My least favorite conversation in the world goes like this:
“How are you?”
Our culture glorifies busy. We need to be industrious all the time, right?
You have GOALS. You have bills to pay. You have things you want to do that cost money. So you stay busy busy busy.
And by doing that, you slowly start missing out.
You miss out on your kids growing up, on creating the art that keeps you sane, on the joy of doing absolutely nothing. You miss out on the things that make life worth living.
I’m not going to pretend there’s a quick fix solution to the trading dollars for time, especially since I run a service-based business that does exactly that. And realistically, it took me 4.5 years of being self-employed before my business could support me without the need for another part-time job.
But the entire reason I got into business was because I knew I didn’t want to work a full-time, corporate gig that would ensure I’d miss out on huge chunks of my kids’ development. So I lived very lightly for a long time. Money was tight. But it was a trade-off I was willing to make.
Now my kids are a little older, and I’m lucky enough to have a solid coparenting schedule in place that gives me chunks of time to work as much as I want. And for a while I did. I worked every second of time I didn’t have my kids, because god only knew if I’d be able to accomplish anything once they got back.
But eventually, I realized this was not only unnecessary, it was unsustainable. I was working way too much for way too little. My results were still only growing incrementally, and it was incredibly frustrating to watch as all of my efforts seemed to amount to so little.
But things happen that you don’t expect that make all of the working not matter so much. For me, it was a really difficult breakup.
I hurt. I didn’t want to do anything. My focus was totally shot. There was so much personal turmoil going on that happened to coincide at the same moment that I felt like I needed to get away for a bit.
So I did.
I put my newly full-time business manager in charge, and I went on the road. I wasn’t sure how it was going to go, especially since I had less time to spend working.
Two months of traveling up and down the west coast later, I discovered something shocking. Not only was my business not failing, it had never had more solid numbers. (Kiss my ass, summer slump!)
It fascinates me that once I stopped working so much, my company’s revenue skyrocketed.
Why? It’s pretty simple. I had to do less, delegate, and get more done – and I had to do it in less time than I ever had before. Because I had to learn how to work in this different way, it produced different results. And based on what I’m finding for my company – and my clients’ companies – this is a model that can be replicated.
So I have a question for you.
What if you didn’t work so much?
So here are some ways you can cut back, take back your time, and start moving towards the life you want.
You know that point where you’re trying to get some work done but instead you just sit there and stare at your screen?
Yeah. Stop doing that.
When you stop being able to function, here’s a short list of things you can do to fill yourself back up, rather than attempting to rely on reserves you know aren’t there.
- Take a walk
- Drink water
- Take a bath
- Eat a high-protein snack
- Call a friend
Sound like basic self-care habits? Good. That’s because they are. And most us are bad at them. If you want some extra reminders to take care of yourself, sign up for tinyowlcreative’s free course Tiny Challenges here, and they’ll send you a daily self-care prompt.
And while we’re at it, let’s talk about what not to do when you hit the wall.
- Eat junk
- Zone out in front of another screen
- Start with a substance
Identify That Thing You Don’t Want To Do
Now that you have your most dreaded task, do it or delegate it. Nope, I’m not going to ask you to think about why you’re dreading it or how long it’s been lingering there. Nope. Just get the shit done and off your plate. It doesn’t matter how. My favorite new solution for problems is to throw money at them so they go away without me having to deal with them.
Face it, hon. You overcommitted. And now, you’re in this lovely little predicament where your time isn’t yours anymore, things you previously enjoyed have had the fun sucked straight out of them, and your quality of work is failing.
So quit. Call it. Give a refund. Apologize. You fucked up, you learned, and you’re going to try not to do it again. These are the consequences of your actions (and I bet you don’t let it happen ever beyond this because disappointing and pissing off people sucks.)
Don’t Let Your Passion Project Turn Into an Extra Job
In Liz Gilbert’s Big Magic, she discusses the amount of pressure some creatives put on their art to make them money. In my experience, it’s the fastest way to kill flow, get stressed out, and feel like an artistic failure.
Frankly, you have a lot more opportunities to experience failure that will be so much more useful to you. You can let this one go.
You work so hard already – give your art the time it needs without placing ultimatums on it. Don’t expect your art to produce cashflow yet. Accept some things take time, not just more pushing.
Institute An Automatic NO Policy
Stop taking on new shit. End of story.
Turn An Autoresponder On
Last Thursday, I caught the summer cold from hell, and it’s still holding on strong. I don’t know if you’ve tried writing while you’re hacking up a lung, but it makes the whole process move more slowly and less enjoyably.
So I turned on an autoresponder to let people know I was trucking along, albeit at about 75%. This let everyone know I got their email and would respond, but it took a little of my own perceived pressure off to instantly respond.
Ask For Help
So, funny story – people who care about you want to help you and see you succeed.
This means sometimes you can even admit you’re not a superhero and ask for help. They might say no. But they might say yes. Boom. Progress.
App For Help
(Oh, yes, I did make that bad joke.) Taskrabbit. Instacart. Postmates.
Apps are proof the universe loves us and wants us to be happy. I’m a single mom of two, a business owner, etc. and I’ve decided it’s not a crime to want help keeping up on housework.
Now someone comes over once a week to do all the things I don’t want to do.
So, what’s on your stop doing list? Got a great resource for outsourcing? Share in the comments!