Thursday, March 28, 2013

M'lady is a Harsh Task Mistress

There are always other things to do. For me personally, I have school, a full time (plus) job to pay the bills, my passion driven costumes, then family and social obligations. Then there are the little things one doesn't think as obligations such as eating, sleeping, grooming and driving to and fro that also eat at the hours of the day. So how does one maintain some sort of success with a home based business, and balance all of those other daily life things? I had to ask myself this very question as I took on going to college to get my degree. Here are some things I came up with:

  1. Keep a calendar
  2. Wear different "hats" for different jobs
  3. Keep track of time
  4. Schedule time for yourself

This all seems simple enough right? Obvious even? I thought so too when I first realized that I was loosing control, over stressing myself, and loosing possible customers. So let's break it down a bit more. 

Keep a Calendar 

I started out old school with this and went out and bought one of those nifty school year calendars and sat down with some different colored pens. In the first month I wrote out my class names each in a different color, along with "work" and "social" each in their own colors. I then set out and wrote in my schedule. This was very handy. Every class was clearly labeled at the proper hour on the proper day in the proper color, along with my work schedule. The book came with me to classes and to work and I would mark down (in the proper color) any assignments that were due on the due date. It looked lovely, and was very orderly, but I soon realized that I never looked at the book and was instead always looking at my google calender. So I took it there and it ended up looking something like this:

Now that I had all of those obligations listed out, I could fill in time to work on costumes, and I do schedule this out along with admin time for things like posting on Etsy, Facebook updates, Twitter feeds, and of course Blog entries. Seeing everything written out this way helps me to keep from overlapping things. The weekly view makes this even easier to see. 

So I can be sure that I don't schedule an appointment with my doctor to when I have to be at work, which is 1.5 hours from his office; or I don't schedule a fitting when I'm supposed to be in class.

But as the costumes are done mostly in my home, and there is home work both for school and the job sometimes, and I do need some down time, how does one stay focused on the task at hand?

Wear Different "Hats" for Different Jobs

What does this mean? Well, pretty much what it says. I'm the type of person that does better when I'm in a very structured environment. The problem with this is that with being self employed, I have to set the structure and hold myself accountable. I was having trouble separating my "me time"  from my "sewing wench time" at home, but I noticed that when I was at the job, I didn't have a problem focusing on my work there and nothing else. The solution was to make a uniform for the sewing wench.

It doesn't have to be anything fancy. I was in need of something to keep my scissors, chalk pencles, fusible-web, seam ripper, measuring tape, and other tools close at hand as I move about my work space and came across this apron.

This lovely apron may not look like it has any pockets, but it actually has three very large ones. The artist fussy cut the fabric to make match perfectly and then hand stitched the entire thing. If you would like more information on her, please contact me and I can put you in touch. She's not in social media yet.

Notice I'm rocking my pjs under it? It doesn't mater what I wear under the apron, but when the apron is on, I"m in "sewing wench mode". When I want to take a break, I take the apron off.  For school work I have a pair of jeans that I wear, and for the off time that I have job home work I have a hair tie. These are all very little things, but they help me remember "hey, I have a job to do" and when it's time to move to another task, I take that uniform off. 

And switching time brings me to the next point. 

Keep Track of Time

Sometimes this is the hardest thing for the self employed. Not only keeping track of the time you spend working, but paying yourself for that time. No one likes to work for free, but how do you know what to pay yourself if you don't keep track of how many hours you work?

Again, I started this old school style with pen and a weekly calender. This calendar has a magnet on the back so I stuck it to my door. When I started "wench work" I punched in buy writing down the time under the right day and punched out for lunch and other breaks. I also made notes of what I worked on and tallied the hours at the end of the week. (This also helped me price items as I knew my time put into a project and my hourly rate but we'll talk about that in another post.)

 But being the tech loving person I am, I soon looked for a digital tracker.

HoursTracker for iPhone is what I settled on. There is both a free version and a paid version, and the free one is enough for me at the moment. The spiffy thing about this app is that you can set your hourly rate, and it will figure how much money you are due at the end of a period. You can also set different rates for different jobs, put in your entries manually or clock in and out (as I do), set over time rate daily or weekly, round up features and it will even let you email the reports to yourself or anyone else. This really is a handy little app and it can sit right beside me while I work, so I look over, punch out and I'm off.  And off time is the final point I will talk about.

Schedule Time for Yourself

This is probably one of the most important parts in this blog post. At first I figured "oh, I'm doing something I love to do, who needs time off?" but I soon realized all work and no play....well doesn't make one very happy and can lead to dreading something that you normally love. So I started scheduling "me" time. Now this isn't the time you spend at Sunday brunch with Mom, or Billy's hockey practice, or even family movie night, this is time just for you to do whatever you like to do. Now for me this is often the time I take to make myself a new corset or outfit of some sort, but it can also be video game time or an unplanned girl's night out (by unplanned I mean not a routine thing, not something that you do every month, that falls under "social obligation" even if it is fun). Again, it doesn't have to be a big huge event, and you can be a bit flexible with it, but make sure you schedule at least one hour a day (average over a week) for you. And sleep doesn't count either!

These things have helped me from going completely mental while trying to balance a heavy load. We all have obligations of many kinds and sometimes we just have to sit and make it work. One of my favorite quotes is:

"He who fails to plan is planning to fail" ~ Winston Churchill

I've kept that to heart, and it really is true. A little time invested in a plan will save so many headaches. 

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