Balancing Act of Work and Life

RaCo Life Kurt Playing Guitar for Iza

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RaCo Life Kurt Playing Guitar for Iza

A work life balance has been lost in today’s society, but it can be found with few basic maneuvers. Kurt and I both work in our fields of choice; he as a conceptual artist and me as a restaurant designer. Neither job is simple or straight forward… both require intense schedules, time and dedication. We have worked hard to orchestrate a schedule which permits meditation, yoga, family meals and play time with our kids by doing less work and more life, and trading responsibilities. We also make time for each other which makes us happier. We don’t always make it work on the first try, but we always adjust as needed.

Balancing is a challenge no matter which way you look at it because there is always going to be a sacrifice. If you can look at the sacrifices as opportunities instead of losses, you will always remain satisfied.

RaCo Life Gray Line

Here’s our balancing act*:

RaCo Life Balance List

1. Work less
Sweden just went to a 6 hour work week to increase productivity. Studies have shown the more downtime you have, the more productive you are during work hours. Streamline.

2. Sleep more
Sometimes hard with a toddler and a newborn, we make a point to be on a bedtime schedule and get out of bed after we are fully rested. We say goodbye to our list to do for the day.

3. Eat healthy
A plant-based rounded diet with small frequent portions. Simply eat less meat and fill your plate with veggies.

4. Exercise Daily
Even if for just 20 minutes, take the time to walk in nature or just down the street.

5. Rest Your Mind
Do something fun. meditate or watch TV. Whatever it is mix it up so you get a mental break every day.

*If you work outside the home it might be harder for you to make your own schedule and work list; give it a try.


Reaching Internally to Find the Balance

Something happened after Iza was conceived, and I stopped reaching out. Instead, I started to focus inward and reengage with the parts of myself which had been lost. In some ways, this was self-protection and also self-reflection on my life to date. It was simply my body and minds way of preparing for parenthood.

I used to do a lot without thinking and would be very reactive to get something off my daily list, instead of really engaging with the experience of what I was doing. I had endless expanses of time and limited accountability for what I needed to be doing and when, but I always felt rushed and didn’t have any time to consider and think things through. I was a procrastinator and also very reactive to the moment instead of the future.

What I have found in my newfound parenthood is my ability to really capture and wander in those rare moments of precious time. The lists are still there, but they are now rolling instead of daily, and my time is constantly expanding as a result. The lack of activity in the evening or morning hours, an eery quiet from the balance of the busy daytime hours is my favorite moment to snag a chance for wandering and this is the time I plan for and give myself to just enjoy.

Something had to give in the midst of all this change and evolution and as a result, I have stopped really reaching out. My wonderful friends from College and London recently united in DC and called me on St. Patty’s Day and me, got a fabulously fun and energetic phone message from the two of them partying it up together. I smiled from ear to ear, but then felt a little sad. I miss the old me some days – the energetic sparkler of personality and zest…. the absolute opposite of a nester. But then I force myself to remember that right now at this moment I am giving myself permission to figure out how to be both the sparkler and the nester. It takes time to perfect and I need to be true to giving time to each stage.

A balance of life ultimately. Right now I am searching for my inner-balance to be true to each moment. After I will get to apply that to the outside world. It is all evolution.

Everything in Life is a Practice

In life, it seems everything is a practice, and no matter what decision or choice we are faced with the practice part is the constant:

  • It is a practice to stay and a practice to go when it comes to my career.
  • It is a practice to be a parent, but the practice also to find a different way without children.
  • It is a practice to love someone, and also a practice to live with them every day.
  • It is a practice to work with a client, but it is a practice to not have any clients.
  • It is a practice to have a family and to have family obligations, and a practice to have a family and not be close.

We are definitely in a ‘searching’ phase of our lives. Some of it might be indecision or misdirection, but a big part of it is a balance. We want to achieve the ultimate level of success by giving ourselves both time and dollars. It has seemed like pushing away from all that we know and graduating to a level of thinking that is not widely supported is both good and bad, but either way, any decision we make is a practice.

Our day to day practice has always put experience first instead of responsibility. We often see responsibility as a roadblock to creativity and one that stifles our opportunity to grow, but we have found recently it does not have to be the case. Responsibility can actually act as a set of boundary lines to help push us forward in a directed manner…almost establishing ground rules.

Perhaps a bit esoteric, but in the months and years to come this will be honed in, refined and ultimately a perfected daily practice; we will master our ability to ‘practice’ over time.

Raco-Life-080000-Kurt-at-RhinzijiPhoto taken at Ren Zhi Ji Mount Baldy. Kurt stands near the infamous Roshi.

Kurt practices Zen Buddhism and maintains at least 2 sesshins a year at the Ithaca Zen Center.

Having Staff

I feel like I do more work just to get ready for staff, then it actually helps me. I wish I could say that it is more beneficial and ultimately I get more done, but I think I am such a control freak that all my time is dedicated to planning, thinking and redoing. What a waste!

