Ohmygosh you guys, I so heart this post by Stacy Kathryn, a former client o’ mine who is just so honest and truthful and transparent in sharing her journey. I have a feeling lots of you can relate – working a day job + running your creative biz “on the side” (doesn’t that kind of belittle all the work you’re doing? It’s hardly “on the side” when you’re most likely devoting enough time/effort/work to it that it’s become a part-time job!) – and I just love what she’s realizing, owning and claiming below. You can read Stacy’s previous guest posts for me here and here. Genius, all!
I am always running behind. Or at least it feels that way, and a quick perusal of my blog postings will tell you that it’s a common theme with me. In my mind, I’m an overachiever with grand plans and schemes, and sparkling visions of fruitful, productive outcomes. But in reality, my best laid plans tangle hopelessly together like what’s left of my next-door neighbor’s Christmas lights, still clinging tenaciously (in mid-March) to their rain gutters. I have a day job (which I’ve been advised numerous times not to quit, har-har), I’m an artist, and I do freelance design work, which I now understand where that ‘free’ part comes from. I’ve got blogs to update, websites to redesign, paintings to…paint, an Etsy shop to maintain, not to mention the usual never-ending, yet somehow satisfying, cycle of housework and laundry. Oh, and there’s Charlie, my emotionally clingy, recently adopted Labrador who growls at me if I stop petting him for a moment. I’m sure many of you can relate — that feeling of trying to swim upstream in a raging river of to-do lists and Post-it reminders. So at the beginning of this month, I let a lot of things go until I could “regroup” (as they say in Corporate Land) and figure out a new plan. I haven’t blogged, fiddled with my website, or posted new items to my shop, and there is a fine layer of dust in my art studio covering everything. I’m making a conscious effort to slow down, examine where I’m at right now and where I want to be. Well, as you probably well know, despite millions of self-help books and articles and smartphone apps, there is never one perfect plan for everyone. But at least we can all, as an online community, offer up what works for us individually and hope that someone else can benefit from it in some way. Snappy names and clever acronyms be damned, I give you the awkwardly titled:
Stacy’s Five More or Less Rules or Tips For Staying Sane While Getting Things Accomplished and Not Falling Behind, In No Particular Order of Importance
YOU Set The Pace – It’s your business, and yes it’s good to have deadlines and structure, but set up a pace that is reasonable and works for you. Pay attention to how much time certain tasks take you, so you have a better idea for next time.
Make Reasonable Goals – I have a tendency to overdo my to-do’s for the week, ignoring the fact that I won’t likely have time to create a new illustration, move a website live for my client AND restore peace to the Middle East in the few free hours I have each evening. And then I’m disappointed with myself. Maybe instead of stressing over what didn’t get done at the week’s end, I should’ve been more realistic with my list up front. It’s a great feeling when you set goals that are actually achievable, and manage to reach them.
Plan Ahead – This may have been a New Year’s resolution of mine as well, but I can’t remember (it’s on a Post-it somewhere, which I’ve since misplaced.) But I’m giving this another try. Although it seems like utter nonsense to actually start on something early, when there’s Oh So Much Time Yet, give it a try. Plan ahead, expect there to be snags and allow time to sort things out as they arise. It seems too nerdy, like that smug kid in class who always handed in his term paper a week early, but the relief of not doing everything last minute is something I can really get used to!
Follow Through – It’s not just a great little ditty by singer-songwriter Gavin Degraw. It’s sound advice too! If you take on a job, if you have a task to complete, then see it through. (This coming from a gal who can’t finish a book she borrowed from a friend 8 months ago, but hear me out.) Sometimes it’ll be something you’re excited about doing in the first place. Sometimes it means grudgingly pushing through a project you’ve committed to despite what it entails. Other times the task may demand shifting your priorities and schedules around to accommodate it. But it will always feel great to complete it, cross it off your list, step back and admire it proudly.
Ask Yourself If This Is Making You Happy – Boy, do we love our cliches, use the whole “Life’s too short” business and we nod fervently and agree with such a statement, and then go back to our rut in life, because it’s just easier. Get that cup of hazelnut coffee and get back to the daily grind, right? I know life is inherently not supposed to be a constant ball of fun. But you have a surprising amount of sway/influence as to how things turn out for you. Look, I know we are all very busy. There’s errands to run, Twitter feeds to follow, checkbooks to balance but take a moment and seriously evaluate your current situation. If you are not having fun at all, and aren’t happy, rethink just why it is you are doing what you are doing. It’s difficult to believe, and maybe more difficult to turn that mighty ship around now, as fast as she’s steaming in her current bearing. But it’s possible to change directions in your life, and you’re empowered to do it.
I think that what I’ve come up with will work for me, but like anything that’s worthwhile, it’ll take a little effort and awareness so I don’t slip back into my old ways. I’m keeping things manageable, and trying to do what makes me happy. I’m hoping to reach some solid goals this year, and I’m already finding that setting up those rules and realizing that I am in control of how I feel are big steps towards achieving them. I really hope at least some of what I’ve drummed up will be of use to you too.
Have you found yourself in my shoes? What are you doing to stay ahead and maintain your sanity at the same time? I’d love to know, so share with me below!