I founded CHI Talent Management in May 2020, after 10 plus years working in talent representation in New York. The 30 plus clients I represent have been seen on Broadway and in national tours of Wicked, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Jesus Christ Superstar. Films include Otherhood, Standing Up, Falling Down, Boogie and Vampires vs. the Bronx. On television, my clients have appeared in The Deuce, Fosse/Verdon, Power, Gotham, Snowfall, Bull, Madam Secretary, The Code, Alternatino, Godfather of Harlem, Law & Order: SVU, FBI and Wu-Tang: An American Saga.
Although I cannot control when the entertainment industry will be back to normal, I can control how I maintain a healthy work-life balance and manage my personal stress. I realized that working long hours on little sleep was burning me out, so I made an active decision to practice better self-care and make myself a priority again. “Put your oxygen mask on first,” and you will serve yourself and everyone around you better.
Whether you used to work in a spacious office and now have a cramped closet as an at-home workspace, or are juggling teaching your children in between client calls and Zoom meetings, COVID-19 has thrown a wrench in everyone’s work situation. For some, such as myself, it meant losing your job and deciding to go entrepreneurial and launch a start-up business in the midst of one of the nation’s most devastating economic climates. We are all feeling the growing pains that come with the changes COVID-19 brought our way. Now more than ever, at a time when most of us are working from home and the lines between work hours and personal life can blur, it is essential that we establish a strong work-life balance.
If COVID-19 has left you feeling overworked and stressed, here are some tips on how to practice self-care and create a better work-life balance for yourself.
1. Set A Daily Routine
“How you wake up each day and your morning routine (or lack thereof) dramatically affects your levels of success in every single area of your life,” The Miracle Morning ultramarathoner and author Hal Elrod says. My productivity increased once I began prioritizing my daily routines. When I wake up, I pray, make my bed, write in my journal, or put on easy listening music and eat breakfast. These daily rituals keep me motivated and ready to conquer the day ahead. Morning time is “ChiChi time." I clear my mind and focus on rejuvenating my spirit. Starting your day with a ritual gets you motivated and supports your overall health and well-being.
2. Social Apps
Working from home was a bit hard to adjust to in the beginning. I found myself feeling very depressed at one point as a result of being isolated from friends and family. So I turned to apps. Believe it or not, I find Facebook, Instagram and Zoom to be an extremely helpful way for me to connect with friends, family and colleagues. I’ve been traveling less and it’s a great way to check in with people who I haven’t seen in person for a long time.
Social distancing does not mean you have to totally say goodbye to a social life. Schedule virtual get-togethers with your friends and family! Plan Zoom Happy Hours to celebrate getting through another week. I scheduled a virtual game night and it was so much fun!
Also, I’ve been setting up general meetings with industry professionals via Zoom, which allows me to meet them face to face. Normally, I would contact casting directors and producers via email or phone only.
Of course, pace yourself. Don’t spend all day on Zoom or Facebook. Give yourself a time limit to ensure you don’t get too much screen time.
To help manage stress, Dr. Mehmet Oz prescribes more consistent exercise. It may sound cliché, but when you look good, you feel good. I invested in a stationary bike, a punching dummy, dope punching gloves and a jump rope. These were great long-term investments, especially since gyms are partially open.
Since I started working out four to five times a week, I have a lot more energy. I feel much more confident and focused throughout the day.
4. Take A Break
It’s no wonder Steve Jobs said, “I’m convinced that the only thing that kept me going was that I loved what I did.” There has to be some reason why entrepreneurs are so motivated to keep going through so many long days. Give yourself permission to take a break. I take 60 minutes breaks during the day to relax. Whether it’s taking a long walk to clear my mind, watching Youtube videos, napping or enjoying leisure reading, set aside time to relax.
Working from home can lead to a serious case of overworking, without an office which restricts work hours by nature. Scheduling time to relax can help you with time management at home.
One benefit of working from home is that you can fully embrace when it is that you work well. If you’re most productive in the early hours of the morning, get up early and work during the first half of the day. If you’re someone who works best at night, then spend time relaxing in the morning before jumping into work later on. The most important thing is that you can dedicate a chunk of your day to work and then keep your work out of your relaxation time.
Schedule weekly blocks of time to unwind and recharge. You’ll come back more productive and with a clearer head.
“A growing awareness of the dangers of sleep deprivation on health — and therefore, its impact on insurance costs and worker productivity — is prompting companies to try to improve their employees’ rest,” says Jena McGregor of The Washington Post. I am a bit of night owl and find myself being the most productive during the evening. Also, with clients being all over the world, I find myself sending emails out at 1 a.m. every now and then.
Setting boundaries for yourself and clients is key. Shonda Rhimes is notorious for not answering work calls or emails after 7 p.m. or on weekends. I dream to have this kind of flexibility one day. Also, turning off my cell phone at certain times helps as well. Maintain a normal sleep schedule and aim to get at least six to eight hours of sleep per night.
6. Prioritize Your Mental Health
Your mental health impacts your overall health. Factors such as stress and anxiety can lead to heart problems, blood pressure issues and a host of other medical problems. Finding a good therapist during this time has been life changing. Staying motivated can be near impossible when your mind is filled with anxieties.
Since starting therapy, I've seen positive changes in my communication, self-acceptance and self-esteem. Please remember that if you’re struggling and need to talk to someone, there are resources available. I found my therapist through TherapyForBlackGirls.com. There are also apps and other resources available for mindfulness and meditations that can be helpful in reducing anxiety and managing stress.
7. Be OK With Unproductive Days
Some days you may not have much ability to focus at all, and that’s OK! Nobody’s life is normal right now. You may find that you have good days (where you’re highly motivated to get through work) and bad days (where your motivation is nowhere to be found). When work seems impossible, prioritize what you must get done that day — what has a deadline tomorrow, what emails need to be sent before the evening? Get through high priority tasks, and then let yourself have the rest of the day off. Don’t beat yourself up for not getting through your entire to-do list! It’s OK to expect less from yourself right now.
8. Build Your Tribe
“To succeed as a person of color in business, you must have a tribe of people who understand the struggle to raise capital, to differentiate yourself, and to find the right marketing or promotional tools to move forward. The most accomplished Black entrepreneurs haven’t made it to their level of success without the advocacy, support, and resources from their tribes,” states Martin Ekechukwu, Marketing Strategist, Executive Producer and Black-Owned Business Owner.
I was able to connect with a handful of entrepreneurs of color during this time via social media and connections through my personal contacts. We now meet monthly to share ideas and resources, and I really feel like we have each other’s backs. We each make short-term and long-term goals and hold each other accountable. It’s been great having a support system of other business owners who work for themselves. I feel less alone in this.
Maintaining a healthy work-life balance is important in order to be a successful entrepreneur. Being an entrepreneur is hard work and there will be highs and lows. If your life is out of balance, you won’t be able to excel in any area. Working longer is usually not more productive, but the temptation to overwork is always there. I found a way to integrate the things that are important to me, while growing my business at the same time.
Be mindful that the work-life balance is something you must define for yourself. The things that are meaningful to me will not necessarily be meaningful to other people. I realized it was my responsibility to take control of the balance in my life. I took control by setting clear goals and boundaries. Schedule time for each area that is valuable to you and commit to it. The more you balance your life, the more you will thrive and become a well-rounded person.