Balance: The Rule of 888
Balance is one of the most underrated things in life today. I think it has become a word that gets thrown around but never taken too seriously. Last year I went to a design conference and saw my now-friend, Mark Hemeon, speak. Instead of talking too much about design, he instead stressed the importance of not overworking yourself. Being a designer and an entrepreneur who is constantly working… my ears perked up. He brought up a very true point: people like to brag about how hard they are working, staying up to 3am jamming away on a project, but that is not something to be proud of because you are not doing your best work at 3am. At my pervious job before I went into business for myself, there was this stigma that if you took time off or were not staying up late, you were not doing what you should or pulling your weight, and it was so refreshing to hear someone say the opposite.
One of the simplest but most mind blowing things Marc presented was his theory of 888… The theory is that there are 24 hours in a day, so you should spend 8 working, 8 sleeping, and 8 for yourself. I thought about it and broke up my day a little bit. I love sleeping, and work a lot, but the 8 hours a day for myself?? I know it sounds like a lot of time, but I figured I take 2 hours in the morning for myself before hitting the gym, my “me” time to watch TV and have coffee before I do anything, an hour at the gym, an hour to shower before work and have breakfast, an hour at lunch, then about 3 hours from the time after I stop working in the evening till my head hits the pillow, which I usually spend cooking dinner and eating. Bam, just like that, 8 hours to myself.
Once I started to implement this 888 rule I started to feel really good, really happy, and funnily enough, I stopped over-scheduling myself and I was so much more productive. I stopped answering email throughout the day and set times to respond, I stuck to the work schedule I made for myself, and for the first time in two years, I felt like there was an end to my day. When you work for yourself, it’s a very stressful feeling knowing the work will never end. There is always more you can be doing. Learning that it is okay to leave stuff for the next day was very empowering.
Now recently, I had a bit of “mini meltdown” which led me to write this post… Micah had changed his work schedule from opening to closing, which meant going from working from 5am – 1:30 pm to 11am – 7:30 pm, and for me that meant he went from coming home around 2:30 to coming home at 8:30. When he would get home at 2:30, he would be eager to hang out with me and cook dinner, which really kept me on point with stopping my workday at an appropriate time. I would work until 6 or 6:30, then have a little bit of life. When his schedule changed, I didn’t change the time I started working, which was still 9am, but instead of stopping at 6, I would work until he got home at 8:30. A few months into working 10+ hours a day, I got some not so great feedback from a client and that sent me into an immediate dark hole. I tried to talk myself out of it—I laid down to do a meditation and started bawling. I didn’t know what was going on; I know better than to let work get to me like that. Why was I crying? The days to follow, I still felt like I was on the verge of breaking. I felt like I could burst into tears at any given moment. I am happy and light 90% of the time, so this dark and overwhelming feeling was really getting to me. I was not sure what was wrong with me.
I called a friend and told her what I was going through, and she mentioned I was probably just overworked… hmm, I thought, overworked?? Ding Ding Ding… I was completely overworking myself mentally and emotionally. I had no balance. I was still getting to the gym every morning but I was totally cutting out the other time I needed for myself. I had reverted right back to eating at my desk and working right up until the time I went to bed and it had all caught up with me. Lucky for me, right around the time of my mini meltdown, Micah’s schedule went back to opening, which was just a coincidence but I was happy. Within the first week, I noticed a difference in my mental state. We cooked dinner together three nights that week and I felt happy and sane again.
Realizing the difference in my metal wellbeing, I can now say no matter the workload, I need to stick with the 888 rule and give myself some balance in my life. Mental health and wellbeing are no joke, especially when you work for yourself. If you are not taking care of yourself, you cannot do your best work and in the end both you and your business will suffer. I hope this little rule can help others gain some much-needed balance like it did for me.