Well, hello again. Welcome back to my journal entries series where I'm currently talking about steps to help you aim for work/life balance. Wednesday I did a post about part one, which was on time management and now we are onto part two, which is a perfect topic to meditate on over the weekend and that is to:
STEP TWO: PRIORITIZE YOUR LIFE
To be real with you guys, I never had any intentions to start a business. When my husband and I moved from Chicago back to my hometown of San Clemente, California, it was because I was offered a job working for my uncle at his financial planning office. Admin stuff, in a cube, sitting in terrible traffic, etc. I was so thankful for the job and to not be working at a bar in downtown Chicago anymore, but I’ll be honest, that cube life takes a really special person, and I quickly realized that I was not that special person! But, during this time, I would come home everyday and paint. It was like therapy and I was able to turn my brain off after sitting in traffic for over an hour, practicing, drawing and painting for countless hours. Well, fast forward a little bit, I started posting my work on social media, and four months after I started working for my uncle, I had to quit because this “art thing” got so busy. I had no idea what I was doing, what my business even was, if I was going to make enough money... All I knew was that I loved what I was doing and I was too busy to have two full time jobs. Since going full time roughly three years ago now, I’ve learned a lot about having to prioritize your work and life...it was sort of forced upon me just because of how quickly things snowballed. Not only have I learned how to make my to do lists in order of importance, but priorities are all about follow through, and I wouldn’t still be doing what I do without sticking to them.
So, let’s talk priorities.
Whatever your workday looks like, whether you’re a business owner, freelancer, or you work the cube and do some creative stuff on the side, we all must learn to set up a system that helps us prioritize our work flow. For me, this happened when I sat down and outlined my business and what my jobs or duties are. Just to give you a little example, here’s a snippet of what that looks like for me:
- Artwork: draw, paint sketch, etc. for wedding and commercial projects
- Design: transfer artwork into custom wedding suites and stationery, branding, etc.
- Communication: EMAIL, phone calls, skype calls, meetings with prospects and current clients
- Inventory: Studio upkeep, order workshop supplies, etc.
There’s more, but I’ll stop there. For me, artwork is at the top of the list. It’s what got me started, it’s what I’m most passionate about and is my favorite part of my job. So, why would I give this part of my job the short end of the stick? Over the years I’ve failed and made countless mistakes, and the majority of those times is due to the fact that I didn’t allow myself enough time for what I really love. My main focus had shifted to the administrative tasks that, yes, keep my business afloat and are totally necessary, but because being a small business means you call the shots, you complete all the tasks, you do it all, I was overbooked, overwhelmed and stifling my creativity. Don’t do that. Schedule your time according to importance or priorities, keep track of how booked you are, and don't go beyond what you can handle, and you’ll have a more enjoyable workday, I promise, and in the long run make more money because you're creating better (more stress free) work.
So, what does this mean? Well, for me, writing emails is definitely not my favorite part of my job. I’ve learned to only answer emails during the period of the day that I know I have the headspace for them. For me, that is first thing in the morning. With multiple projects and deadlines going on at once, I don’t want to have these unanswered emails hanging over my head for the rest of the day while I’m trying to be creative and put together custom artwork and concepts for my clients. Without having a task like emails looming around, I can check that off and feel way more motivated and inspired to clear my head and start painting, drawing or designing.
It’s also important to schedule downtime and to keep official business hours. This one is very hard for me, and I rarely stop working at 6pm, but, repeat after me, your personal life IS more important than your working life. The time you spend investing in valuable relationships is one of the best ways to de-stress and I’ve found that I’m think way more clearly when I’ve had some good human to human connection. If I’m running on a week with no human interaction, you can just assume that my face is on a desk somewhere or I'm blankly staring at my computer screen. We need our sanity, so I have listed that our office hours are 10am - 6pm Monday thru Thursday. These days and times are when I will get all of my emailing done, schedule meetings, and, if it’s a good week, all of my work will be done during this time, including artwork and designing! I’ve found that answering emails and questions from clients and such after my listed business hours doesn’t portray professionalism. I also don’t like answering emails past 6pm (unless it’s SUPER urgent) because of how it creeps in on my evenings with John, friends, or even alone time. If I do answer an email past 6pm when I don't need to, it totally takes me out of the headspace of ready to hang, be a good listener, engaging Jenna. It turns my focus back to work when there's plenty of time to do that tomorrow. If it’s not urgent and it’s past the hours that you’ve set for yourself, just don’t answer it! You will then have a fresh outlook and response ready in the morning or sometime the next day when you sit down to answer it!
There is an exception to this though, when I am working late and I notice that I have a couple new emails from the evening, I may decide to answer them back. Sometimes when I’m right there and in it, I just know I’ll answer it more properly if I don’t wait. Maybe I’ve been looking through a specific client’s Basecamp schedule/folder and receive an email from them asking about a due date or something, well, since I just looked it up I can tell them. If I wait till the next day, I may forget. BUT, because I feel like it’s important as a place of business to not portray yourself as immediately ready and available at all times to your customers, I use what’s called Boomerang for my Gmail. I’ll write up the response and click “send later,” and schedule the time I’d like for it to send! It’s brilliant! You can schedule follow up emails for inquiries, create canned responses for emails that you receive on the regular...it’s seriously a game changer! I don’t know what I would do without it.
So, am I good at keeping my priorities in line? Absolutely not. But, when I do, I've noticed how much it affects my work. I start to get things done quicker, don't have to do so many drafts on projects, and my relationships and sanity are in tacked. I think writing up your tasks and titles that fall within your job, whatever it may be, would be the best place to start for prioritizing your life! What is the favorite aspect of your job? Whatever that is, make more time for that by scheduling your other tasks accordingly. It'll make all the difference.
Have an idea for one of our journal entry blogs? Or have a question you'd like answered about art, business, design, etc.? Leave them in the comments below and we'll make it our next topic!