journal

Crafty Business :: Setting Up the Day

DSC_0013 Having your own home based business has many challenges to it and, unfortunately there is no perfect solution to any issue. Every home situation is it’s own environment and has its own dynamic. And each home business owner has their own experiences and tendencies – both good and bad. I hope that by drawing on my own experiences I will be able to help you figure out a solution that makes your home based business a success.

Before we get into today’s topic of setting a work day, I just want to be very clear that I’m not an expert. I’m not even successful at some the topics I will be covering. In fact, I’m writing about them because they ARE a struggle for me. But I’m great at research and I will tell you my story and point you in the right direction for getting your home business on track.

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It’s been very hard for me to make sure I have all my deadlines covered, classes prepped, and shops updated. I’m slowing getting better about it and I feel like I finally have things under control. I had a few false starts over the last month and the cutting of the finger really threw me, but I think I’ve perfected my plan because of those “learning experiences”.

A lot of my issues are about time management when I have “the whole day to work on this, I’ll get it done no problem”. And it seems as if there are no set tasks or times for the most part. I don’t have to go to bed or get up at any particular time. Or eat at any particular time. I’m always home, so I can even clean and do laundry any time. No one is telling me I have to do X Y and Z.

I’ve realized over the past 2 months that this has lead to projects taking much longer than they should. I always feel like I have “so much!” to do. And yet never seem to get ahead. I have to say, when I cut my finger, I couldn’t do much and so I read a whole lot on this topic. And that helped me learn from my previous set backs. Last week was really great, I got everything done I planned out – even with a surprise birthday party to plan and attend. And you know what? I actually took Sunday off and it was okay. And I wasn’t behind today. In fact. I was right on track.

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The first thing I did was take note of when my productive times are. What makes me feel like I’ve done a good job getting things done? What makes me feel anxious and like I haven’t gotten enough done even when I have? These questions are all very personal and I can’t begin to tell you what will work best for you. But for me, I know exactly the answers.

What makes me feel like I’ve done a good job getting things done?
1. Getting up by 10am – seriously, if I sleep in past 10 I feel like crap the rest of the day.
2. Having orders packed up and emails replied to first thing in the morning.
3. Finishing the post for Craft Leftovers by the early afternoon (today I felt okay about posting later because I filled in for someone at the chocolate shop)
4. Working a little bit on etsy stuff each day.
5. Regularly submitting new proposals and working on commissioned articles each day.
6. Working in the studio each day – whether it’s making kits, painting, or doing drawings for clm, it’s important to have creative time each and every day.

What makes me feel anxious and like I haven’t gotten enough done even when I have?
1. Waking up late – I start off the day feeling “behind”.
2. Having emails that I need to reply to looming over my head all day.
3. Waiting until the evening to start work on blog posts – it may not even be logical, but that’s the way I feel about it.
4. Not having the shop up to date – a back log of kits made with no pictures taken, or lots of yarn laying around that’s not yet in the shop – it won’t sell if no one knows it exists, haha.
5. Not having any proposals out there waiting for responses.
6. Not having enough time to work in the studio.

I know, these answers are pretty much the same with a Not in front of the ones that make me feel anxious, but once I nailed them down it was much easier to set up a schedule.

I felt like a lot of things would get pushed to the side and before I knew it a month had passed since the last time I listed something new in the shop, updated my accounting, or sent out proposals.

The next scheduling issue was my daily productivity cycle:

For me I’m most productive right in the morning – before noon really. I feel more motivated to do things I’ve been putting off for awhile. In the afternoon I tend to want to do something mindless – especially after 2pm. And then after dinner I kick into high gear creative mode. Hence all the late night posts I was doing for quite some time.

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I made a list of all the things I needed to do each and every day, no matter what:
1. reply to all emails.
2. pack up orders and set out for the mail man (I’ve always been really good about this).
3. exercise (oh yes, this is key to each and every day, but more on that in a different post).
4. Post on Craft Leftovers.
5. Work on etsy shop stuff.
6. Work on any commissions in progress.
7. Prepare for any upcoming classes.
8. Work on CLM for the upcoming month.

