Interviews / Musicians

Balancing the Grind With Newselph, Producer, Rapper & Reverend

Newselph is an independent artist, producer, rapper and reverend from Edmonton, Alberta. His latest project with Sareem Poems, 88 to Now, is now available everywhere.

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1) To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your background and music career?

Well, I’m 30 years old and married with two kids (plus one more to be born in January). I have been doing music both as a hobby and more seriously since I was in high school.

I’ve always been a really creative and somewhat abstract person, and since I first heard it, I gravitated toward rap music and (later on) hip hop culture as a whole. Whether painting, writing, rapping, producing, daydreaming, etc.

I’ve pretty well always spent a good amount of time imagining and creating stuff. Beyond creativity and family though, I’m also a Christian person, and happen to make my living as a full time minister of a church.

2) What does a typical day in the life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent day?

A typical day in my life starts anywhere between 6am and 7am, when my kids wake us up with laughs and stories about who-knows-what. I try to fight my sleepy selfishness and let my wife sleep in, and I get the kids up at the table for breakfast.

I generally start my work day between 9:00 and 10:00 am, and then the day can go any number of different directions. Being a pastor, my weekly work consistently includes studying, writing, preparing lessons, teaching a class or two, and administrative work.

At any given time, though, you might add meetings, some kind of community event, a crisis or urgent matter with someone from the congregation or neighborhood – it can almost literally be anything. Caring for people can look like a lot of different things.

4) Do you have any tips, tricks or shortcuts to help you manage your schedule?

I find this super difficult. As an abstract-thinking person, I’m beginning to realize that I don’t always know how to direct my brain toward one task and focus on it.

My train of thought can make any number of stops in a very short matter of time, and I can be planning out some album art for a project that doesn’t even exist yet when I’m supposed to be reviewing some curriculum or something.

What I’ve found most helpful is actually an hourly time-guide for my day and week, coupled with weekly priority lists. First priority is family time, next is work/work-related, then rest/sleep, then music. The hourly breakdown might be different day to day, but there’s always the same number of family-time hours.

With work, I write down what has to get done in a week, and a due-date if applicable. Then I sort it by importance and slot it into chunks of time for the week. So, 6:00am – 9:00am is slotted as family time, and 9:00am – 12:00noon might be slotted as “class prep” or whatever I need to do; you get the idea.

Theoretically, as I move through my time-guide, I’m also moving through my to-do list. When I get distracted, I do two things. First, I let my mind follow the train of thought and then write it down/express the idea. That way I can move on from it and return later.

Second, I have my time-guide in front of me as a reminder for what priority I should be focused on. If you looked at the “Music” slot of my time-guide (after the family is asleep), it’s not a lot of time, but it’s enough that I can really work out an idea until I’m either ready for bed or whatever else.

During this time, I can operate the same way with prioritized to-do lists, depending on how much ongoing writing/producing work I have.

5) In between your music, life and all your other responsibilities, how do you ensure you find some sort of balance in your life?

If I’m honest, I’m not sure “balance” is always the best, depending on what we mean by balance. What I try to ensure, more than balance, is peace of mind and proper health.

When we are and feel well, we aren’t stressed as easily, we love our kids better, we think clearer, we handle tasks better, we treat our neighbors better, etc. Part of ensuring peace of mind and proper health is juggling and letting some things fall to the wayside, though.

It can mean disappointing somebody, or yourself. Sometimes, for example, it’s much better that I not get much done in a week to instead spend extra time at home ensuring my wife is cared for and has all that she needs in a day or week.

That may not be very balanced, and I may be frustrated that I didn’t get this or that thing done, but I go back to the priorities: It’s a cliche but it’s true: happy wife = happy life!

6) What does work-life balance mean to you?

I probably answered this question already, but I’d say it means protecting your time and spending it well. I’m particularly bad at this, because I can waste time like no other.

But think about it: we all have the same 24 hours in a day, and that’s all we have. As much as I struggle with wasting time, I have to daily kill my selfishness, laziness, etc., and protect my and my family’s time.

7) What do you think are some of the best habits you’ve developed over the years to help you strive for success and balance?

Help me Lord (haha!). Sadly, I don’t know if I’ve developed those habits yet. In 5 to 10 years from now, I hope I will have developed the kind of self control and self discipline necessary to say “no” to myself, and keep the most important things most important – because let’s be real: I’m not most important.

Maybe I’ll have a better answer in 5 years then?

8) Are there any books that have helped you improve over the years?

The first one that comes to mind is Good to Great by Jim Collins. This particular book looks at what has made good companies into great companies.

I’d apply it this way: know who you are and what you’re about. If what you’re doing (either as a person, or to build your brand, or run your business), is not accomplishing your main goal, or pursuing what it is you’re about, then you should stop doing it!

Another book that I’ve found really helpful is called Living by Faith by Oswald Bayer. This book has helped me in the same way as the first book, but in a very different way. Among other things, it talks about people’s need for justification, and what we do to justify ourselves, living for the acknowledgement and recognition of others, etc.

Reading this (keeping my core beliefs as a Christian in view), I’ve learned: I don’t have to live for an identity, I can live from an identity. This is where my Christianity comes in, which is a big topic, maybe for another interview.

9) What is the number one thing you do to make sure you get the most out of your day?

I’m not sure if I know yet. Something I’ve seen consistently help me personally is working in different physical places. I can get into cycles and develop habits pretty easily, and oftentimes it’s a habit that leads to unfruitful distraction.

I have the freedom to move my work-space around our little building, or to just do my work wherever. This has often been great for me.

10) Do you have any last thoughts on work, life or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?

I would just say this, knowing who you are and what you’re about brings a lot of clarity to what you’ll do and why. That might sound a little philosophical or lofty, but it’s really true.

In my case, I’m a Christian, and that fact really does have bearing on everything from brushing my teeth to caring for my family to how I invest and plan for my death!

In my faith, I know who I am, what I’m about, why I work, what’s most important, what’s not, how to handle failure, how to handle stress, how to move forward, etc. In my estimation, it’s foundational to this topic.

If you’d like to have a conversation with us about how you balance the grind, get in touch with us!

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About Author

Hey there! I'm Hao, the Editor-in-Chief at Balance the Grind. We’re on a mission to showcase healthy work-life balance through interesting stories from people all over the world, in different careers and lifestyles.