When I first left my day job five years ago, I was thrilled that nobody could tell me how I need to manage my day. I knew there was a lot to do, but I could structure it the way I choose. Usually, I would start the day with a general list of what needed to be done, and just flow with it until I was ready to quit.
When my husband left his job the following year, he had the same experience of elation. The only catch was that we were suddenly under pressure to pay all of our household bills with our jewelry. When you start to think about it, it takes a lot of pairs of handcrafted earrings to pay a mortgage every month. We had a lot on our plates, but we were overjoyed to be working for ourselves, and would often pull all nighters to meet deadlines. We were living the American dream and we were determined to make it work.
Now, in 2011, we still love working for ourselves. However over the last few years though, the all nighters and unpredictable schedule have gotten old. This spring, we made the resolution to start to get on a somewhat more structured routine. We still work a lot, but I feel like our hours are more effective, and it brings a lot of peace of mind to have much more clear time objectives.
For us, perfectly on-schedule work day starts at 9 a.m. with 2 hours of emailing, phone calling, and promoting our business . At 11, I have an hour of bookkeeping scheduled. At 12, there is one more hour of office work, and then we have lunch and make jewelry all afternoon and many evenings, with one hour of pure creative playtime.
I am still adjusting to this new level of structure. Few days go perfectly as planned, but most days are much more predictable than they used to be. Occasionally, something comes up and throws a big monkey wrench in our plans. In general though, I feel like we are getting much more done, and have a lot less stress in our work because we have a clear plan for accomplishing our goals.
We are also making sure that we dedicate time to the things we need to do to evolve in a good way. We give more time to design work so that we can grow as artists. We also spend a bit more time focusing on improving our business model. Another aspect of routine that we recently added is breaking down our pre-art show production goals by expected sales and most popular jewelry styles. It brings a lot of peace of mind to feel like we are working toward a set of attainable goals, rather than tackling a never ending mountain of work.
My advice to new artists or anyone with a new venture is to start out on the right foot, and make a plan! Even if your schedule turns out to be unattainable and you need to revise, you have learned something valuable that will help you manage your days in the best way. In a sense, being on a schedule is power. You can sit down the morning or night before your workday and decide what your priorities are. You will have a clear sense of what you want to accomplish and a plan to make it happen.
I love the freedom of nobody else telling me what my schedule is going to be. However, when I step into the role of being my own boss and being intentional about my schedule, this seems like the ultimate level of freedom.