Carl Barenbrug

Product design, creative direction

There Is Only Time

Balance is a really tricky word, because I don’t think there’s such a thing. There’s just time. There’s just where you are and what you do. And it doesn’t make sense for me to have to spend time on something that feels like a sacrifice. I try to do things that are part of the big thing. You get to pick what your big thing is going to be.

—Seth Godin

I often get asked how I manage to balance my work with my personal life. I don’t even know if I manage it successfully, but I do know I don’t feel overwhelmed by it, which is definitely a good thing. You see, I have very few personal responsibilities, which gives me the opportunity to do a lot with my time. I work full-time as a Web & UX Designer—that’s what supports my lifestyle. Not entirely, but for the most part. I also run a couple of small side projects in Minimalissimo and Minimalism Life, which on the face of it, appear far grander than just side projects. This work essentially amounts to two full-time jobs, so it means I have to carefully allocate my time to do things efficiently and without stressing myself out. I’m not nearly as efficient as I’d like to be though—I’m not a cyborg... yet.

Then there’s my personal life. I’m in a committed and supportive relationship, but we’re both relatively independent, so we don’t demand too much of one another. I can’t say the same about my two cats though. Being Burmese, they are very demanding, but utterly amazing at the same time. I am also fortunate enough to live close to my family, which is really important to me. I make sure I see them once a fortnight for a quiet catch-up.

Then there’s everything else.

My mental and physical health are extremely important to me. I treat these as priorities, so these are very much reflected in the time I dedicate to them. I spend around 3-4 hours at the gym per week, and another 4-6 hours at the climbing gym. I’ve become a little obsessed with bouldering and lead climbing in recent months. But this fitness and strength training goes well beyond the physical benefits—it is time in virtual solitude that clears my mind of most things and helps me to focus on the present.

Then there’s entertainment. I try to squeeze in a TV series throughout the week, but if I don’t have time, it doesn’t bother me. Shows can be watched any time. Prioritising them is ridiculous—for anyone. It’s not a particular show that relaxes you. It’s the act of doing nothing that does.

Finally, there’s sleep. Probably the most important and under appreciated block of time we have in the 24 hour day. Yet, this is one area I’m lacking. I just started reading a book titled, Why We Sleep, by Matthew Walker. It’s not exactly a page-turner, but it can be life-changing. It outlines the importance sleep has on all aspects of our life and how severely damaging a lack of sleep can have on our body and mind. If not today, later in life. It also has some great advice on how we can make changes to experience better sleep. We should all be getting at least 8 hours of sleep per night. I’m not. I get around 7. So I need to get my shit together and treat sleep as a priority.

Much like Seth Godin, I don’t find what I do with my time a sacrifice. Sure, there are minutes throughout the day that can be completely wasted, but we’re not all monks with unwavering self-discipline. This isn’t so much a work/life balance. It’s just life. How I choose to spend it impacts every aspect of what I do.

So what is the “big thing” for me? I suppose I’m still figuring it out, but there is at least a distinct silhouette.

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