Fifty Six.

How to ‘get a life’ outside of work and kids.

This week Frankie Tortora and Steve Folland have a chat in response to a question from health communications specialist Anneliese Levy. She says:

“How can I ‘get a life’ outside of work/kids?

I find being a freelancer really intense, in that all my focus is on looking for work, thinking about work, doing work, following up on work. And oh yeah, looking after my kids! Other than that I don’t think I do anything else.

I think back fondly to the days when I used to have actual hobbies, did evening classes and had pastimes that were totally unrelated to the job I did. A lot of this was before kids but it also relates to when I became a freelancer about 4 years ago. I don’t tend to switch off because I am always on the lookout for the next client or trying to keep up with research and reading related to my field. It seems like some other people have lovely creative hobbies or are really sporty, but the thought of trying to fit something else in feels too overwhelming.

Has anyone else has managed to reclaim some time to do other things outside of work and family?!”

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Take note dear listener! We might swear a bit. This one’s for the parents. To be enjoyed at your desk or once the kiddos are in bed.

Here’s what was said in this episode:

Comments on the previous episode:

[00:01:47] – Frankie
Hello, you’re listening to the Doing It For The Kids podcast where we swear a bit too much and talk a bit too fast about freelance life with kids in the mix. I’m Frankie and this is Steve.

[00:01:56] – Steve
Hello! Yes, each week we take a question from the Doing It For The Kids community, do our best to answer it, but we start each episode by looking back at the last episode and taking your comments. The last episode we were discussing…

[00:02:07] – Frankie
Shiny object syndrome, being magpies, being attracted to the new shiny thing.

[00:02:11] – Steve
Lyndsey Yates got in touch.

Lyndsey says:

“I have a doorkeeper for all my spur of the moment crazy ideas — my partner.

He’s absolutely guaranteed to see the flaws in any plan and is well aware of my tendency to get over excited about things very quickly and then often lose enthusiasm for them almost as quickly. Honestly, I think without him I would have started (but never finished) about 3,000 business ideas.

If you don’t have a partner that’s willing to bring you down a peg or two, I would say find a friend who is a brutally honest and will ask all the right questions.”

[00:02:45] – Frankie
Hello, it me! *Raises hand*

Linda Goodchild says:

“I am like a shiny sh*t magpie.

I have several notebooks for shiny stuff where I write them down and then let it go like a bird leaving the nest. Sometimes an idea becomes useful in years to come. One idea I had for a game became a really fun workshop that I delivered to an organisation! And other ideas, if they’re worth it, I know they’ll find their way back to me and I’ll actually develop them.

Out of everything shiny, only about three I’ve actually used. The rest are waiting patiently for the right time.”

[00:03:15] – Steve
That’s nice. I like the idea of a little nest of ideas.

[00:03:18] – Frankie
Just keeping them warm.

[00:03:19] – Steve
Ingrid Fernandez. Hey, Ingrid.

Ingrid says:

“I find that if an idea keeps coming back to me over and over again, then it’s worth my attention. Often I have harebrained ideas, which of course seemed completely genius at the time, but then they fall out of my brain, never to be seen or heard or actioned.

But it’s the ideas or opportunities that I keep coming back to that I can’t quite rationalise away that I explore and give some of that ‘gold dust’, i.e. time and energy.”

Our answer to this week's question:

[00:06:05] – Frankie
This week’s question is from Anneliese Levy. She is a health communications specialist. She does content research and development in the health world. Her website is

Anneliese says:

“How can I get a life outside of work and kids?

I find being a freelancer really intense, in that all my focus is on looking for work, thinking about work, doing the work, following up on the work, and, oh… yeah, looking after my kids! Other than that, I don’t think I do anything else.

I think back fondly to the days when I used to have actual hobbies, did evening classes and had pastimes that were totally unrelated to the job I did. A lot of this was before kids to be fair, but it also relates to when I became a freelancer about four years ago.

