If you follow me on Twitter then you know that I set a goal (pinned at the top of my twitter profile) for myself the beginning of this year to be more active. So far, I have been pretty successful. I walk to and from work, try to get at least 10,000 steps each day (every day so far in March!) and make it a point to limit my time sitting in front of my computer, phone, etc.

However, I’m gonna level with you guys right now: I am sore to the bone. This past week kicked my butt. This Saturday in particular was super rough since Ben and I decided to go on a six mile hike with the dogs to Crowder’s Mountain. 

The trail we went on was supposedly the medium course, but the asthmatic in me says the park ranger was playing some cruel joke.  I felt as if I started the hike a 25 year old man, and by the end had morphed into a small, yoda-like figure, barely making my way back to the car. The hills we climbed seemed to jut out of the wall of the mountain at 80 degree angles, my shoes kept sliding all over the loose dirt, the dogs were stopping in front of me every 30 seconds to sniff and investigate their new surroundings, causing me to trip and stumble over them. Seriously, this exercise stuff can kill you if you let it go unchecked. (I’m dramatic.)

Once we had finally reached the top of the mountain, I had a sobering moment of clarity: I had completely forgotten about the juggling act I performed all week with my personal, and work life. There were no deadlines, no emails, no cell signal, no phone calls, and no headaches. Nothing. Just me, my partner, my dogs, the mountain, and the view from the top.

“Those who climb the mountain don’t wait for permission…they just start walking.”

I found myself, earlier this week, struggling with my efforts to leave work at the shop, and keeping personal projects at home. My mind doesn’t really allow me to work that way most days. I’m an all inclusive guy, and bouncing from project to project actually helps me be more productive. I find it stimulates my creative juices if I have the option to come back to a project later, and transfer my focus to a different project if I begin to get stumped on the prior.

I’ve read mixed reviews on this. “There’s no such thing as multi-tasking” is one of the arguments that rings loudest in my mind. And while I can see the point of that party’s perspective, I also am aware that each person is unique. You never know how someone operates best until you observe them in action. Trying to fit people into molds doesn’t always work, and letting people discover new and innovative ideas for the word “success” is how we grow as a community.

One of the ways I successfully improve my creative environment is by actively seeking ways to improve my work / life balance. Many people struggle with this concept and want to find means of keeping the two separate. It’s frustrating to come home from a strenuous 9-12 work day, only to be reminded of our pressing responsibilities awaiting us the next time we return to the office. We just want our pizza and beer, and trash T.V. Is that too much to ask for?

Improving my work / life balance, first and foremost, starts by acknowledging once I’ve clocked out of the shop that means I’m done with work. Work is called work for a reason. It is no longer our responsibility once we put on our sweatpants. Secondly, and conversely, when I’m at work I keep things as professional as possible. I ignore personal phone calls or texts when I’m at the shop, as best I can, in an attempt to keep my personal relationships disconnected from any annoyances that occur. The last thing I want to do is come off cross to a friend or loved one by projecting my vexation onto them. Thirdly, and lastly, I make time to get out of the house and do something for myself. This year that means being more active; taking walks, hiking, going to events unmarried to home and/or work, etc.

As important as it is for us to stay focused, and driven, I believe it is as equally important to be playful, adventurous, and explorative. Those times that we can let go and live in the moment, let our concerns blow with the wind, and focus on what is right in front of us help us stay balanced. Your projects, deadlines, emails, text messages, and all the other to-do list items will be there when you get back. There’s no point in stressing over them so much that you cause yourself to become fatigued, irritable, or prone to lashing out at those closest to you.

Keep in mind, I am by no means telling you to quit your job and go live in the woods. (Well, unless you’re in to that sort of thing. You do you!)  Rather, I am encouraging and somewhat challenging you to recognize the moments when you find yourself erasing the same line over and over, crumpling up sketch after sketch, or become angry for seemingly no reason, and take a breath. Count to ten, let it all go, and start with a clear mind. If you still find your frustrations are too overwhelming to focus, it may be time to take a hike. Literally. 

“It is not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves.”