Work-life balance for creative types is more like work-work-life. You’ve got to find time for both your work responsibilities and your non-work responsibilities, plus time for the people you care about and the communities you support, plus time for rest and recuperation, plus time for that big creative project you’re working on.
Where do the hours come from?
It takes many hours to make what you want to make. The hours don’t suddenly appear. You have to steal them from comfort. Whatever you were doing before was comfortable. This is not. This will be really uncomfortable.
Sivers is referring specifically to the types of comfortable distractions that can eat up more of our day than we realise: social media, television shows, aimless online scrolling, and so on. He isn’t saying “don’t spend any time relaxing”; Sivers is simply noting that in many cases we’re taking the “comfortable” option of consuming other people’s creative output instead of the “uncomfortable” option of making our own.
However, it’s also worth noting that we can steal these hours from discomfort. There are many, many ways of optimising, automating, or even eliminating the time-consuming grunt work that sucks up so much of our days — and you just happen to be on one of the best sites for learning more about these so-called “life hacks.”
I’m currently drafting a novel, and I decided to steal two hours every weekday for this particular project: one hour in the early morning and one hour immediately after work. The first hour was stolen from comfort; I had to wake up earlier, which meant figuring out how to get the same amount of quality sleep in a slightly shorter time frame. This meant setting shutdown timers on my laptop to ensure I wasn’t “doing internet” right before bed, dimming the lights and lowering the temperature prior to bedtime to support my body’s circadian rhythm, and so on.
As a related benefit, I’m sleeping more soundly, with fewer middle-of-the-night wake-ups, than I have in a long time.
The second hour was stolen from discomfort. To claim a full hour between the end of my workday and my evening commitments meant learning how to optimise work tasks, avoid distractions, and take effective breaks — because good breaks and good work sessions go together like online grocery delivery and meal planning, which is another way I steal hours for my creative work.
As before, there are a lot of additional benefits that came from this type of lifehacking. I’m getting more work done in less time, for starters. I’m also literally experiencing less discomfort — I rarely have that sluggish, gross “I can’t believe I spent the last hour scrolling past a bunch of stuff that I don’t even remember, and I still haven’t solved the problem in front of me” feeling, for example.
I know my personal life hacks aren’t going to work for everybody. (I’m a freelancer who lives alone, so I have a huge amount of control over both my schedule and my environment.) But if you want to spend more time doing creative work — or doing anything, really — you’re going to have to spend less time doing something else, and that means deciding when and how to steal back a few hours.
Find the times when you’re either mindlessly comfortable or frustratingly uncomfortable, and start there.