And then I made a list of things that I wanted to work in every week, but that tended to get lost in the mix of the daily stuff.
1. Book Keeping – accounting, taxes, etc.
2. Marketing/Advertising – working on graphics for ads (I have an ad for green prairie fibers on ravelry) or business cards or fliers around town for classes and such.
3. New work proposals – finding new places to propose work, working on proposals, grant writing, anything like that.
4. Research and Development – researching possible topics of interest to either write about or make works about – right now I’m researching donuts shops and food chain disconnection for a new series of paintings.
5. Studio Play Time. Once a week a big chunk of time to do whatever I want in the studio – this is so important because it usually leads to many new ideas and learning of new skills.

I decided that if I really feel best getting up before 10am that’s what I should do. I also decided that I want to start working 9 hour days instead of just randomly working all day from the time I stumble out of bed to the time I stumble back in again. It was important to me to have “work time” and “home time” since they share the same space – that is a whole huge topic too and will be an upcoming post.

I know a lot of people work best on something like 9-5, but for me, I just don’t function that way. My peak times of operation are from 10-3 and 8-11! I know, it’s weird, but it’s just the way I am. And while I worked at old navy my manager once told me that people are the most productive when working 3-4 hour shifts, but after 5 hours they tend to drop in productivity. I’ve decided to apply that principle to myself.

Here is what I came up with:
9-10am :Wake up and Breakfast: – things like showering, breakfast, coffee, picking up around the apartment, reading a book, yoga, meditation. That all falls into before 10, if I want to do a bunch of those things, I need to get up earlier.
10am :: Answer all emails and pack up orders. After typing for an hour I get a little stir crazy and Jason usually starts his day around 11am so I break for:
11am :: workout – our free weight are in the bedroom so I can’t work out until Jason wakes up anyway.
12am :: lunch – I need the protein after the work out and usually am getting pretty hungry by now.
1pm :: Craft Leftovers post – after lunch I really start feeling like getting down to work. I’m comfortable, I’m full, I feel good. The perfect time to write and make and document and post.
3pm :: Daily work – I keep this open to work in whatever order I want to but I spend 1 hour on each of the following things: etsy, clm, commissions/patterns/classes (depending on what’s due when). It’s kind of mindless plugging away at it type of things – like copying notes, doing illustrations, listing new things in the shops.
6pm :: Dinner – Jason is trying to come home for dinner and this time seems to work well for both of us and then we clean up for a bit together after wards (usually – sometimes we play xbox together instead, haha).
7pm :: Finish up any daily work projects.
8pm to 11pm:: Weekly task :: Book Keeping (monday), new proposals (tuesday), marketing (wednesday), research (thursday), studio play (friday).

And then from 11pm to 1am I do whatever I want – read, clean, yoga, paint, weave, go out to a local pub. Whatever I feel like. And then I make sure to get to bed by 1:30am.

I use iCal and block out each section of time as “general studio” or “home”. iCal (on Macs) is a great program for setting up a schedule and keeping track of deadlines. The night before I close up shop I make a To Do list for each block of time. Like today’s Daily to do list was:
Maker’s Fair Application
Add Yarn to Green Prairie Fibers
Type up Market Bag Pattern
Outline May CLM

And then I made a list of emails to send out/reply to in my “email/pack orders section”.

I’ve found that if I stick to this it’s flexible enough to allow me to get everything done I need to, only work 9 hours a day AND take the weekend off (except when I have a workshop on a Saturday or Sunday) and that in and of itself is amazing! And wonderful! It’s kind of like a second shift schedule really. Like 2-11pm pretty much (except the hour block for emails and orders before noon).

There are so many reasons why having a schedule is a good idea even if you don’t “Have” to have one. For me it helps me to keep work and home separate. It helps me to make sure that I get done everything I need to and not fall behind on deadlines. And it helps me feel better health wise – let’s face it, as humans a regular sleeping and eating pattern is a great idea. There is a lot of anxiety involved in running your own business and if I make sure to get these things done each week I feel much more secure. And once I finish what I need to for the day, I feel good “going home” and relaxing before going to bed.

