Nothing delivers exhaustion on a plate quite the way that a full-time job does. Whether you’re working for yourself, or plugging away for somebody else, part of you has to wonder how we ever complained about 8.30-3pm days back in school. Looking back, that feels like bliss.
Since I started working full-time a number of years ago now, I’ve always found myself tweaking, fixing, and fine tuning how I go about making sure I still find time for all the “non-work” things I enjoy.
I’ve always been somebody who takes a lot onto my place – I guess you can say that I like doing a lot of stuff. When I was in younger I was in my school’s drama and dance productions, taking musical theatre classes, writing 40,000+ word fiction books, blogging, running a web-design “shop” and always coming up with new, fun and creative things I could do. I always enjoyed spending my days doing a lot of things that I personally enjoyed, which encapsulated all the above and also included binging the whole of the Harry Potter / Twilight / Noughts & Crosses sagas over a few short days, seeing my friends on the weekend (when I was allowed) and trying to figure out this whole teenage-years thing (which wasn’t as enjoying). Finding time for the things I enjoyed back then was so much easier as there really was just so much extra time – I always had capacity to pile more onto my plate without feeling stressed.
When I started working, it was (and still is) tough to fine-tune how I can work 12 hour days, but not have my life totally and completely consumed with work. When I’m in the office, I’m in it 100%, and I’ll work as long as I need to to get what I need done and to a good standard. I can put in hours on the weekend if need be, and honestly, at this point in my career, I won’t really complain about it because it’s probably my own choice. However, when my mind switches out of work mode, and further dials away from Netflix / YouTube / Amazon Prime mode, then – quite similarly to when I was young – there’s always a ton of things I’m interested in adding to my to-do list.
My to-do list is at an equilibrium currently. Aside from working full-time, I make time to go to the gym 5x a week, work on this blog, work on my Soulful Kitchen project and recently – the absolute early stages of writing a fiction book. At a time, I was doing all of this and trying to learn a language and running a fitness page on Instagram, and I’d still often be tempted to add on even more to these finely balanced plates – such as wanting to take up dance lessons, swimming lessons, etc. There are only so many pieces of cutlery I can stack on-top of my plates before they all tumble down like a failed game of jenga.
So – how do I now find time to do the things I enjoy, without totally burning out?
The first thing I’ve learned is to prioritise. Work is exhausting, it’s intense, it’s long hours; and now adding being back in the office, it adds another layer to the sheer tiredness, and that one is layered on thick. I realised that I can’t do absolutely everything I want to – or at least, not everything I want to do can be done well. It’s one of the major reasons why I never quite did take up those dance lessons, one of the reasons I decided to drop my Yoruba lessons, and recently took some time out of running my fitness page. As much as I wanted to learn the language, I simply did not have the time to practice it outside of the lessons. And whilst I loved running my fitness page at a point, I didn’t have the time to deliver the highest quality content I would like. I decided that I valued some of the other things I was working on more, and would rather reserve my energy for them.
Secondly – I’ve learned over time to utilise the weekends better. I’m not always home for the whole weekend every weekend, and when I’m out (say doing my hair for a day), that itself can totally tire me out and mean I don’t get around to doing some of the things I had planned. However, when I am just having a chill weekend, then there’s an abundance of time to work on the things I enjoy. I’ll caveat that these are things I enjoy, so whilst it could look like “work”, writing a blog or working with web developers for project X, Y, Z…. it honestly doesn’t feel like “work” to me. Which is why I’m a strong believer in that you should spend your spare time doing things you enjoy – don’t just start working on something you hate/see as a chore because the internet told you you need to have a “side hustle”. We have one life.
Finally, don’t spread yourself too thin. I really experienced what burnout felt like in 2018 and that’s place I don’t want to find myself in again. I do most of my “outside work” work on the weekend, and during the weekdays I’ll either spend an hour or so on something manageable, such as e-mails or admin or research (for e.g. I’m writing this blog tonight on a Tuesday and intend to post it tomorrow night on a Wednesday… hi Kemi of the future!). Sometimes after work, I just won’t do anything. Honestly, sometimes I come home, eat, go to the gym, and then just fall asleep from 21:30 onwards if I’m that exhausted. It’s unrealistic to expect that you will come home from an intense job and pull an extra 5 hour shift without end up feeling like shite really fast (I’ve been there!)
Life definitely gets more complicated, busy and downright tiring as we get older – but you should never let that completely stop you from doing the things you enjoy. I always encourage people to keep up their hobbies outside work – to me, working on so many things that I love are actually some of the driving forces that keep me going every day.