Arf! Arf! It’s me, Brennan, the office curator. I’m back at Cook CPA for the summer, writing my blog to give the best advice a dog can.

One thing I have noticed about my owner and her associates is that they are very busy during tax season. Many of our clients who are self-employed also have busy seasons during the year. So, what happens to business owners and employees after the busy season ends? Does life go back to normal? What even is normal for entrepreneurs?

Many studies and Internet articles have been written on the topic of work life balance. They claim that the self-employed need to learn how to relax, and they advise things such as sipping tea, meditating, or taking a vacation. Since I’m accustomed to a dog’s life, I do advocate a lot of lying around, especially when the weather isn’t ideal for herding sheep. But can a person stay consistent with these relaxation methods and still get the work done?

In Stress-Proof Your Business and Your Life, Steve Pipe and Elisabeth Wilson ask the following questions to get readers thinking about ways to approach work-life balance. (Personally, I would argue people covet the kind of balance they see in their dogs):

  1. Do you feel like your day is spent dealing with difficult people and difficult tasks?
  2. Do you feel that those you love don’t have a clue what’s going on with you and you don’t have a clue what’s going on with them?
  3. Do you regularly make time for activities that nourish your soul?
  4. Do you feel you could walk out the door of your house and no one would notice you were gone until the mortgage had to be paid?

Pipe and Wilson analyze these questions next by explaining, “Yes, you guessed it? Number 3 was the trick question. Answer yes to that one and you’re probably all right. Answer yes to the rest and you could be in trouble.” They later discuss whether less work and more life really means less stress. I agree with them when they critique all those who advocate for this a “harmonious balance.” While balance may come naturally to dogs, humans seem to have much more trouble. Dogs do what they love—eating, barking, patrolling, herding, fetching, and sleeping—without paying too much attention to what is supposed to be work and what is supposed to be life.

Maybe if humans adopted the philosophy of doing activities that “nourish their souls” they could be more balanced like us dogs, and they wouldn’t worry so much about stress and this work-life balance business. But, there is more to think about when it comes to nourishing the soul. While a variety of activities such as reading, taking your dog for a walk (hint hint), or gardening can nourish your soul, psychologist and researcher Kevin Eschleman found that creative activity helped workers recover more quickly from stress. Additionally, he explains that, “Creative activities are likely to provide valuable experiences of mastery and control, but may also provide employees [and I would argue business owners] experiences of discovery that uniquely influence performance-related outcomes.” Furthermore, the study discovered that those who reported greater levels of creative activity in their lives rated themselves higher and were rated higher by others in terms of job creativity.

Since the benefits of creative activity seem to cover all aspects of a person’s life, it makes sense that using creative activities to nourish the soul will lead to that elusive work-life balance you humans seek. My recommendation: participate in an activity you have always wanted to do and don’t worry about being good at it. Discovery and creativity are the goals. Here are some suggestions for things to try: learn to play guitar, go to a painting class, buy clay and make something, grow your own flowers and design a bouquet for a friend, create a delicious meal, design a remodel for a room or space in your home, learn to tie fishing flies, look for an easy craft to make, try out for a part in a play, or teach your dog a trick you designed. Just find one creative activity that you like and want to keep doing, despite how busy your job becomes. Commit to at least one hour of creative activity a week and then reflect on how you feel afterward. Have you achieved doggy Zen?