So to recap:
++Find what makes you feel productive
++Find what makes you have anxiety – and how to prevent that
++What are your peak productivity hours
++Keep your sleep and meals regular
++Make sure to have a day or two off every week
++Take breaks every few hours (or even after each project is finished)
++Keep it flexible but regulated
++Make sure to get all your short term (daily) and long term (weekly/monthly) tasks accounted for in your schedule
++Don’t get discouraged if it takes a few times to find the right schedule for you (and your family)

I will most likely revisit this topic and let you know how it’s going – if I’m actually able to stick to a schedule or any new things I’ve learned that might help out.

Here are some general articles on having a home based business:

Top Tips for Working at Home
Working From Home: The Readers Respond
Advice for Setting up a Home Office – Group Interview
Some Thoughts on Working from Home – One Year Later
The Habit of Lateness

What works best for your daily schedule? How did you figure out what worked best? What are your favorite articles that you have read that apply to this topic? Leave comments! I would love to get your feedback on this!

Have a great night and happy crafting!
Kristin

11 thoughts on “Crafty Business :: Setting Up the Day

  1. Hi Kristin ~
    This is good stuff even when your office/studio is outside the house. I’m chronically tardy (have been all my life). My Dad lies to me, e.g. Easter dinner will be served at Noon, but really its at 1 pm. My Mom is chronically tardy too, e.g. Easter dinner will be served at Noon, but really its at 3 pm. When my Mom does it to me, it makes me CRAZY! On the days I get to work before 8 am (very rare!) I get SOOOOO much done. Thanks for the profound insights and suggestions.
    Michelle E.

  2. Thanks! March has been “get organized” month for me…and this fits in perfectly.

    I also am curious about what you’re doing in the photo at the top with the strips of paper?

  3. Kristin, this is stellar advice for anyone who is self-employed and most who are not. :) Thanks especially for sharing the process you used to come up with your ideal schedule. I think that’s where most people get lost! “Where to start?!”

  4. Kristin,

    Bravo! Excellent information and I personally will be putting it to use starting tomorrow. Thanks!

    Leslie

  5. *sigh* I wonder if I could do this. Ive had it up to here *holds hand well above her head* with my job

  6. Very inspiring and well-thought out! Your productivity peak times sound very similar to mine, actually.

    Right now I’m trying to juggle a 40 hr work week day job with a freelance business that can eat up anywhere from 1 to 40 hours a week, and the irregularity of the freelance waves is what’s driving me bonkers. The aftershock from the times when all I do is work make me just want to sit on the couch for a week straight and just drool…so not productive!

  7. Kristin this is a fabulous post! I love reading about how other people find their own best productivity and how they achieve their daily goals.

    I constantly struggle with completing my daily goals and frittering from one thing to another, you post has made me revisit what I need to do to just sit down and get it done rather than procrastinating!

  8. I can’t begin to tell you how helpful this post is! I’m in that weird in-between stage of “is it a hobby or a business?” and when you’re in that mode doing something as concrete as scheduling a whole day seems almost impossible.

    I’m still figuring out my productivity cycle: I’m a night owl who’s also a huge fan of naps, so I end up getting up at 9am, sleeping from 11am to 1 or 2pm, and staying up ’till 2am. This works well for me and my creativity, but my 9-5 family members aren’t huge fans of this schedule.

    My solution is to slowly try to shift my sleep patterns to get more on track with theirs, so every night I try to go to bed at the same time or at least 15 minutes earlier than the night before. Not a huge difference I know, but I figure slow but steady will (hopefully!) win the race.

  9. This is fab – Personally, I’ve been on the FLYlady scheme since 2002. I find that if you can cut through the (occasionally strange) veneer, there’s some very sound principals. Don’t know how I can make this work for me though – I’ve eight jobs on my board to clear – six were charitable jobs that were donated in good faith, but have been exploited, so on top of all the usual procrastination/OCDness/Life happening, it’s REALLY difficult to get motivated. It’s even worse with health problems. – I’m going to try this though – I want to be the woman you’re describing – I’d like to get my world functioning again.

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