The New Daily Grind: How I Built My Work Routine
Big news: I'm now a full-time artist!
I'd been doing the numbers for some time and was nearly ready to quit my day job anyway when I got some big, huge, ridiculously exciting news... which I can't share yet. (I'm so sorry. I hate being that person.) I promise I'll announce it as soon as I can! For now, what I can tell you is I'm at the point where my business is providing my bread & butter and a new development provided the cushion I needed to make the leap. This has been such an exciting time for me and I couldn't be happier with my new daily grind!
With this change, I suddenly needed to transition from going a million miles an hour--working 20 hours per week at my day job and 40+ hours per week on my business on top of that--to creating my own daily grind, one that allows for a better work-life balance and allows me to do what I need to do and what I love to do, all while also staying sane. Hooray! Sanity!
I wanted to be really intentional while setting up my work routine. It will change and evolve over time, of course, but it was really important to me to build good habits from the start. If I have the chance to truly choose to how to spend my time, I want to do it very deliberately and set myself up for happiness, health, and long-term success!
HOW I BUILT MY DREAMY DAILY GRIND
When choosing what to build into my daily, weekly, and monthly routines, I started with what was most important to me personally (answer: time to make art, lunch with Nate, and yoga). I then added what I absolutely must get done, and made sure I did lots of research to learn what other people have built into their own routines (see the resources section below). One thing to keep in mind is that this is supposed to all be flexible; I modify and adapt as I need to depending on what I need to do, for my biz or for me personally. With that said, here's what I came up with!
- Right after getting up: my simple, standard, everyday morning routine. For me, that's eating a smoothie + toast, drinking a cup of coffee, taking some time to read or skim through Pinterest, and a going for a quick walk around the neighborhood.
- First thing in the studio: 1-2 hours of making art. Yep. Right away. Lots of people will tell you to tackle what you don't like doing first, like answering emails or doing bookkeeping. Here's how I see it: the morning is the BEST time of the day. It's how you set the tone for your whole day. If you spend that time doing things like responding to emails, you're giving the best part of your day to reacting to other people instead of acting on what you want for your day. (For more on this topic, check out resource #1 listed below!) This is a personal choice, of course, but I've found that this is what makes me happiest--and as it turns out, the world doesn't stop spinning if you don't get back to emails until an hour later. ;)
- Rest of the morning: small to-dos. This includes packaging and shipping orders, ordering supplies, and other little tasks I can check off quickly.
- Right before lunch: responding to emails and Etsy conversations. Because my work is product-based instead of client-based, my career doesn't involve having to answer tons of emails every day. This is an intentional move; I don't want to spend my life responding to emails. But responding to the ones that do need my attention right before lunch leaves me feeling accomplished before taking a break!
- Lunch: homemade, and with my fiance. He's a recording engineer with a studio in our basement, so at a certain point we both take a break to make lunch and eat together. This is also really important to me. I feel so lucky and proud to have built a work life that allows me to spend time with the person I care about most in the middle of the day!
- After lunch: whatever else needs doing, including the weekly tasks below. Not everything can be totally planned out in this line of work--there's a lot of being flexible, fitting things in, and other "fancy footwork" to get through a big to-do list! Often, this will include longer-term projects I can chip away at over time.
- At some point in the afternoon: another walk. Leaving the house and moving around are both so important when you work from home!
- End-of-workday-routine: reading a business or self-development book for 30 minutes, jotting down tasks in my planner for the next day, and making two lists--one of what I accomplished that day and one that lists three things I'm grateful for. For me, this is the perfect balance of reminding myself where I need to go while taking stock of where I've already been. The list of three things to be grateful for comes from a book called The Happiness Advantage, by Shawn Achor. If done consistently, this habit physically trains your brain to look for positive patterns instead of negative ones. Pretty neat, huh?
- Finally: yoga. Every. Damn. Day. It's become my end-of-work trigger--a clean break at the end of the day to help set boundaries and send a signal to my brain that it's time to wind down. After all that time at a table, it feels so good to move and stretch and breathe, and it helps keep my posture in check. I use this app and absolutely love it!
- After work: unstructured! I love leaving my evenings completely open after a fairly structured workday. That balance is really important to me.
For me, it's helpful and fun to give each day of the week one unique element on top of the regular workday. This helps add variety to my schedule and helps me tackle my to-do list at the same time, and it's different each day. On Monday, it's a treat; on Tuesday and Wednesday, it's a task I need to do on a weekly basis. Here's what that looks like.
- Monday: get dressed up and work at a local coffee shop, feeling cute and important as I type away on my laptop. It's amazing what a motivator this is for me!
- Tuesday: regular work day + social media prep (scheduling facebook posts, taking Instagram photos, and planning out posts).
