see more of the world by becoming what is now commonly called ‘digital nomads’. What that means is that we’ll be going somewhere and staying there for two to three months, so we can experience what it’s like to live there, at least for a short while. Our first stop will be in New Zealand. We’ve tentatively decided on having Christchurch as our base so we can explore the beauty of the South Island. (Any Kiwis out there, please feel free to offer any pointers on places to stay, things to see, etc.)

We’ll be renting a flat or house for our time in each destination but of course we will no longer have our own outside office to go to in order to talk about work issues. However we think we’ll still be able to find the right work-life balance, albeit in another way.

We’ll be in a new place, experiencing new things, which, apart from providing fresh inspiration for new books, will give us plenty to talk about other than work-related stuff. Additionally, even though we’re already in a position where we can choose when we work, and are not bound to a regular Monday to Friday schedule, we do tend to stick to one because most of our friends are in jobs that are in that pattern. If we worked at weekends and took weekdays off, we would never get to see them. But when we’ll be ‘nomading’, that will no longer be a factor and we will truly be able to make our own schedule, depending on how much we have to do a specific day, week or month.

In the last few months we have worked really hard at streamlining our work process (we’ve had to with Harper publishing a book every month!) and we think we’ve developed a rhythm that allows us to be very efficient in the time we spend working, so that we will have enough time to explore and experience every destination we choose to go to. Of course, we’ll only know if it works out that way once we actually do it, but we’re very excited to try!

We’ll be talking about this topic more on next week’s Harper Bliss & Her Mrs podcast and I’ll be posting regular updates on our plans and adventures so stay tuned to find out if we manage to find our balance on our travels.