Wednesday 13 October 2021

A month of finding balance

When I'd first told people that I'd be resigning from my job, and taking 'a month or two' off working, the first thing everybody asked me was, 'What are you going to do?' My half-serious response was always, 'Whatever I feel like I wanna do. Gosh!'

But seriously, before making any grand plans or taking up new creative pursuits, I mostly just wanted to get my life in order. For the longest time, I've felt like I've been unable to adequately manage all of my 'life admin', that adult humans are generally expected to be able to manage in the time when they're not engaged in full-time work. To be frank, I'd feel accomplished if I'd managed to cook my meals, wash my clothes, and pay my bills in the waking hours between work and sleep.

And so, today marks one month of my self-imposed unpaid sabbatical, which seems like a good point in time to consider what I've achieved in that time in terms of imposing some better discipline in my life admin.


This was always going to be at the top of my list. For many years now, I haven't been doing enough exercise, and so this was the first thing that needed to change. In fairness, I'd ride my bike to and from work most days, but the switch to work from home arrangements in early August changed that. With the recent lockdown, residents were permitted two hours of exercise a day, which set my parameters. And so, my daily routine started out as:

  • Ride my bike 6.5km to the Australian War Memorial.
  • Walk up and down Mount Ainslie (4.5km return trip)
  • Ride my bike back home.
I've also taken the opportunity to switch things up and explore the many trails up Red Hill and Mount Majura.

One month in, I'm not sure if I'm actually any fitter yet - those hills are still a struggle to climb, with both my legs and lungs hating me for it, but I can usually manage it without too many stops along the way. However, there's something quite meditative about walking and pushing one's body's limits, and it's given my plenty of time to think and process where I am in life and where I want to be. And when that's a bit too much to tackle, I've also been exploring the world of podcasts.

I've also discovered that Spring has been an excellent time for flower-spotting - especially native orchids. I do plan to also visit Black Mountain very soon, as I keep reading accounts of other rare native wildflowers there.

As it's October, I've also been participating in the Great Cycle Challenge. In previous years, I've set my goals at 250km, but this time I decided to challenge myself to complete 500km in 31 days. So far, I'm on track to meet this target, having down 229km - almost halfway there! I'm also very grateful for those who have donated money to support cancer research (which you can do here if you like).


So, this isn't a new thing, but volunteering takes time. With my volunteer commitments at IFLA, I'd say that it averages at around five hours a week. But it can also easily snowball during busy times, and so this month has been a chance to immerse myself into the list of things that I meant to get done over the past three months - specifically, train myself up in using the new content management platform and repository systems, update parts of the website, and catalogue all of the Section's documents and publications from the old website onto the new repository - so far, over 100 records and still more to go. In essence, it feels like a part-time job, with irregular hours, but I know that this is just a busy time of change, and once I get over this hump of work, things will settle again. Plus, it's been a good opportunity to keep exercising my information skills in writing and editing online content, cataloguing records, liaising with web managers, and working on team projects.

Life Administration

I also made a list of all of the things that I'd been putting off, including:
  • Clearing my computer desktop and either deleting or organising all my electronic documents into folders
  • Backing up all of my important electronic documents
  • Setting up a hanging file to organise all of my paper documents and records
  • Clearing my personal email inbox
  • Reorganising my automated banking transactions
  • Contacting the property manager to fix a number of things around the apartment block which had been unreported for many months
These are all just little things that I've let slide, but really, they're low-hanging fruit, and it's been great to tick all of these things off.


Thankfully, going out to work on our garden patch at the Canberra City Farm has been a permitted activity during lockdown, and so I've headed out there every few days to do a bit more weeding, plant a few more seedlings (keeping my fingers crossed that the frost doesn't kill them) and lay down more fertiliser, compost and mulch. It's looking pretty amazing now!

Now I'm working on growing tomatoes. After last year's tomato crop, we kept a heap of seeds, so I've been germinating them over the past few weeks, and now have some successful seedlings growing.

I'm looking forward to getting these into the ground - after Melbourne Cup Day, of course. (That's the rule for Canberra tomatoes!)

Tidying up

Finally, it wouldn't be spring without some spring cleaning. I've been going through my clothes and methodically 'weeding my collection'. So far, I've realise that I have twice as many t-shirts as I actually need (or wear).

Being in lockdown, there have been reports that many of the usual 'op shop' organisations are overrun by donations of unwanted clothing. That's why I've decided to go with UPPAREL to upcycle/recycle my unwanted clothes. Yes, there's an associated cost involved (rather than just dropping them off at the op shop), but they are focused on minimising clothing waste, either sending wearable clothing to charities who need them, or upcycling and recycling textiles into new products - none of it ends up in landfill. I really do want to be more sustainable in the way I dispose of household materials, and this is one way that I can make a difference.

Other little things

  • Eating and sleeping at sensible hours - clearly I still need to work on getting to bed earlier!
  • Limiting my caffeine intake. While I was working, my day would start with a few cups of filter coffee, and then a double espresso coffee at morning tea time. I still start with filter coffee, but I'm cutting back on the espresso (especially since I no longer have the budget to buy daily coffees!)
  • Donating plasma - once every two weeks
  • Catching up with people - strangely enough, it's actually been easier to catch up with friends when they've been working at home, and looking for an excuse to leave the house and have an impromptu cuppa in the park.
  • Reading - I thought I'd have a lot more time to do this now, but I still need to work on setting that time aside. Still, I've made some headway in reducing my to-be-read pile of books.
So, what happens next? My main goal at the moment is to try to keeping drilling in daily routines that keep my mind and body healthy. I'm not sure if it's working yet, but I've definitely reached the point where I feel like I can actually do this, so I guess the next steps are to keep doing it!

The interesting thing, though, is that I still don't feel like I've suddenly got a whole bunch of free time. Those 37 hours a week that I would have spent working in a job has just filled itself up with what still just feels like the essentials of life. We talk a lot about work-life balance, and in the absence of work, these life essentials have consumed most of my time. The next-next step will be figuring out how, once I start working again, I keep my life in balance, and stay in control of all of the things, whilst finding some free time to spend on more creative pursuits.


  1. Ah, I will take inspiration! Very easy to forget how good the small things in life are when working long hours.

  2. Good on you for having the courage to stop and reflect. Good luck with your next venture and hope to see you around the library land scene.