Why creatives need a schedule to achieve work life balance

how to achieve work life balance from dear handmade life

I chose my intention word for the current year (establish), I celebrated my past year achievements, I’ve analyzed my daily work habits, my to-do list is always within arm’s reach, and then as soon as wedding season arrived, all of my preparation to handle the busy time of year for my business flew straight out the window. Man, I was ready, and I was so confident that I would be able to balance my workload and maintain a personal life this year. So, what happened?

I needed help, and I am horrible at admitting that I need help. I hail from the Midwest, born of a long line of “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” kin. I would rather try 10 different productivity methods, and fail at nine of them than ask for help. So, when, I found an offer to work with a life coach right in front of me, I ignored it, until I just couldn’t avoid that nagging feeling of needing professional expertise, so I said yes.

I admitted to feeling overwhelmed, and that my biggest problem was not knowing where to begin. I was wasting so much time trying to decide which activities should be at the top of my to-do list. And more importantly, I admitted to feeling guilty for taking a day off when there were still orders to fill, and social media that I should be posting. What’s more, is that I know if someone else were doing the same thing, I would tell them that they needed to take time for themselves, and feel no guilt whatsoever.

My level-headed, fairy godmother of a life coach suggested that we come up with a strict schedule for each day of the week. I was completely offended by this idea. Pshhh. Bah. No. I am a creative person, and a big part of why I have my own business is so I don’t have to adhere to a schedule. I sat there in silence, pouting, wondering what I had gotten myself into with this life coaching business.

And then she responded in a very matter of fact manner. By introducing structure into my work day (and sticking to that structure), my mind is free to wander into creative thought, which will lead me to more actual free time. Okay, maybe that made a little sense.

I still wasn’t convinced, but she pressed me to commit to a schedule for one week just to see what would happen. It is also in my nature to be a people pleaser, so I agreed, and tried to  disguise my skepticism. I sat down, and devised a schedule for each day of the week, reserving Saturday and Sunday as days off, and reserving Sunday evening for making a to-do list, and re-ordering embroidery supplies. For the following week, I kept my word and stayed on schedule. I had set hours of each day to work on orders, and shipping was scheduled for 2 days a week, rather than scrambling to beat the mailman every day. Each day, there was a specific bite-sized administration task scheduled. At the end of the week, while looking over my outstanding orders and my to-do list, I realized that I had gotten more done in a shorter amount of time. AND, I had finished everything that I needed to, and was comfortable taking the weekend for myself.

The following week, though it had worked out so well, I was tempted to abandon the schedule, but I stuck with it at the urging of my coach. It was so much more difficult for me to follow the schedule over the next few weeks. I’ve managed to stick with the schedule, varying slightly on some days, but overall, I am still keeping a daily routine. I’m a little over a month in, and I do still have to remind myself of what I am supposed to be doing at such and such time. I don’t think “schedule” is an offensive word anymore, and it has saved me much angst as a creative entrepreneur. And maybe I’m getting older, but I’d rather have a scheduled free weekend, than an unscheduled weekday off.

-Erin Duncan

About Erin:

Erin “Wren” Duncan is the owner and handmaker behind wrenbirdarts. She is a former bookseller, barista, grantwriter, event planner, and real estate agent with a Master’s in Social Work. Erin is known for her sometimes cheeky, hand embroidered hankies. Her work has been featured on Buzzfeed, HuffPost, Glamour Magazine, and in several local and international print magazines. Erin lives in Seattle, where you’ll find her walking around exploring farmers markets, the local craft beer scene, and scoping out local businesses. You can follow her on social media @wrenbirdarts.

erin duncan of wren bird arts

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