How to Keep a Work/Life Balance as an Actor

An equal arm balance scale with acting on one end and leisure on the other. Work/life balance.

How to Keep a Work/Life Balance as an Actor

By Charlotte Rothwell, for Edwardsturm.com.

“If you meet this solemn question with a strong, simple ‘I must,’ then build your life in accordance with this necessity; your whole life, even into its humblest and most indifferent hour, must become a sign and witness to this impulse.”

Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet, Letter 1

“You can’t do your job if your job is all you do.” This saying is particularly true to actors, artists, and creatives alike, who give so much of themselves and their life experience to their work.

We draw from our own personal experiences in order to understand the experiences of the characters we play and to bring them to life in a three-dimensional way. How can we do this if our senses are blocked? We can’t. Our senses have to be alive; we have to be present.

I recently listened to a speech about how addictive the ‘hum’ of doing what one loves is. The problem with this is that when you do what you love, you don’t want to take time to breathe. I spend many days dashing between auditions and working on the business side of my brand. I have to take time to find balance or I fear I’ll suddenly have nothing left to give. All work and no play as they say…

"All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy" written over and over again - from The Shining

Over the last few years especially, I have immersed myself in my career, and learnt the importance of building a strong work-life balance. Here’s a few of my tips to taking guilt-free time off while still being as productive as you can be!

Work Day

Being on set to me is one of the most beautifully consuming things there is and leaves me feeling both exhausted and creatively-charged. With this said, it’s important to treat days when I’m not acting like a work day: getting up early (“the early bird catches the worm”), taking a break for lunch, mini-breaks in between, and a time to finish, all while using my “work time” to do things that make me a better actress,.

Then, just as if I had hours on set, I put my work away at the end of the day and do something nice in the evening, whether it’s getting sucked in to a TV show, spending time with loved ones, or supporting friends at their events.

Travel

There is a saying I love: “Travel while you’re young and able. Don’t worry about the money, just make it work. Experience is far more valuable than money will ever be.”

As a self-confessed victim of the travel bug, I would experience a new place every month if my schedule allowed it. Though this is often a perk of my job, it is different than exploring a new place as a tourist. Travel is one of the most enriching and nourishing things to do, as well as being an incredibly eye-opening and horizon-broadening experience. I’ve been fortunate enough to experience some beautifully diverse, culture-rich places and have grown so much, so quickly, as a result of my travels.

For the reasons in the following quote, travel is a necessity for an artist: “We travel because we need to, because the difference and distance are the secret tonic to creativity. When we get home, home is still the same, but something in our minds has changed, and that changes everything.” Keep an eye on travel sites for great deals and plan ahead of time. We all need something to look forward to!

Give Back and Move Forward

I have been incredibly enriched by my time as a member of the BAFTA – Los Angeles Community Education and Outreach committee. The selfless work of Sharyn Ross, Darryl McCane at Washington Prep High School in South-Central Los Angeles and all of the mentors who work with the young students there are an absolute inspiration. Every time I work with those students I feel moved and excited by their enthusiasm.

The arts are a powerful force and have the power to change lives. By spreading the message of the arts, you too are making a difference. There are many organizations to get involved in, though I’d recommend Young Storytellers to start.

Get Creative

This may seem like a redundant thing to say to people making a career out of being creative, but it’s fun to get together with like-minded friends and simply ‘create’ together. Someone once said to me, “Always remember the importance of the business in show business,” which is ironic considering it is usually the “show” that drew us into the “business” in the first place.

We can be so consumed with the pressures of building strong, respected careers that we forget what we love about what we do.

Connect with Human Beings

As silly as this may sound, we all need human contact to thrive. Plan something with friends or partners in the evenings, workout with someone in the morning and have a catch up over breakfast afterwards, or even have a coffee + work date with a friend where you both take your laptops and spur each other on. Make conversations with strangers and find out their stories. Interact, converse and observe. See how this nurtures your work and elevates your mood.

Days Off

As a freelance creative, we don’t have a Monday-Friday 9-5 schedule. As much as we find this incredibly liberating, we can also guilt-trip ourselves whenever we pause for breath.

I’m a huge believer in the importance of taking days off, spending time with friends, and taking yourself on a date for some ‘me’ time. I always allocate myself a Sunday to take a step back from work and make a real occasion of it. Whether it’s going out of town for the day (Laguna Beach is my Sunday favorite!) or going to the beach or for a nice lunch, I always make sure I do something worthwhile. It is amazing how rejuvenated you feel when you get stuck back in to your work! Give yourself permission to have a day off- you deserve it!

Deadlines

I’m someone who works particularly well under pressure and as a result, I like to give myself things to work towards. It’s true that humans work well when they have time limits; it’s that final song in spin class when you really give it everything you’ve got!

A calendar with a big red deadline on it

Give yourself deadlines, write lists with your daily mini-goals, and make yourself accountable. I have an accountability-buddy, my friend Alessandro Nori, and we check in with each other every couple of days to make sure we are meeting our deadlines. Be sure to reward yourself when you’ve reached your goal. It works!

Hobbies

People who have hobbies are, “healthier, with a lower risk of depression and dementia.” Try to find a hobby “That serves three purposes: a diversion (escape from daily life), a passion (engage in something you love) and a creation of a sense of purpose.”

I have a ClassPass membership and love to exercise with my friends, trying out new fitness studios, and enjoying returning to our favorites. I never thought I would thrive on working out and building up a sweat, but I honestly look forward to it every day. It’s true that exercise gives you endorphins and endorphins make you happy. I also have a real passion for health-food cooking and am always seeking new recipes to try (my favorites are Deliciously Ella and The Chalkboard Mag).

Escape

I’m always pressuring myself into doing things that directly benefit my career, and this is not different for reading.

85% of successful people read career-development and self-improvement books, so finding a book with a story to get lost in is important, it’s also important to balance that out with books that are made for the soul purpose of improving one’s mind and/or career. My favorites are, The Power by Rhonda Byrne, The Second Circle by Patsy Rodenberg, and The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle. Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke, quoted at the beginning of this article, is also a particularly inspiring read and one that I often turn to.

Live

To quote again from Letters to a Young Poet, “If your everyday life seems poor to you, do not accuse it… since for the creator there is no poverty and no poor or unimportant place.” Give yourself permission to live your life to the fullest, give yourself time to just be, and find fulfillment and inspiration in what’s around you. Work hard, inspire and be inspired. You’ll be amazed at how everything will begin to fall into place.

Charlotte Rothwell

Charlotte Rothwell

Charlotte Rothwell is a British actress based in Los Angeles. Trained at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in Hollywood, she immediately went on to be named one of BAFTA-Los Angeles' Newcomers of the Year and 'One's To Watch' in 2013 and 2014. She can currently be seen in LMN's My Crazy Ex, as well as in films such as Book Worms and the upcoming Senoa, which is in post-production. Charlotte has served as a mentor for the BAFTA-Los Angeles Community Education and Outreach committee and a judge for their annual film festival.
Charlotte Rothwell

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  • Darren Darnborough

    Great article Charlotte – perfect advice for having a good work/life balance. Most successful actors I know have that!