It's 9:15 pm on a Thursday night and I have about 45 minutes to clear out from my studio before the building closes. A typical workday for me starts at noon (earliest) and ends at 10pm, so these late nights are normal. I wish this wasn't my body's natural work cycle, but for now it's working. A bonus, I get an entire hours in the morning to hang out with hubby, do some yoga, cook myself a big breakfast, and mentally prepare for the creative grind.
Lately, I've also been only working in the studio 4 days a week. Mondays are meant for things I can do at home, catching up on house chores, and getting ready for the work week. I decided to do this after a very awful 2-3 weeks where I was overworking myself into a very, very bad place. It was right before my online store was going to open. Since my brain doesn't have an off-switch, I was charging through my epic to-do list like I didn't need sleep, rest, or re-charge time. After hitting a very miserable anxiety/exhaustion wall in which hubby had to come get me from random places I was having panic attacks in, I knew it was time re-set myself and make some serious workflow changes. I took a few days completely off, did some stress-relieving organization of my entire house (my anxiety manifests itself into obsessive, controlling behaviors, so folding and categorizing receipts/socks/bobby pins is v v therapeutic), and gave my studio a serious makeover.
Because I love sharing gold when I find it, here's a few things I learned about making life easier for yourself when you're in the middle of a self-employed glow up.
1. PUT ALL YOUR FUCKING FURNITURE ON WHEELS
The second you think you have your studio/workspace organized well, you sit down to work only to realize that your printer cord doesn't reach where you keep your laptop. Or that you actually need your storage cabinet closer to you, or that some months you may need your desks next to each other and some months you need them on opposite sides of the room. You know what the last thing you want to do when having a nervous breakdown because your to-do list is choking you to death is? Move furniture. Just imagine tears slowly coming out of your face while picking up your heavy ass printer for the 5th time and moving it to your other desk because you need it there more. The best decision I ever made was to go to Ikea and only buy shit that came on wheels. Now whenever I need to adjust, I just happily wheel that shit.
2. BE RESPONSIVE. This is a word I learned as a teacher. They drill into you to have a responsive classroom, which means, if your lesson isn't going well, how quickly are you able to identify what's not working, what could work better, and switch gears in real time. Here's a link to a post about how teachers make as many minute by minute decisions as brain surgeons.The truth is, if you're going to be self employed, there's no one there to tell you "Hey, there's a better way to do this, here it is!" You have to do all that shit on your own, and it requires woman-ing up and making decisions. You are the only person who has the power to make changes, adjustments, modifications. I've had to really come to terms with that as I've found more efficient ways to make my earrings. The mental energy can be tiresome, but the pay off in the end is a much more harmonious workflow that works for you instead of against you.
3. BUY PEGBOARD
I don't care what it is you do. Buy pegboard and cover all your walls in it. Have you heard of pegboards? I just did a week ago. They have a bunch of holes and can store all your little things. You can modify them to your needs. You can put baskets on them, you can put round things that hold tools on them, you can put metal things that stuck out and can hangs things on them, etc etc etc. Go right now, get some pegboards and put them in every single room in your house.
4. GET RID OF EVERYTHING THAT DOESN'T GIVE YOU JOY
I stole this concept from the Konmari Method, which has helped millions and billions of people tidy up their homes. In this business glow up season, I've realized that a healthy work-life balance means that my home is peaceful, intuitively arranged, and tidy. One of the principals Konmari talks about isholding up objects and assessing if they bring you joy or nah. If they do, keep them. If they don't, look at them and say "Why are you inconveniencing me you selfish inanimate object!!" and put them in an incinerator. When I was reorganizing my apartment during my nervous breakdown, I grabbed every single useless penny and said "F-YOU ASSHOLE PENNY" before throwing it in the trashcan. Angry-organizing is very cathartic.
5. WRITE DOWN A "DONE" LIST
To-Do lists have a way of really making you feel small and incapable, and left to our own devices us self-employed people won't be that kind to ourselves. I always keep a "done" list to show what I have accomplished every single day so that I'm not dwelling on what is left on the to-do list and I'm regularly giving myself positive affirmation. It also helps me keep track of my progress on a long-term project, which takes the pressure off my own brain to remember and one less mental heavy-lifting thing to do. Also, positive affirmation is the best form of motivation. When you are self-employed, there's no one there besides YOU to let you know when you've absolutely crushed it.
6. SAME WAY YOU EAT AN ELEPHANT
There's a few projects I've had in my lifetime that seemed so impossibly enormous they couldn't be done. 1. Figuring out finances as an early-twenties person, writing 50 page papers in college, getting a teaching job, writing curriculum, applying for grants, recording an EP, transferring my teaching license to name a few... all of these things took weeks. I've always been comforted by this quote I heard somewhere (can't remember) How will this get done? The same way you eat an elephant... one bite at a time. It's comforting because it acknowledges that 1. This is a huge endeavor 2. It can be done 3. Every single bite matters, even the small ones. 4. Consistent bites are what will get you to the finish.
7. SEE A THING THROUGH
This next one isn't really a way to make things easier for yourself, but it's a necessary quality if you want to survive in this self employed game. There are many that would say the "eat an elephant one bite at a time" rule doesn't work, because eventually people get bored of a project and quit. My take is this: if you lose interest in something you were once passionate about simply because it took too long, you either 1. Weren't as passionate as you thought 2. Have some immaturity issues and don't quite know what it is to just see a thing through to the finish. When I was a middle school teacher, I would often tell my students to "work hard while you want to," since I knew that their satisfaction-centered adolescent developmental-staged selves would tap out as soon as they lost interest. But those are middle school kids. Adults need to understand that the knitty gritty of getting ish done doesn't always feel good and entails a bunch of menial but necessary tasks. Feelings and self discipline strike a healthy balance when you indulge both. I knew I was ready to start my own business when I looked back on my work history and saw a bunch of finished projects, many of them massive undertakings that took months, if not years. (i.e. finding a good budget for myself, writing 50 page papers in college, training to become a teacher, writing my first k-8 art curriculum, applying for grants, writing an EP, transferring my teaching license to California, to name a few). There's obviously exceptions for knowing when something isn't working and it's time to jump off a sinking ship, but people that don't really have anything finished to show for themselves and want to start a new thing have me looking sideways.
8. KNOW THYSELF
My last point involves you looking in the mirror and having a very real conversation about your personal strengths and limitations. There are things that personally, I can't stand doing. I've either found ways around them or have had to woman up and do them. Tidying up my studio is an example. I've used both solutions: I've integrated 5 minutes at the beginning of every single work day to sweep and reorganize my work desk meanwhile whispering to myself "grow the fuck up you need to do this, you amazing boss woman." I've also reached out to a couple of high schools about getting some interns to come a few times a week. Yes, I'm giving them the grunt work and yes, they will be walking up and down 4 flights of stairs to take out the garbage. I'm 30 and my bones are creaky and they're young and still have energy, I am not ashamed.
In extension, think about the things you actually can't do. I can't work while I'm in an anxiety hole. I can't work more than x hours a day. I can't work if I'm hungry. etc. etc. I recently sat down for a few hours and wrote down all my limitations. I set boundaries for what my work week looks like with my health and wellness in mind. Setting those boundaries will help you advocate for yourself to your boss, which also happens to be yourself. A good boss wants their employees to be healthy, happy, and well rested.
With that said, I'm going to be unplugging for 3 days in Palm Springs on a retreat. I had to sit myself down and be like "NO WORK THIS WEEKEND." I'll catch ya'll on MONDAY!