Work-Life Balance

The subject of finding a healthy work-life balance is en vogue at the moment. With all the talk of “Quiet Quitting” and the “Great Resignation”, there’s already a wealth of articles out there on this topic. But it’s something I’ve struggled with myself recently, so I wanted to scribble down a few thoughts.

Work-life balance Zanzibar
Finding a better work-life balance in Zanzibar!

Working For Yourself Is Hard!

My decision to switch to the digital nomad life was centred around finding a better work-life balance. I was prepared to earn less than in my previous career, since my focus was now time over money. But it turns out I can’t actually shake the drive and ambition, so the early success drove me to try and scale up.

Because my efforts now directly reward me, rather than someone else, I naturally care a lot more. And I find it difficult to ever stop completely. At the moment, I work seven days a week, even if it is only 3 or 4 hours worth of work. Since turning freelance, I have never taken more than 2 days off consecutively.

Nobody told me that being your own boss would mean I’d get no time off!

Finding a Balance

The way I have structured things at the moment, I get to travel a lot while continuing to work. So in fairness, you could argue that I don’t really need a vacation. I can spend a week at a beach, take a couple of full days to relax and then stretch my work out over a whole day. Sleep late, work by the sea, sunbathe, more work while watching the sun set. It’s a hard life!

But joking aside, things have really caught up with me during August. Constantly travelling is tiring. Never sleeping in the same bed, coupled with working from so many different locations, is hurting my back and neck. I can feel myself starting to get stressed. So on my latest trip around East Africa, I chose to right that wrong by taking an actual vacation for a week. It was clearly time to reassess the old work-life balance.

Taking a Break

I’m writing this from Nungwi, on the gorgeous island of Zanzibar. When I used to work for Africa’s largest retail betting operator, I visited Tanzania several times. But I never came to this world-famous island. And that’s why I’m here now, doing something I should have done before, as well as taking a much-needed break.

The plan was to do nothing at all this week. But me being me, I’ve still ended up editing a couple of documents and doing a few bits and pieces. I can’t resist! But I’m making a point of relaxing as much as possible and I already feel a little better.

Righting Wrongs

I’ve been righting a few other wrongs on this trip too. On all of my visits to Kigali in Rwanda, I never once visited the Genocide Memorial. And even though I lived in Nairobi for nine months, I never went on a game drive. Work-life balance? What’s that? Happily, I’ve now corrected both of those things in Rwanda last week.

Work-life balance in Rwanda
Zebra in the Akagera National park, Rwanda

By the way, the Genocide Memorial is absolutely worth a visit. Even if you knew a bit about the atrocities, as I did from chatting with former colleagues in the past, you will likely still be shocked and disgusted at what you learn. The Children’s Room broke me. I had to leave that after looking at just two photographs. Heart-breaking stuff.

It definitely left me thanking my lucky stars for having been born the right time and place to avoid such gruesome horrors. Not to mention reflecting on how badly the wider world handled the situation and really let Rwanda down. It is so easy to convince sections of society to hate each other based on nothing. And those in power will happily encourage you to do it, for their own benefit. Why do people constantly fall for it, over and over again? Urgh.

New Experiences

One of my other goals when I first chose to try out the digital nomad life, was to take myself out of my comfort zone more frequently. So when I met a Nigerian journalist last week in Kigali who asked to interview me, I decided to run with it.

We chatted for probably 40 minutes on a wide variety of topics. And although I probably look uncomfortable as hell on camera, I quite enjoyed the experience. I gave my thoughts on travelling around Africa as a tourist, offering advice on how to structure a trip. She also asked for my views on Rwanda, which I always say is my favourite country in Africa by far.

You Can’t Do It Alone

Another decision I took to try and help with my own work-life balance was using Upwork to hire a virtual assistant. In the past, I would definitely have been too tight to pay someone to do trivial tasks that I could easily perform myself. But freeing up 10 hours per week that would have been spent on monotonous admin has made such a difference.

I personally believe that this is the future of work for many industries. Why hire a team of full-time employees, with all the hassle that goes along with it, when you can outsource to a specialist freelancer? You will certainly pay more in terms of hourly rate. But you’ll get greater and more efficient output. And once the project is wrapped up, you may go your separate ways.

This model makes so much more sense in my mind. And I think more and more people are beginning to agree.

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