Champagne Taste With Beer Money: Creative Approaches to Work-Life Balance

As I head into December during a Calgary Deep Freeze, I have been considering my schedule for the month, and my so-called work-life balance.

I continue to work as a veterinarian while I transition to a full time speaker and workshop facilitator. Mid life crises (er… transitions) can be tricky. Can you relate? I have had a successful vet career so far, yet decided to start from scratch as a speaker. In the fall of 2019. Brilliant. So, I balance my new passion with my old standby.

The trick is, how much to work?

I have gone through many seasons in my professional life, from working 80-hour plus weeks and a heavy travel schedule, to stay at home mom to little kids, to part-time.

Do you ever feel like you either have time or money, never both?

Are you like me? Do you have champagne taste with beer money?

There never seems to be a balance.

How to you get bank account – life balance? 

I don’t know what works for you, but I’ll share what is mostly working for me, if it helps.

Build a Schedule That Works For Your Work-Life Balance

stick man balancing on a board with a ball underneath with life on one side and work on the other. Created by

The first is to craft a life that allows me to call the shots in my schedule.

I’m okay with risk, so being a locum tenens (self employed contractor, like a substitute teacher) works for me.

With the current vet shortage, I can work as much as I want. It is not always this way, but so far so good.

Self Employment allows me to choose my schedule and work around my home commitments and prioritize speaking engagements. I realize not everyone can do this.

If you are looking for more balance, can you negotiate your working hours or location?

Can you combine a part time job with a side hustle to afford some stability while you test entrepreneurship?

You would be living under a rock if you’re not bombarded with messages about working for yourself as a path to freedom.

Most people don’t do well with the uncertainty of work that is not guaranteed.

Well, is any work guaranteed, anyway?

Entrepreneurship is the hardest road I have traveled. It is not for everyone, and certainly not a guarantee of success. So, be proud if you are employed and paid well for your work. I heard Barbara Corcoran say on Shark’s Tank that an entrepreneur is someone who quit working 40 hours a week in order to work 80. 

That doesn’t sound like balance, either.

Whether you are employed or self employed, use creative thinking strategies to wonder “what if” and “how” things could be different, if you are looking for more work-life balance in any situation. 

One tip is to pose a question like “how might I get 3 hours more every week to practice the piano?” 

Use techniques like laddering or pictures as prompts, or think of ideas to get you fired. Remember to defer judgment, and to have fun! Sure, you’ll have bad ideas. But the bad ideas might help you think of the idea that changes everything.

Be Honest About What You Need for Work-Life Balance.

A man in a white shirt, grey suit, and maroon tie making a snow angel in many piles of money.

The second is to be honest with myself about how much money I really need.

I am not driven by money, but it is a reality of life. One of my mentors calls the “freedom points” because money helps you get what you want. When it comes to saving for the future, I realize that the discomfort of working a little more now will pay off in the long run. But, I want to balance that with being fully present in the moment and spend time with my family. There’s that balance again.

Now, I have no interest in retiring at all, ever. However, ultimately I  don’t want to be obliged to work to pay my bills in my twilight years. So, something’s gotta give. And that is the new pair of Fluevog boots that I’ve been eyeing.

I have simple tastes. I do like to travel, which works strategically with my current “next/current act” of public speaking. But, we have a 10 year old vehicle and I shop at thrift stores.

So, what works for me is a balance between working more than is comfortable, and jeopardizing my financial future by not finding enough paid work for retirement. I know this isn’t rocket science. Spend less and earn more. Simple, right? 

You could use creative ways to save money – renting equipment instead of purchasing something you rarely use, clip coupons, buy produce on sale and dehydrate it for winter soups (my current hobby). Change is hard. If you’re used to buying the fancy grey poupon mustard, changing to the neon yellow stuff might be a trade off you’re not willing to muster.

I wonder if you can dehydrate mustard……?

Aim for Good Enough Most of the Time.

A gif where the sentence practice makes perfect is switched to practice makes progress. Neon-yellow background, blue outline letters that get filled in with black and pink. Trademarked by Comms Creatives.

Lastly, one of the things I observe about colleagues who struggle with work life balance is a deep ownership and perfectionism over their professional output.

Whether a colleague stays 3 hours late to write medical records for the day, or a teacher works all weekend to create the perfect curriculum, it’s too much.

I have embraced the “good enough” mentality to improve my work-life balance.

As a vet, I write pertinent and comprehensive medical records. Yet, I give myself grace to be just good enough at work, and to do my absolute best, and know that it’s good enough. And, I leave work on time.

