In November 2015, designers Charli Prangley and Femke van Schoonhoven started “Design Life,” a podcast about design and side projects that would soon become a beloved source of inspiration for many creators. The pair hoped to fill the gap in the podcast market for conversations about design and the obstacles that young designers face.
“Work/Life Balance,” episode 12 of 221 (and counting), tackles a topic especially relevant to present-day circumstances in which the boundary between work and personal life is often blurred. But, their definition of work/life balance is slightly different than the average person, given that side projects hold just as much weight as work for designers.
Prangley and van Schoonhoven began by defining what a “good” balance is and why it’s important to realize when that balance is not met. They agreed that a good balance means you’re able to do everything you want without being stressed or too overwhelmed. In other words, if you’re feeling exhausted and you’re hitting your limits, maybe it’s time for some self-care.
They noted that it’s also important to recognize that everyone has a different level of a healthy work/life balance. It can be easy to compare yourself with others when they seem to be taking on way more commitments than you, but a good work/life balance depends on the person. What works for you might not work for everyone else and the same goes for vice versa — but what matters is if it works for you.
It’s definitely a challenge to identify when your habits are turning unhealthy, especially when you’re so set on getting work done. Prangley and van Schoonhoven emphasized that it’s important to “know and value your priorities.” Priorities vary from person-to-person, but learning what they are and when you’re not making time for them is critical in maintaining balance.
They continued by addressing an issue that many work-driven individuals face — feeling guilty about letting oneself “do life things.” It is often hard to realize when you need to take a break, but it’s important to let yourself wind down sometime during the day so that you can jump back into it the next morning.
“Taking a closer look at how you’re spending your time can help you decide whether to put more or less time into your commitments, and whether or not you’re giving yourself space to relax.”
Prangley and van Schoonhoven ended the episode with some advice for how to achieve that balance — especially when you have work, life, and side projects to account for. They highly recommended planning and prioritizing to reduce stress and be purposeful about how you spend your time. Taking a closer look at how you’re spending your time can help you decide whether to put more or less time into your commitments, and whether or not you’re giving yourself space to relax. Prangley added that giving yourself time for your personal life could also benefit you in some ways.
“Don’t discount the fact that going out and having life experiences can really have a positive influence on what you do in your side projects,” she added.
This could mean having the opportunity to network and make new friends that could potentially play a role in a future side project. Most importantly, however, “all of those things come together to form the person you are,” so work, side projects, and personal life should all carry equal weight.
They also offered an interesting piece of advice to stay motivated and suggested to, “look at your day and how you’re spending your time from the perspective of your future self and ask yourself if your future self will thank you for how you spent your day.” Of course, we’re only human, so be forgiving with yourself and make sure to find a balance that works for you.
Currently, Prangley is a designer at CoverKit and van Schoonhoven is a designer at Uber. Both also make YouTube videos and are passionate about sharing their learnings with fellow creatives. You can find their podcast on Apple Podcasts, Pocketcasts, Overcast, RSS, Spotify, or by visiting their website at designlife.fm.