Every person is trying their best to get somewhere. Successful long-distance travel necessitates clarity, intention, organization, motivation, and energy. Grid helps with all this and more. – Magdalena Bak-Maier, Grid creator, neuroscientist and productivity expert
Juggling a portfolio career and life can be challenging.
Many people in today’s gig economy opt for a portfolio career or project-based work. While this lifestyle is often associated with greater freedoms and flexibility, in reality, it often presents its own challenges. One specific challenge is that it brings more to do which has a way of squeezing vital parts of our personal life out. This also creates ripe conditions for burnout.
My own work integrates many hats and projects into a career portfolio. I created the Grid method as a means of helping me balance my work demands, as well as the way this integrated with my life and ability to self-care. Grid achieves this by ensuring that we always keep in mind all four key areas of life:
- The personal life (Grid Quadrant 1)
- Self-care (Grid Quadrant 2)
- Work/business/studies (Grid Quadrant 3)
- Our growth and professional development, which I call ‘Career’ (Grid Quadrant 4)
You can watch this instructional video to get a quick overview of how the Grid works and how it serves me.
Part-time work and portfolio career create more complexity.
Below you will find an interview with Jane who juggles two part-time jobs in her portfolio career. Her story really speaks to these challenges and how the Grid approach may help. The situation she describes is not very unusual. It may resonate with you especially if you work in a creative industry or have a portfolio of work. Even if you’re someone with one job, today’s complexity of work may still leave you with many hats and responsibilities all of which seem to need you.
Do you experience any of these? If so, Grid may be something worth exploring.
- feeling overwhelmed with life
- have essentially lost balance/perspective
- need to develop strength, confidence and self-belief
- have ‘bad habits’ that you have been perfecting for years
- would like to retrain your brain but believe like quitting smoking, it will be tough
However, deep within you, there is a desire for…
- having a better, more balanced and satisfying life
- sense of calm instead of constant stress and overwhelm
- being able to leave work behind instead of working too many hours
- feeling more energized and motivated
- doing more of what you love as well
- being able to share the love with others
- having a personal system that gives you feedback and keeps you on track.
Can you tell us a bit about you?
My name is Jane, I am 41, originally from Scotland but have been living in London for the past 10 years having moved here for work. I live with my partner and two cats. I work full time as a curator but this is across two jobs (at a university and a local authority).
How did you discover the Grid?
The Grid was introduced to me by a colleague last year.
What key challenges were you facing before discovering the Grid?
The key challenges I had been facing before I discovered the Grid have been the same challenges I have been dealing with my whole working life.
I have existed on predominantly part-time, fixed-term contracts, which given the fields I have worked in (museums and academic research) is not unusual. It does however, mean that I have always had to juggle jobs.
Part-time jobs are never really ‘part-time’ hours. Every week feels like trying to manage two full-time jobs on top of doing what I can to keep my knowledge and skills up to speed in my ‘free time’.
Working for more than one organisation leaves you little time to take up personal/career development opportunities that may be on offer. This has left me feeling that I need to seek and pursue these opportunities in what time I can between jobs.
I gave up on having a social life years ago (not that I am particularly sociable!) and the thought of being invited for a drink/meal/trip etc horrifies me as it means time away from other things and more planning to fit things in.
Home activities that should be simple and could be cleared in seconds become chores that seem like mountains to climb. I am basically in a constant state of heightened anxiety all the time.
Did Grid help and if so, how?
I am still relatively new to using the Grid. I’ve been experimenting with it on/off for 8 months. The first thing making a Grid did for me was to make me realise that I am trying to do far too much.
Much of my time is spent being reactive to work situations and then trying (and failing) to see/realise longer term work/career goals.
I think Grid helped me make more of an effort to include personal/home activities as these were absent or an afterthought. I have had to force myself to do things for ‘me’ (and that includes for others too, family and friends rather than work colleagues), which was hard because after almost two decades of cultivating bad mental and work habits, I felt/feel guilty for, and incredibly nervous about, taking time out to do something more nourishing on a personal level.
Grid has made me think about what I really want out of life but whether that is achievable is another matter.
What is your Grid practice?
Working with a monthly Grid I was able to see what needed to be done, what I wanted to achieve and how best to create some balance.
The colour coding I used was incredibly useful as I applied this to an app that I had been using to manage tasks. Towards the end of last year, I had also set a savings goal in order that I could make some big life changes (eg leave one job) and that has been really beneficial however a global pandemic and the general employment doom and gloom has obliterated that plan!
I find that I do have to keep revisiting the Grids frequently.
I am still playing catch up and, looking at the Grid that I have for the last month, absolutely nothing has been achieved in the ‘internal’ half of my Grid (apart from taking on a mentoring role, which is giving back to others and personally nourishing work-wise but is now another worry and demand on time). This is not unusual at all but it can be costly (eg the tuition fees I have lost because I cannot attend courses etc that I have signed up for as suddenly work requires me to spend my time on that).
How would you summarize the Grid in one sentence?
A reality check!
Top tips for people who take on too much
- Review all the tasks you have taken on over a period of 1 week and see if you can cluster it into key groups. For example, you may notice you do a lot for others, your employer or boss, etc.
- For each group of activities write down the bottom line in terms of what it is that your effort delivers. For example, you may come up with something like support, love, solutions.
- Whatever you discover in step 2 above, brainstorm how you can organize your world and life to get the same for you. For example, if I offer support to my friends, then I also need to balance this by asking for support when I need it. Otherwise, things are out of balance. If I give from love, I need to feel the love in me also. Where is this coming from? How is it being replenished?
- Within each grouping identify the top 2-3 activities that deliver 80% of the value. Focus on those over the next 2-3 weeks and put the others to one side just long enough to notice what happens. You’re not letting them go, simply putting them down for a short period of time.
- Create a specific highly satisfying task within each of the Grid quadrants for every day, week or month depending on your Grid practice. If you use weekly Grids then add 1 task to each quadrant that honours this intention. Here it is in the form of an affirmation
More tools and resources to help you manage a portfolio career and life
- Join us for a Grid retreat so you can make time to link up the big goals and what your life is really about with daily activities that will get you where you want to go. See our upcoming events to register.
- Check out our Grid news section for many inspiring stories and highly practical blogs and ideas.
- Sign up to our bestselling 30-day goal-setting Life Labs course where we use the power of the Grid framework to help you improve your life across work, career, personal life and your well-being through 28 specific missions and challenges.
- Check out other Grid stories and case studies and sign up to our monthly newsletter to keep up to date with our work and explore our free Grid resources that will help you try the method out for yourself.
- Order a copy of the Get Productive Grid book which will help you take a systematic approach to Grid practice including additional goal-setting activities, a 3-months Grid plan and evaluating your results.
From Dr. Magdalena Bak-Maier, Grid™ Creator and MTC Founder
If the ladder is not leaning against the right wall, every step we take just gets us to the wrong place faster.Stephen Covey, Author of 7 Habits of Highly Effective People
I have devoted my life to understanding human empowerment. I am interested in how we succeed, get out of the way and shine, build holistically productive relationships, love and heal, embrace our wholeness and develop spiritually in the process of living and being ourselves more fully.
I teach, write, coach and share the power of reconnecting within. I use my mind and heart integration approach, the Grid and many other approaches that combine education, neuroscience, psychology with healing and trauma recovery. When we discover inner peace and love, the world we see and how we act in it changes.
Thank you for reading. Get in touch to discuss how my work can help you.