Busy isn’t success. It’s a lack of priority.
This is not only for self employed, but a lot of us in the creative industries are. Self employment definitely has its advantages, especially if you´re in the creative industry and lucky enough to do what you love most and get paid for it. The dangerous part: You easily get lost, finding yourself in a reactive state, answering every email that pops up on your iPhone, your head full of work and to do lists. Which might be what some of your clients expect, but definitely does some other things to you and your work: You get nothing done, you loose creativity and you loose the feeling of loving what you do.
How you find out you might need a break? Maybe if one or more of the following things smell familiar to you:
• All your work starts to look the same
• You can´t get out of bed in the morning routinely
• You haven’t had an original, “eureka”-moment idea in weeks
• You spend a good portion of your waking day fantasizing about travel, learning a new skill or craft.
• You answer “nothing much” to the frequently-asked question “what have you been up to lately?”
• You feel like your passion for something is waning
• The things in your routine that used to be easy and fun seem hard and annoying
What keeps us from breathing and doing less is todays glorification of busy. (I shortly posted the photo above i took on bali in 2012 on facebook. Not only does it show a surfer in a beautiful sunset, it also shows NO WAVES. The detail i love most about it. Surfing is not only about standing on a wave, riding it. It´s also about patience.)
Especially if you´re self employed, your busyness seems to be a measuring unit for your success or even for the quality of your work. Which simply is not true at all. The opposite is true, creatives who take their time off to learn something new, go surfing for some weeks, learn playing guitar etc. mostly do a much better job then creatives who are locked in their room, working 12 hours a day. Whenever i tell people i won´t work for some weeks now, i can guarantee there will be at least one asking me if i „need something“, as if my business would break down right now. No, thanks, i´m fine, i just need a break.
Both, your daily routine and your overall time management need more breaks. „Who can afford that“ you might think. I must confess, after 6 months of hard work, i also forget that breaks are good for you and your business. It´s hard to imagine that doing less can do more for you and your business, than giving all you can, all the time. I´ve read some very inspiring things from very inspiring persons about doing less = doing more so far. Some suggested to have your schedule for every day, some check and answer their emails only once a day at 11:00 am and divide their working hours in 1,5h packages, 4 times a day, interrupted by breaks of at least 30 minutes, up to 1,5hrs lunchbreaks. Yes, that is only 4,5 – 6 hours of work every day. Might sound weird, but every one of them swears that that was exactly what made their lives AND jobs roll better and more productive.
Who the hell told us to have 5 weeks for ourselfs every year? The good, sustainable companies nowadays give their employees 15-20% of their time „to do whatever you want“. They let them leave the company for some months. Some of them came back and had the most productive years of their carreer after a 6 month break.
I highly recommend this TED talk by renowned NYC designer Stefan Sagmeister who closes his studio every 7 years to take a full year extended break from work.
So, why not just give it a try, right? You definitely have to find your own way to do that. Some things might fit perfect, others won´t. F.e. I´m not good in scheduling every day, even my job wouldn´t allow that. I got shooting days that last 15 hours, others only last 3 hours. I got to get it done on weekends from time to time, also by night if a Film or Photo shoot demands that. So a schedule from 9.00 – 17.00 isn´t the right thing for me. But what really worked great for me was to change the settings of my iPhone and check emails manually only. In long terms i started to have breaks of 4-5 weeks every year since 2010. I spent some time surfing in Bali, This year i already had one month off in Thailand and guess what, i´ll have another month off when my boy is born in July. And as Christmas is always a bit quiet, i´ll have another month in winter. Lazy? Not at all, just more productive.
What about your experiences, your ways to do less to do more, your goals or thoughts. Leave some inspiration for others in the comments below.