Leslie Knope is my work ethic role model. I wish I could forgo a real-person amount of sleep to get as much done as she does. Unfortunately, I cannot live in a fictional world where it’s possible for one person to do the work of four or five. I can’t stay up all night making cookies and quilts and still get all my work done the next day. I need to maintain a work day schedule with enough time to recharge with food, sleep, friends, family and passive TV binging every now and then to avoid small business owner burnout.
A band-aid on the finger is the international symbol for “I work with my hands”.
I’ve been working from home as a full time self-employed person for about a year now and I think I’ve finally developed a schedule that works for me. Everyone always says they would love to have a job that allows them to work from home. Those who live the dream know that it’s not as carefree and casual as everyone thinks. Everyone struggles with something at the beginning, it could be retaining a diurnal lifestyle now that you can work anytime of the day (or night) you like, combating cabin fever, maintaining work/life balance or any number of weird problems you’d never see coming. For me, the biggest struggle has always been keeping my work and home life separate. Here’s the best schedule I’ve been able to come up with:
I wake up around sunrise; I have since I was a kid, I don’t know why and I don’t know how to stop. I usually read in bed until a reasonable hour.
8 am – 9 am I make breakfast and make a to-do list, check my stats, maintain my Etsy listings, print out and process any orders that came in overnight and form a social media marketing plan (if applicable) while I eat.
9 am – 10 am I get dressed, tidy up the apartment and make myself a cup of tea.
10 am – 1 pm I dedicate time to working on new samples, which can include design time, sourcing materials, sewing, photographing or listing new items in the shop, and working on wholesale/ consignment orders.
1 pm – 2 pm I try to take a break to eat lunch. This time of year, I have a lot of working lunches.
2 pm – 4 pm I work on orders I take in through the Etsy shop. If I don’t have any open orders to work on, I focus on the blog.
4 pm – 5 pm I pack orders, print and process new orders, return emails and order supplies.
5 pm I try really hard to stop working but usually have to run to the post office, drop off some consignment items, answer trickier questions from customers, take some pictures for the blog, do research, etc.
Even the best schedule can be really hard to stick to when your office or studio is only a few steps away from your living space. For example, last Sunday night I found myself in my office, in the dark, answering emails at 10 pm, saying out loud, “this is why I have scheduled email time” and telling my husband I was almost done several times before I actually was. Every weekend I tell myself I will rest and recharge for the coming week before working on orders and blog stuff all day Saturday and running work errands half the day Sunday. But sometimes that’s what it takes to run a business.
The best trick I’ve found to avoid burnout is literally tricking myself. If I can find a way to do things in a way that makes me happy, like working in my pajamas for an hour every morning or making myself a fancy and exciting tea before sitting down at my sewing machine everyday, I’m less resentful towards my intense, high expectations boss (i.e., me), less anxious, more creative and more likely to stick to the schedule.
Finding balance is hard, but once you do, you’ll amaze yourself with how much energy and productivity you can find in one little person.
All photos by me.