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  • Writer's pictureJackie McGriff

Prioritizing Rest When You LOVE What You Do

Updated: May 8, 2023

By Jackie McGriff

Me when I've spent 10+ hours in front of my laptop

Being both a full-time filmmaker and a photographer definitely has its rewards: I get to work from home, set my own hours (which means more time for scrolling my life away on Tiktok), and being able to say yes to projects that I love!

Before I move on though, entrepreneurship is definitely not something I take lightly. Our country is not the kindest to its entrepreneurs, especially if they're independent artists. You're not only competing against larger businesses for similar services, but rent, health and dental insurance is NOT CHEAP and people don't seem to think that art is work.

While I prefer the stress of generating clients at the cost of living in this country vs office-related stress, it is often a TON of effort and time building and sustaining a business. What's more is that if you love what you do, spending long hours over days at a time starts to drain you. There are plenty of artists that have stepped away from what they loved because it became a chore and/or it wasn't making them enough money to keep going with it.

I want to talk about the former. I look forward to waking up in the morning, grabbing tea and sitting down at my desk to work on my business, going out for shoots, and reviewing notes and next steps for production and/or post-production, but too often I've sat down at my computer and have not left that spot for several hours.

And not only do I feel EXHAUSTED but then I start to think, "Dang how am I supposed to do this again tomorrow?"

So how do you avoid this? You start with your brain. Your brain, after all is connected to your body, so if your brain is tired, your body is not too far behind. It's not lost on me that this month is Mental Health Month, which is a great way to emphasize the importance of taking care of body by starting with your brain.

Do NOT feed into the mentality that you have to put work over self-care because otherwise you won't reach your income goals. This is a lie from hustle culture and capitalism and we are NOT here for it.

I think back to all of the times that I've put in a ridiculous amount of hours into something only to not see a lot come from it. Yet, the things that took me very little time end up helping me in the long run. You are NOT a machine. We need more of your beautiful and meaningful work in this world but you do not owe any of us anything by bending over backwards losing sleep, working for 80 hours a week, and not taking care of yourself consistently.

I know many of us struggle with finding a balance between our work and in our personal lives. However, it's crucial to prioritize rest to ensure that projects are innovative and meaningful, so here's a few things that might work for you that have worked for me:

Setting clear boundaries between work and rest. For yourself and for everyone else. Set a few key goals that you need to complete that week and then block off some time. At the top of that list, what needs to be done before you move on and then list your tasks accordingly. When it's time for a break or you're done for the day, walk away from your workstation and rest.

Other ways to create a clear line between rest and work could be as follows:

  • Using the Pomodoro method (Focus-To-Do App): Work for 25 minutes, break for 5 mins and, after the 4th block of work, break for 15 minutes. Repeat.

  • For those of us who can't get enough of what we do, find something that's related to what you do, but has nothing to do with actual work. For instance, I'm a portrait and event photographer -- this is what I do for clients, but what I do for me is landscape photography. So when I really feel like taking photos, but also doing something just for me, I go on photo walks around my city or elsewhere in my state.

  • Creating a work-time budget. The national standard for a typical work week is 40 hours, right ? I double dog dare you to work 30 hours (6 hours a day, 5 days a week - or adjust as needed).

Rest can look like a variety of things: nap, reading a book, going for a walk, dancing around your space and listening to music, meditation/prayer, and the list goes on.

Prioritizing rest takes more than just you too. You have colleagues/peers and clients/customers all vying for your attention. Establish boundaries with them too!

Set up boundaries for when and how you correspond with them. If the text is about work, that's work. (In other words, do NOT answer that text when it's time for a break.)

This can look like:

  • Creating an auto-reply via email after a certain time

  • Blocking off time on your schedule for when you want to relax

  • Turning off your phone at certain points of the day

  • Shutting off the computer after work

  • If you have to be at a specific place all day, you could create a rest corner in your studio space

  • Taking breaks throughout the day

Prioritizing self-care. While I know that this is a buzz word nowadays, and therefore, overused and misused all of the time, but to be clear, this is about taking care of yourself holistically - mentally, physically, spiritually, and emotionally. This could include:

  • Getting enough sleep (this is different for everybody, but if 7.5 hours leaves you feeling refreshed, then make sure you're getting this and let those in your immediate circle that it's important you get this much sleep)

  • Seeing a therapist

  • Eating healthy foods (not at your workspace)

  • Prayer/Worship

  • Exercising regularly. If you're not in a place where you can exercise regularly, start small. Get your body moving - dance breaks in my apartment are very much a thing. Walking around your home and cleaning also totally count here too. Whatever works for you!

When our bodies are well-rested and healthy, our minds are better able to focus and be creative.

Connect With Your Community. Build (and continue to cultivate) a supportive network of friends and colleagues that understand the creative process. These are your people who GET IT and can offer help when you need it.

Make sure to include people from all walks of life and stages in their careers. They can offer insight that you might have overlooked.

We know, especially given the filmmaking industry, that a lot of this may not be as feasible. The film industry, as you know, is known for having incredibly long days to meet demands. If it is at all possible to get away from set, eat protein snacks, drink lots of water, nap (if you can!), however you can utilize your breaks when they come, absolutely use them. We can only speak for ourselves as an independent film company, but you are indeed a part of our community and we are here for you!

If you have gotten this far down the blog entry, we appreciate you for reading this! If have ways that you prioritize self-care over creative work or if there's anything that you have questions about, let us know in the comments!

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