Choosing Self Employment – How To Stay Positive and Productive

Guess what? I’m a great, big whinger

Huge surprise, right? Please insert crying with laughter emoticon here.

I have noticed that I am constantly on the lookout for external reasons to blame my stuttering, pigeon-stepping, career growth on. There are just so many good reasons to choose from:
Being a mom, not having a proper studio, working in isolation, not living in an arts hub, lack of time, lack of contacts, lack of good chocolate. There is always something around to take the blame.

But I chose this path with my eyes open, and I knew about all those issues when I started. I knew that my growth would be slow and long, and difficult. I knew that the path would cut through my young family’s years of early childhood and early parenting, and that I would choose to be present for most of that. I knew that I would choose to work less for a few years, but not forever. Not forever. It’s time to work, and grow more now.

Taking Responsibility For My Choices

Most obstacles to growth are just that, something to stumble over, and then pick yourself up and carry on. We don’t lie permanently spread eagled on the sidewalk after a stumble, do we (even though sometimes we really want to)?
Yes, it’s tough to not have a separate studio, but I do have a big home, and there are plenty of artists, and small business owners who have managed to do a lot in very tight spaces. Yes, I would rather work in London, where I have a ready-made creative community to lean on, or in a city with a large art focus, but I’m here right now, and there are good things about that. It’s really pretty here, and I haven’t really taken advantage of the prettiness fully. I have an incredibly supportive spouse, who helps hugely with work and home duties. Plus, DC with it’s art scene is just a train ride away. I just need to make more of an effort to get off my backside and appreciate the good stuff.
And here’s the big one – Not Enough Time,  there is NEVER enough time, whether you are a parent or not. The answer to that is, I need to use the time I have more efficiently.

Managing Time

Those of us who are self employed, are very fortunate. We have more flexibility in our schedules, and can work strange hours, so that we can be present for those personal events that matter to us. I get to spend a lot of time with my kids, and I’m happy with that. But I do want to work more as well.

I have been listening to Laura Vanderkam’s audiobook I Know How She Does It, in which she talks about time management, and how people really have more time than we think we do.  It has made me look at my weekly calendar in a new light.
I have weeks where I am incredibly productive, and weeks where I resemble that character, Sadness, from Inside Out – just a melted puddle of a human, paralyzed by indecision and anxiety.  I think I need to accept that some weeks are going to be more productive than others, and that my work schedule is always going to be more unorthodox than usual. But that doesn’t mean that I can’t get as much done as someone working 9-5 in an office.  I’m starting small, but here are some things I am mindfully putting into my schedule, to help me be more productive. If you are self employed, maybe they could help you as well.

Strategies

  • Get up early and work on deep thought activities, such as writing curriculum or blog posts an hour before the kids are awake. I’m a morning person, sharp as a nail at 6am, but I haven’t been making the most of that lately. Starting the day this way, will help to set the tone for the rest of the day (of course, that means an earlier bedtime too – I still need my sleep).
  • After the kids go to school, start the day by actually doing work. Don’t look at social media or emails in the morning. Put an hour aside in the evening after the kids go to bed, to answer emails, and communicate with customers.
  • Start big. Be super productive on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, so that if it is possible, I can ease up a little towards the end of the week.
  • Practicing self care. Do some form of exercise every day, whether it is a lunchtime yoga class, a gym session, or a walk. This is never a wasted hour, it will provide the energy needed to keep going strong.
  • Work a few hours on the weekend, maybe Sunday evening after the kids are in bed, to set up for the week ahead.
  • Don’t feel guilty about working in weird places such as outside my daughter’s Tae Kwon Do class. Having a hard stop at 4pm every day when the kids get home, can sometimes leave me feeling unfinished, but I like spending time with the kids, so I’ll fit the remaining work in at times that I can.
  • Whether it is drawing in a sketchbook, screen printing shirts, or working on a painting, maintain a daily practice, even if it is only for a few minutes on some days. Sometimes that means setting up automated tasks in advance on slow weeks.

There are other things I already do, such as keeping a visual schedule, and dividing my work day into small blocks of time. Those are just things that work for me right now. I’m open to suggestions from other self employed people in creative industries. You know where I am.

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