After having my wonderful team at TILT, who after 3-years of intense work, really ‘got me,’ I vowed to now try to do it again. Really, it was just too much work to keep up with and I really hate having to be on a schedule for someone else’s purposes, and in fact I really like doing the work. Amber Wilburn, a dedicated employee for over 5 years (I think?) started work everyday at 7am, which meant that I had to have notes to her by 7am. I am just not that dedicated to be able to think clearly on a schedule – and at the time I was single and having too much fun the night before to really function at that hour. (BTW – Amber has a blossoming photography business and design studio. She is highly recommended!)

Here we are in Guatemala, and are just learning the language. Coupled with the fact that many of the tasks we are asking to be carried out are new to our staff using equipment they have not had access to before, and it feels like we are spending our time solely on staff education. I would rather just do it myself. I will say, however, it is a pleasure to come home and have groceries in our pantry, a freshly made bed, etc., but it is in the details that matter… and again I am a total control freak. Things out of order or in a different place make me crazy, and Kurt is going nuts from seeing splash marks from painting and weird placement of screw holes in his frames.

But, isn’t our motto – Balance? It should also be patience and I seem to have lost sight of all of it. Time to get it back. There has to be a compromise here that I am missing and I know I will find it.

Today I have nothing for my team to do because I haven’t done my work to get ready for them. I think what would be best is to have a running list of ‘other projects’ that don’t require my time and support to carryout. I need to focus on getting prepared… and making my lists ahead of time (days ahead of time preferably).

How do you Cope in a Business World Where Respect is Optional?

I can’t take it anymore. I know that many of my work clients and colleagues has wonderful upbringings and were taught how to be polite. Somehow in the sea of business and the recent global downfall of the economy over the last 6 years, respect has literally gone out the window.

Some of the ways in which I feel respect has been lost: 

  1. Time isn’t important. Conference calls are often left going too long without direction, cancelled at the start of the call or attendees come 5-10 minutes late with only a 30 minute window to chat.
  2. Communication sucks. Clear and consistent communication is often not reciprocated and there are times where clients literally don’t even respond about a project proposal or invoice submitted.
  3. Downtime is still work time. Evening and weekend hours have become catch up time periods from the week and there is never a moment you can just shut down.
  4. Wage wars. In order to stay in the good graces of clients, I need to constantly compete with the lower costs they are being offered by junior branders. Clients no longer higher talent for the total package, they piece meal it together ruining the industry hierarchy and making junior opportunists and senior executives compete against each other.
  5. Loss of community. Instead of the industry rallying together in a time of crisis and working to find a solution for all, everyone is happy to divide and conquer independently. This may not be a loss of respect as just an unfortunate circumstance.


Why is this happening?

There is a sense of fear that has plagued the working class for a long time. People are tired and hungry. They are sick of the up and down of the economy and feeling helpless with the solutions offered. But they are also feeling very alone in their feelings and due to the nature of the US mindset, we have shut down the opportunity to freely discuss and instead locked the door creating an isolationist society; all for one instead of one for all.

There are also so many unknowns that just keep popping up, it is hard to keep up with, especially in the food industry. Global warming effecting food costs, health insurance becoming a requirement and certainly the wage demands have all played so negatively into my industry it has started to really beat up everyone. We are becoming cynical, myself included.

Also everyone is overly taxed. They are pushed and stretched with their projects, forced to do the work of more than 1 person (sometimes even more like the work of five). Conference calls and meetings fill up everyone’s day and when there is a break it is usually because you are on a plane to somewhere to be at a meeting the following day. Emails are responded to in short instead of in a thoughtful articulated dialogue because the only time you can respond is from your bed at 11pm at night, the bathroom, the plane or the short break between meetings. It is out of control. Technology should be giving us more time, not less.


We know this isn’t going to change anytime soon, so the big question becomes: how do you cope with the lack of respect?

I definitely am not an expert and most who know me actually would say it is not even a possibility for me to mitigate frustrating circumstances. I am a hot head; I can’t handle rudeness or someone who knows better, but chooses to walk all over someone else. But here are 5 tips for how to manage:

  1. Don’t play their game, play yours. I believe strongly that you will be in a better mental health position if you treat others as you would hope to be treated, you will sleep better at night.
  2. Stick to your own schedule. Buffer time for yourself and don’t worry about what anyone else does. If they can’t make your call and you have another opening later in the day and it won’t screw up your schedule to change things around, do it. If it does, then reschedule for a time that works for you. Own your schedule.
  3. Assume the worse. If you expect things to be handled poorly, you will be so happy if they turn out better than expected. Being disappointed is such a terrible feeling.
  4. Breathe into the frustration. Breathe out calm and targeted positive emotions and take the ownership around centering yourself, forgetting about all the rest.
  5. Build a team you love. At the end of the day it is all about enjoying what you do and being around the people that you can do it with. Don’t compromise and work for or with people that don’t respect you. Stand tall and eventually it will come back around as it should.

It is a Friday afternoon and I was meant to be done for the week at 4pm, but #1 in this list of scenarios played out 7 minutes into our 3pm scheduled conference call and I now have to wait until 4:30 to start the same call, likely finishing at 5:30pm. So, I have taken a deep breathe, recentered myself and just spent the last hour enjoying my own time while I wrote this article. And then when the call is done I am going to scoop up my little girl and take her out to play. Exactly what I should be doing.