I don’t tend to switch off. I’m always on the lookout for the next client or trying to keep up with research and reading related to my field. It seems like some other people have lovely, creative hobbies or are really sporty, but the thought of trying to fit something else in feels way too overwhelming.

Has anyone else managed to reclaim some time to do other things outside of work and family?”

[00:07:07] – Steve
Well, isn’t it funny that last week’s episode finished with me screaming, ‘how does everybody have time for hobbies!?’

I want to pick up on the phrase, ‘…seems like everyone has’, because ‘it seems like everyone’ is clearly taken, I think, from social media or seeing people in athletic gear at the school gates.

[00:07:29] – Frankie
At the school gate, right? Yeah. Just because they’re wearing the athletic wear does not mean that they’re doing any sport whatsoever!

[00:07:35] – Steve
We don’t need to go into the fact that you can’t always trust social media to reflect the truth, but just bear that in mind.

[00:07:41] – Frankie
And also — how old are their children? What stage are they at? What help do they have? Do they have a partner? Do they have a cleaner? Do they have… you don’t know anything about that person’s life. So to look at them and go, ‘oh, they’re off to their bowling club…’ whatever.

[00:07:58] – Steve
Bowling club?!

[00:07:59] – Frankie
Is that a thing?

[00:08:01] – Steve
Of all the things, boules?!

[00:08:05] – Frankie
Whatever it is…

Yeah, like they’re off to do something, right? You don’t know what has gone on in their life to allow that to happen. And you might not be at the same stage, or have access to the same things that they do.

[00:08:18] – Steve
Yeah, I think the same stage thing is important. Also the age of your children is key. I literally had no spare time between trying to start a business and look after very young children until they were six, seven years old. It does get easier as they get older to have a bit more time to yourself. Even though the buggers might stay up later!

[00:08:56] – Steve
Do you have any hobbies?

[00:08:57] – Frankie
No, but then I’m at a stage where I’ve got a five-year-old who is increasingly self sufficient, but I also have a two and a bit year old who is very not.

[00:09:04] – Steve
How about your other half though? Does he have hobbies?

[00:09:08] – Frankie
He cycles, that’s about it.

[00:09:09] – Steve
So he cycles because he likes to cycle?

[00:09:12] – Frankie
Yeah he loves it.

[00:09:13] – Steve
And I think there’s something in that — in that sometimes you will find time for the thing that you really LOVE to do.

[00:09:21] – Frankie

[00:09:21] – Steve
So sometimes maybe we need to try out different hobbies to find a thing that we love. Like, you might see lots of people doing yoga or pilates, right? And you’re like, “oh, yeah, I really want to do yoga and pilates”. But actually when you go and try it, you’re not really that keen on it.

[00:09:35] – Frankie
You’re like, “this is so overrated!”

[00:09:37] – Steve
Going stresses you out, so therefore you’re never going to make time for it.

[00:09:41] – Frankie
Yes, I do think a key factor in, like, for example… my husband going out on his bike is exactly that. He’s leaving the house. So, yeah, he likes to cycle. He does, he loves it. But he also has the benefit of actually physically being out of the house, away from the kids. It’s a very separate thing where he gets literal headspace.

I don’t know what those things that you want to be doing are, but if one of them can involve physically leaving the house… though it’s a bit more difficult to do all of that stuff at the moment.

[00:10:12] – Steve
No, I’m totally with you on that.

I think there’s a definite reason why people of a certain age start playing golf!

[00:10:18] – Frankie
Right, exactly. It’s a literal separation from your other life. It’s away from your work, it’s away from your domestic stuff, it’s away from your kids.

[00:10:26] – Steve
I think another thing is, like… you mentioned evening classes in your previous pre-kids type life. I think if you can do basically some sort of commitment, then you’re more likely to schedule it in.

[00:10:40] – Frankie
Like at the same time every week.