- Wednesday: regular work day + blog. This is a new routine, so you'll see more and more posts like this each week now that I've committed to updating this blog regularly!
- Thursday: regular work day + monthly tasks listed below.
- Friday: either a day off OR a dreamy work day, which means way more time making art and only responding to very important emails.
Finally, when I thought about it, there were four things I found I want to do on a monthly basis. So, on Thursdays or whenever it feels right to fit it in, I do one of these four things depending on which week of the month it is.
- First week: Put Good Stuff In Day. This one is a treat, and it's so, so useful! I find I cannot put good stuff out if I am not putting good stuff in. This often happens in the evening after the workday, and it can come in the form of films (at the theater, not on my couch!), a trip to the art museum or the zoo, a play, a concert, a mini road trip--anything that puts new things in my brain. Sometimes it also means reading, but I do quite a bit of that in my everyday life, so this day is specifically for things I don't do that often.
- Second week: Self-Education Day. This day is reserved for filling out worksheets, working on courses, reading business books and anything that specifically educates me about something related to being a business owner.
- Third week: Bookkeeping Day. (And the award for least dreamy workday goes to...) Unfortunately, I have to do this during the third week of the month because one of my most consistent and important revenue streams doesn't pay out until the 15th of each month. I'd do it during the first week if I could!
- Fourth week: Pitch Day. As a creative, there's a lot of putting oneself out there that just plain needs to happen. So, on this day, I spend pretty much the whole day putting myself and my work out there in whatever ways are necessary at that time. That includes craft show applications, pitching wholesale, and inviting fellow artists to collaborate. Is this day scary? Yes! But I find it's easier to do it all at once, and having a day set aside for it helps me make sure I get it done. I find myself skirting it otherwise!
We'll see how all this changes over time, but I'm so thrilled to have put together a routine that allows for enough variety, creative play time, and a healthy dose of just plain gettin' it done to keep me happy and healthy and far from burnout. After all, if I'm going to create my own job, I want to create something I will enjoy!
BUILDING YOUR OWN ROUTINES
Of course, everyone's version of dreamy is going to look a little different! Some people are total night owls and get their most productive burst of energy right about when I'm sleepily pouring myself an end-of-day glass of wine. So, when building your own version of what I just listed, keep these guidelines in mind:
- Start with what is most important to you. For me, that was carving out time for art, having lunch with Nate, and making sure I got enough movement in. With those three building blocks, I picked the ideal time of day for each and built everything else I need to do around these three things.
- Know thyself! If you're not a morning person, take that into account when picking times for both your least favorite and most favorite tasks of the day.
- Leave a little wiggle room. If you're a planner like me, it's tempting to block out every hour of every day; but, especially if you're a creative entrepreneur, you never know what tasks will pop up in your day, week, or month--and, of course, you need to leave yourself some flexibility in order to stay happy!
- Do your research. Guess what? There are tons of great resources out there for people in your exact position. Do a little digging and read up to make sure you've considered all angles. Check out the resources below and look on Pinterest--there are lots of great tips and sources of inspiration for creating work routines and working from home in general!
- Think about balance. "Hustle" has become a mantra for the creative entrepreneur, and the result is often a determination to simply be busy. Yes, there's a ton of stuff to do when you run your own business. But if you're creating your own daily grind, you have the chance to hustle on your own terms, and that includes a chance to build in activities that will counter-balance the things you have to do a lot of. Stuck at a desk? Get some movement in. Have a very email-based job? Build in a little quiet time to put words in your brain by reading instead of just churning them out all the time. Feeling lonely with all that solo work? Set a time to work at a coffee shop or with friends once a week. Make "balance" at least as much of a mantra as "hustle" and you'll thank yourself in the long run.
Here are some resources I found to be super helpful when coming up with all this:
- Manage Your Day-to-Day: Build Your Routine, Find Your Focus, and Sharpen Your Creative Mind, edited by Jocelyn K. Glei. I haven't gotten all the way through this one, but it has been immensely helpful thus far!
- The Happiness Advantage, by Shawn Achor. Achor is a psychologist who markets his research by putting it in a corporate context, which I don't blame him for--we're all trying to get our ideas out there one way or another! Anyway, remember as you're reading this one that all of it can be applied to us little guys too.
- Design the Life You Love, by Ayse Birsel. Swoon! I love creative journals. This one essentially asks you to deconstruct the elements of your life and put them back together in a way that is most meaningful to you. It has been perfect for me at this crossroads and I can't recommend it highly enough!
It's important that all this stay flexible, so I'm most definitely open to adding and subtracting as necessary. With that said, I want to hear from you! What do you want to build into your day? What resources have you found to help you set up your routines? Let me know in the comments below!
P.S. The "boss lady" mug in the black and white picture above is from Autumn & Indigo!