How to Find Balance as a Content Creator
The most common question I get asked as a content creator is how am I able to balance my time between working full-time, pumping out blog posts and trying other side projects as well as having a personal life. Before you go ahead and read this post, let me tell you that there is no magic formula or guarded secret and no, I don't have assistants or a secret twin.
TIme-management is something I've seen the majority of architecture students struggle with and it's no wonder because we are often bombarded with tasks to do week after week on top of other deadlines. But the main reason any content creator decides to start their own blog, YouTube channel or podcast is because they enjoy doing so - remember this because it'll be important later on.
You'll often hear that mastering content creation takes a lot of consistency. That consistency can only be driven by your personal motivation and you'll have some of this when you decide to take the plunge. Some of the 'balance' is down to how much or how often you want to be working on your side hustle and the goals associated with it but part of it is also how you manage your time to be able to do these things in the first place.
I have to admit, I have it much easier than some. I've been living at home the past two years not having to worry about my financial status and therefore already at an advantage as I am able to explore my interests. Others may have a ton of responsibilities and still end up being fantastic at what they do - remember that each person's journey is different.
A recent concept or shift in mindset I've discovered is the art of managing your energy vs your time. I guess we all get caught up in trying to make the hours in a day work for us but we aren't really thinking about when we work best or when our prime hours are. Basically, if you can implement habits and steps that will let you work according to your energy levels, then you don't have to worry about pulling all-nighters.
What works best for you?
Building on this personal journey idea, you need to first figure out what works best for you. What kind of worker are you, when do you work best and where do your interests lie? The answers to these questions will help shape how you balance content creation.
For me personally, I've tried to work on some kind of project every summer where I wasn't on holiday. I've had various interests and career aspirations over the years and I can honestly say that the skills I've learnt along the way have shaped me as a person. Learning how to code in school opened me up to the world of web-development - something I use today to make tweaks on this website. Practising the art of sewing, embroidering and textile design taught me a lot about patience and the importance of iterations.
Talking about iterative tasks, architecture has so many links to the world of design whether it's graphic design, animation or even film and media. So part of it is turning your hobbies and interests and extracting those skills to help you later on with content creating. Obviously, learning any new skill takes time and commitment, but if you think about it as investing in your future, it can make future tasks so much easier!
For example, having had previous experience with creating social media posts, I know the basic rules of colours, fonts, design and curating a feed. This made it super easy for me to implement the same skills when it came to creating my own Instagram page. But an aspect some people really underestimate is the idea of planning and organisation. I use Notion to plan all my blog posts and social media content. It's a process I've been adapting and growing since March 2020, ever since I discovered Notion and was able to compile my Second Brain in this digital workspace.
Each person has their own way of doing things, their own preferences like working at 5am in the morning or working late. Everything that works for me may not work for you, but I think you have to give it a try at least once! If you don't, then you might be missing out on the possibility of a better workflow. And if it doesn't work, well, at least you tried. Trying and starting are the most difficult things to do. But if you can find what makes you click, like that perfect environment or timing then it could be the key to unlocking productivity.
Doing the thing that you find fun → balance
It's all good trying to find the fun in boring and mundane tasks too, but sometimes you can fall off the wagon and no matter what you try to do to make it fun, it still doesn't sit well with you. For me, I've never seen this blog as work and when people ask me how I keep going or how I have so much drive it's because I see so many solutions to the everyday problems architecture students face on all kinds of scales. I find it fun to write and get my thoughts out in the form of an article. And hey, if you enjoy it then that's a bonus!
The thing is, I'm not sitting down and telling myself that my readers will expect a blog therefore I need to write, it's actually more for me than anything. Documenting a journey and being able to reflect back regularly also helps me grow and adapt. It's a no brainer that if you do what you enjoy then you will be more likely to continue it, right?
One could say that you may enjoy playing video games which is why it's your go-to procrastinating habit and why you prefer it to doing your chores. But if you adapt the chores to be a little more fun either through small rewards or setting yourself accountable and offsetting it with the stuff you do enjoy, you might build a certain respect for doing something. Similarly, if you are able to step back every now and then and look at the bigger picture, you may see that there is an overarching goal you want to achieve and this is a step in that journey.
I've seen blogs and content creators come and go. All of them had the potential to become big or grow an audience or create valuable content but most of them don't have the passion for it. Doing something for the wrong reasons like just to get famous often doesn't work out once you realise the amount of work you need to put in. Like I said, if that 'work' seems more like play to you then usually there is nothing that will stop you.
Your priority should be you
Above anything else, the key to content creating or any kind of commitment is to put yourself first. Architecture is a tough degree and the industry is currently lacking in terms of support for wellbeing and mental health. It's also unfortunate that unhealthy methods of working have been ingrained in us since the start of architecture school and we don't stop to realise there is a better way. Balance can quickly lead to feeling overwhelmed - so try and enjoy the things you're doing.
If you don't give time to yourself and the small things in life you enjoy, then you will hit burnout very quickly. This has happened to me on a number of occasions. The lockdown seems appealing to introverts like me and if you're as motivated as I am, you might just think 'great! more time to do some work'. But it's really unhealthy. I found myself overwhelmed with committment and projects I had created for myself on top of everything else that was going on. I realised that I don't need to go in head first with every idea that comes to mind and actually it's nice to not be doing something new and crazy for a while. (I'm still working on this).
One way I've found that works for me is to plan in the downtime. I'm an obsessive planner. Lists, outlines, schedules - you name it and I'm doing it. So, whilst planning my weekend or my week off from work, I make sure to plan in some time for myself. Now, on days where I feel a bit all over the place or feel like I'm not getting any good ideas or just not feeling myself, I make sure to unplug everything from my desk so that I don't get tempted to sit down and I go and do something fun or chill. Even lying down on the sofa to binge Netflix movies can be a really nice break from the constant work mode.
This productive procrastination is actually really valuable and can have a bigger impact than you think. I'm the kind of person whose brain doesn't switch off. So I'm constantly thinking about the next blog post that will go viral or the project I've had in mind for months and actually not being able to write or plan or take action can help me really think about it and reflect on such ideas. Some people try journalling at the end of the day to ground them and help them realise the stuff that really mattered.
Finding balance certainly takes a while - I'm not there yet, although it may seem like that from an outside perspective. There's this concept called a Growth Mindset where you believe that you can improve your abilities and skills with hard work. Being on a learning curve or at a turning point in your journey is far better for you than focusing narrow-mindedly on a specific goal or even the fear of not being able to achieve that goal.
The underlying belief of a fixed mindset means that you believe your intelligence is a certain amount and if you make mistakes or struggle, you start believing that you don't have as much intelligence as you thought. This then evolves into a fear of trying something new because you want to avoid being judged or failing. Looking at opportunities as something you have to work for in order to get better, smarter or more intelligent is what will help you grow. Here's a great video that explains the concept:
A mantra of sorts I'm sticking to at the moment is, 'Start the day with one less task / project'. Have you ever heard the phrase; 'Before you leave the house, take off one item' (like an accessory or something). It's a concept for fashion and basically tells you to pare things back a bit. When I schedule my tasks or I write out actions for the day, the last thing I do before I begin is to move one non-important and non-urgent task to another day.
Try it out and let me know if you're struggling with finding balance and if you have any tips on doing so. We can learn better together 😁