[00:10:41] – Steve
What are the reasons that our kids have so many hobbies? A lot of it is because they tend to be learning something — so that can apply to us as well. If you find a club or a lesson, you’re going to have to schedule it in and have to go. And then that becomes a thing, which is like non-negotiable. “Mum or dad is going to the thing” and your other half or your grandparents or whoever else is involved in child care is going to have to step in while you go to the thing.

[00:11:07] – Frankie
It’s a commitment that everybody’s got in the diary at the same time.

[00:11:12] – Steve
Whilst you and I think we don’t have hobbies, by the way. in a way we do… because we have created these ridiculous side projects in Doing It For The Kids and Being Freelance, and we find time to do those things because we really love doing them.

[00:11:29] – Frankie
It’s true. You could say this podcast is a hobby. Let’s be honest.

[00:11:31] – Steve
It is! We have made time to do this. And how did we do that? For me, it was by scheduling it in like it’s a client. You manage to fit in everybody else’s work — now you have to treat yourself like a client as well and schedule life in.

I had a guest on the podcast once who said the phrase ‘schedule life first’.

[00:11:50] – Frankie

[00:11:51] – Steve
It was easier for her. She didn’t have kids. But she would schedule in like, the coffee date. She would schedule in volunteering with Guide Dogs for the Blind. She scheduled in learning how to fly a helicopter.

[00:12:03] – Frankie

[00:12:03] – Steve

[00:12:04] – Frankie
She sounds amazing.

[00:12:06] – Steve
She scheduled life in.

[00:12:09] – Frankie
She talks a lot about, you know, her headspace is always about the work, thinking about the work, developing the work, getting the work. Boom, boom, boom.

[00:12:16] – Frankie
But as you say, scheduling in the time for something else could actually benefit her business as well.

[00:12:21] – Steve
There is value in finding time for the hobbies. They can make you better at being a person, at being a parent, at being a business owner. They give a break to your brain, they give you creativity, they give you confidence. I don’t know, they’re probably setting good role model stuff as well. You can get new friends. You’ve got to look after yourself, haven’t you, when you can.

[00:12:41] – Frankie

[00:12:41] – Steve
Just making a note to do that for myself…

[00:12:45] – Steve
Is there a way to make a hobby fit around what you already do, so it becomes a habit and you attach it to something you already do? So it might be that you sit down, have a coffee and you do something. Or you walk the kids to school and then let’s say you like doing arty stuff on your way home, you have a sketchbook and you just take 20 minutes to sketch a scene or different parts of your walk home or whatever.

So, if you can attach a hobby to an existing habit, then maybe that might help?

[00:13:15] – Frankie
There’s also a point here about boundaries.

Yes. I totally like sympathise with the idea that when you’re self-employed, it takes over everything. It totally does. I remember another episode I was talking about how even when you’re taking a piss, you’re thinking about that invoice you haven’t sent or that idea that you’ve got that new shiny, shiny idea! I totally sympathise with that constant beat of the business drum. I get it.

But if you really want to do something for yourself, you need to set some boundaries as to how much you allow work to penetrate the rest of your life. And you CAN control that. There are things you can do.

I’m sure we’ve talked about them on other episodes a million times. Things like, you know… getting your emails off your phone so you can’t see it out of hours, like things like that. There are things you can do to make that separation stronger, so that when you do have space and time to do something for yourself, you’re not being plagued by the work.

[00:14:18] – Frankie
What I’m saying is… trying to rein in that constant narrative in your head about the business, to make space to do things that will make you happy. Work will fill any space in your life if you allow it to. So if you have one day a week, you will fill that week. If you have four childcare days a week, you will fill those four days and the rest. You are in control of how much work is allowed to take over your life.

[00:14:42] – Frankie
Ultimately, you can say no to stuff. It is possible!

Maybe just check in with yourself if you really do want to carve out time. Checking in about, “do I need that job? Should I take that extra thing that I just said I might take?” Like, be more conscious of what you’re committing yourself to. If really you want to be committed to doing something else for yourself.