Someone should be able to read my medical record, for instance, and learn the pertinent history, my examination findings and the plan that was communicated and accepted/rejected by the owner.

I don’t need to write a dissertation about the happy little dog that threw up grass once last night. Nobody wants to read that book anyway, I read the reviews. 

Creativity comes into play by finding apps and hacks that speed up the drudgery. Nobody likes to learn a new tool, but once you have systems set up to make life faster, it will pay off in the long run. Some vets are using dictation software and transcription services to make medical records more timely. What are other industries doing that could help? If you are an engineer, what are architects doing that could be useful? If you’re a chiropractor, what could you steal from a dentist’s efficiency and flow?

Creativity is plagiarism, undiscovered (quote unknown). Don’t be afraid to steal a technique if it makes your life better.

What have you done to improve your work-life balance? I would love to hear.

Let me know if any of my two strategies resonate with you.

  • Use Creative Problem Solving to find ways to adapt your schedule 
  • Find creative ways to save money to give yourself more time
  • Aim for good enough, and find time saving hacks from other industries

Isn’t the ultimate goal to create enough income to provide your necessities of life, while carving out enough time to engage your hobbies, spend time with loved ones, and deeply connect with what’s meaningful to you?

In the spirit of the holidays, you can use some of that extra time to volunteer with a local organization, knit some warm hats for the homeless, or share your expertise as a mentor. Whatever you decide to do, I hope it warms your heart.

Have a wonderful holiday season, whatever you celebrate.

I hope you enjoy some metaphorical champagne on Monopoly beer money. 🥂

In Other News…

Creative Refresher for Virtual Teams:

For engagement, cohesion, and job satisfaction, Caroline Brookfield offers her session Creative Refresher for Virtual Teams. A one-hour virtual session on any platform providing team building fun and creative tools for your teams. The price is discounted to 650 dollars if booked before December 31, 2022.

Wish that one quiet team member would speak up more?

Tired of hearing the same solutions in a new flavour?

Wish your team could collaborate with a smile?

Studies show that team cohesion results when teams engage in creativity together.

People speak out more when they speak out more.

Need some help?

I have greatly discounted my Creative Refresher Team Building (Virtual) Session as my holiday gift to you!

Email for details to get this booked before your 2022 budget gets pulled back for someone’s executive bathroom remodel.

This virtual team builder includes validated and proven creative problem solving tools that your team can use in future challenges. Designed to maximize fun and engagement while also encoding new skills. Win-Win!

All you and your team needs to do is show up. Well, and please send me the cheque.

Only $650 if paid before Dec 31, but you can book the session any time before March 1, 2023.

Read what Lisa had to say about our session!

We recently completed a workshop with our team that Caroline facilitated and it had a significant impact, particularly with one quite shy team member who now speaks up in meetings when she used to not share. I’ve also noticed our team seems to be smiling and having fun together more often than they used to as well which is no doubt due to the awesome session with her.

Lisa Genovese Prèsident, BottomLine (Creative Refresher Team Building)

A promotional image for the Creative Gift Guide containing some of the items featured in the guide: a book, a buddha board, a wellness box, and a homemade snow globe. It also reads "give the gift of creativity this holiday season."

Creative Gift Guide

f you’re searching for a gift for The Reluctant Creative in your life, I’ve got your back! 

What is a reluctant creative? 

Someone who doesn’t identify as “artistic,” but who knows they need to think or do something differently to survive the sands of change.

Since creativity influences job performance, satisfaction, resilience, happiness, and even salary it might just be enough to convince the “non-creative” to give it a go. 

Each gift has a creative habit in mind from my framework of D.A.N.C.E – 5 effortless habits to expand your comfort zone (and increase your unique and individual creativity!) 

The Reluctant Creative Giveaway

A promotional graphic for Caroline Brookfield's Buy One Get One Sale for her book The Reluctant Creative, ending on January 10th. Buy a copy of The Reluctant Creative and receive a free digital copy for a friend! To redeem your free copy, email hello at caroline brookfield dot com with your receipt number.

Until January 10th, if you purchase a physical copy of The Reluctant Creative and send me an email with your receipt, I will send you a digital copy for free! 

Already own the book? 

Thank you! I would love to hear what you think.

Snap a photo (bonus points for creative photography!), post it on social media, tag me in the post, and I will send you a free digital copy – all for the low low price of your thoughts on the book! 

What you do with the book is up to you, but it is the holiday season, so I hope you consider giving away a copy to a friend who could use a boost to their innovation and confidence!