After Jen Hewett wrote about her “two career personality and why I like it that way” I asked her *how* she does it all without her head exploding (I’m always curious – effective time management is always a challenge for me)! I’m so glad I did, because her answer has so many tips/tricks/gems/wisdom/simple solutions, it’s amazeballs. Enjoy!
Way back in April, I guest wrote this post about my dual-career life. Michelle asked me to write a follow-up explaining how I manage it all, which I thought was pretty funny because, you see, I’m not really a mistress of time management. You won’t find me touting a complex electronic scheduling system, I sucked as a Project Manager, and my to-do list system is decidedly lo-fi.
So after taking four months (sorry, Michelle) to figure out how I balance everything, I realized that the simple answer is just that I manage less. I don’t like to cram my life full of projects that don’t mean much to me. I don’t try to make time for people I’d rather not see. I don’t take on client’s I’d rather not work with.
I haven’t always operated this way. At the beginning of the year, I was drowning under too many client commitments and wasn’t spending much time working on my art. After I cried to my creative coach that I was frazzled and overwhelmed (two words I almost never use to describe myself), she asked me to imagine my ideal schedule. Almost immediately, I said, “I want to spend half my week on my art, and half my week on consulting. I want to take a month off to travel. I want to ride my bike and go to the beach.”
Once I figured that out, I started to live my ideal schedule. Along the way, I established these guidelines:
1. Me first. I value freedom, genuine connections, my creative life, challenging work, my health, and aesthetics/beauty; these dictate how I spend my time.
This means that I get eight hours of sleep each night. I don’t run myself ragged. I eat really well. If I can’t work, I can’t consult or create so it’s crucial that I take care of myself. Sometimes projects have to be pushed out a few days so that I’m not overloaded, or I have to turn down work instead of working 12-hour days. And I meet with a group of creative women every Monday morning. These meetings are sacred. If I have to miss one of these meetings, it has to be for a really good reason.
Oh, and I take extended vacations (see #3, below).
2. Charge more, work less. My hourly rate when I first started consulting a year ago is less than half my current rate. It became clear after a month of working at that rate that I couldn’t make a great living without loading myself up with clients. So, with each new client, I started charging a bit more until I got to the level where I am now. And guess what? A higher rate hasn’t deterred new clients – I still continue to get inquiries on an almost-monthly basis. I have the luxury of turning down those I don’t have time to work with (or don’t want to work with), because I can afford to consult just under four days per week.
By the way, I don’t regret taking a lower rate because that first client opened up so many doors for me. The CEO of that company (who I still work with) is someone who is well-known and respected in the industry. Almost all of my consulting opportunities have sprung from someone in that client’s network. However, it’s incredibly important that charging a lower rate be a conscious business decision rather than a fear-based practice.
3. Be flexible. A confession: I’m consulting full-time this month. But that was a conscious decision because (don’t hate me here) I’m taking off all of September to travel. That’s right – I’m going on vacation! Because I won’t be billing any work hours in September, I need to earn a bit more before and after my vacation to cover my expenses. (Oh, and I’m also raising money for the trip by selling some art here)
I did the same thing the two months leading up to my summer shows. I printed late into the night and turned down a couple of potential clients so that I could focus on show prep. I then took the week off from consulting between shows so I could regroup and rest. And when my dad ended up in the hospital to have emergency surgery that same week, I could rearrange my schedule so that I could be in the hospital with him.
4. Get help. I love printing, and I love creating new products, but I hate production sewing. I mean, do I really want to sew 20 bags when I could be doing something I actually enjoy? I decided to work with a seamstress who could take on the production work for me. I cut and print the fabric, hand it over to her, and pick up beautifully-sewn bags a week later. Her help in the month before my shows was invaluable. I could use the time she saved me to experiment with new a new medium instead.
And now I’m thinking of getting a virtual assistant to do some of the more mundane, but important, tasks. As part of my consulting work, I recruit and screen job applicants. My assistant could schedule interviews (a logistical task that I hate), organize my email, and keep my finances organized. I estimate this would free up four hours of my time each week, which I could either use to draw (and noodle) or take on a new client.
So there you go. This “system” works beautifully for me. Manage less! No fancy, external solutions are needed – just an alignment of my time and effort with my deepest values and a set of supports to keep me focused. What do your values tell you you should and shouldn’t be doing? What can you cut out? How can you manage less?
In addition to printing and consulting, Jen also writes a weekly post about her adventures in self-employment on her blog. You can check out the series here, get yourself some goodies in her shop, and follow her on Twitter, too!