It’s very easy to get offered something and you’re like, “oh, but that would mean I couldn’t go to blah blah this week”, you know your dance class, or whatever. “That job would mean I couldn’t do that. Okay, fine, it’s just a dance class…”

[00:15:14] – Frankie
It’s very easy to talk yourself out of not doing the thing over and over again, week after week. Whereas if you are committed, you’re less likely to do that. Treat it like a work thing and then it’s non-negotiable. It’s non-movable. You don’t suddenly say, “I’ll just cancel it to fit in this thing”. You are committed to that.

Particularly, as you said earlier, if, like, there are other people involved in making that happen. So you’re more likely to just see it through and say to your client, “no, that time is not available”.

I just know how easy it is to say, “oh, yeah, I’ll just sacrifice the personal stuff to fit in the work”. But a lot of the time, that’s about your own boundaries with yourself. It’s also about how much money you need in your bank account. Obviously!!

[00:16:09] – Steve
I know we’ve touched upon this, but just raising it with the other people in your life is good. It’s about saying “hey, I want to do this thing. Here’s why I want to do this thing. We need to make time for this thing”.

Yeah, you need a bit of tag team help in order to make those sort of commitments work. Which means you need that shared diary set up so that your thing is blocked out and they know they need to be home.

[00:16:30] – Frankie
One of the very first episodes we did in this podcast we talked about exactly that — not making assumptions about whether your other half knows what’s going on in your life or not. Whether that’s your work commitments or your personal commitments.

Even if it’s in a shared diary, that doesn’t mean they’ve seen it or thought about it or thought about what is involved at their end to make that happen. If you’re going to commit weekly to something you totally need to have a conversation about, “this is this thing I’m doing, it’s every Wednesday at 6pm. So that means you need to take on… blah blah and blah in order to make that happen”. Just like explicitly have that chat so that everybody’s on board, everybody knows what’s going on.

[00:17:07] – Steve
You might also want to consider sometimes doing hobbies when the kids are in school/childcare.

[00:17:15] – Frankie
But again, it’s so dependent on what stage you’re at, what your setup is. Because when I had one and a half days of childcare a week — I was not going to spend like two hours in a class!

[00:17:24] – Steve
True, that’s a good point.

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with letting go of that feeling of pressure to feel like you *should* be doing a class or a hobby, and actually just finding a nice pleasurable balance. Taking 20 minutes with a coffee and a book and reading a book — that’s a hobby in itself. It’s switching off from your work but it’s easy enough to do because you’ve just got to go and sit in a different room or go and play the piano for a little bit or whatever it is. It doesn’t have to be a big thing.

Find something that nourishes you. I said it. Nourishes you without going and buying loads of gear and taking an hour and a half out and needing a shower afterwards.

Now, this differs from person to person, but maybe there’s some sort of productivity/organisation type thing you can do if you’re struggling to find the time? Maybe it’s just about the way that you’re working and not making the best use of your time?

[00:18:21] – Frankie
Or not charging enough money!

[00:18:24] – Steve
Yeah, that’s also true. So there’s a whole rabbit hole of episodes on that so we won’t go down there. But it’s worth thinking about — why am I not finding the time? And so on.

[00:18:33] – Frankie
Put your rates up!

Also, ultimately… you know, she’s talking about getting a life. Maybe we just need to redefine what life is at this point in our lives, when we have small children or whatever. A bit like how we started off with this episode, talking about seeing other people doing stuff — I feel like the phrase ‘getting a life’ and ‘having a life outside of what’s going on’ is perhaps an external pressure that we’re all eating up and are telling ourselves?

You ARE living a life. Your work is a part of your life. You get joy from that. Being a parent and having your children is a massive part of your life. You get a tonne of joy from that.

You are living a life. You have a life!


What would your advice be?

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