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Work Work Balance

Work Work Balance

No, not Work Life Balance. Work Work Balance.
I worked full time as a writer. Then I worked full time for a branding agency. Neither was the most efficient for either job. Then I (kinda) quit the branding job but ended up working 3 days a week. That opened up 2 days a week to get back to the writing I was desperately missing. For a while, I worked 3 full days a week at the branding company, going to the office and managing projects. For the other two days a week I worked as officially as I could muster as a writer. This was the most effective, efficient and enjoyable Work Work Balance in my career.

How can 2 be greater than 5?

I got more writing done in those 2 days than I did when I was working “full time” 5 days as a writer. Not just quantity, but quality. How can that be? It’s a similar phenomenon to how you manage to bring more baggage on a quick weekend trip than you do on a month-long sabbatical. You fill the space to the time allotted. In some ways, 5 days was an eternity. It was almost too much time. It was too much of one thing. When I only had 2 days, I also scheduled my time better and got to know my own inner clock.

In my experience, there are subjects (or tasks or jobs or projects) that I just can’t do hour after hour, day after day, with a consistent level (or better: increasing) enthusiasm and quality. You might say, “Well, you need to focus. Work harder. Take a coffee break now and again.” I suppose. But then there are other factors beyond just quantity and even quality. Creativity, for example, or originality, or freshness, or a new or different angle.

For the branding work, part of the job was actually hunkering down and creating names for a client. Literally creating from scratch. The whole horror of the blank page and a deadline. OK, go! I did not-terribly-scientific studies to find that when I worked beyond two hours in a row doing this work, the quality, the originality, the “my boss isn’t going to like these” became obvious. But if I took a step away (ideally, lots of steps) from the work and then returned, it would not only come back to the same level as I had before, but it would even start at a higher level.

Mix It Up

So add to this switching professions completely and going from a branding agency to a writer and the back–it would help both jobs. These examples were both creative jobs, but there were aspects of both that were mundane, repetitive, and mindless. Thank God. For the branding company, we had to look up existing trademarks to see if other companies were in the field already. It was database searching and monotonous. We happily did this work as a break from the more brain-cell crunching creative work. Similarly, in the writing job, research was also part of the task: finding markets to target or homework on the subjects. Again, this was a breath of fresh air. This was akin to walking after running a half-marathon: welcome and necessary. It wasn’t simply a change of scenery, it was a change of mindset.

This Work Work Balance kept me sane, happy, productive and creative in both jobs. Bosses were happy, clients were happy, and I was happy.

Probably not a good balance … sweets in a crazy candy shop in Carcassonne in the south of France

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