My productivity tip? Hit the pause button.

pause-button_loresHi friend,

I originally wrote this piece for my September Newsletter and got very positive feedbacks.  So I wanted to share this with you, my awesome blog reader, with some added contents!  Enjoy!

It’s already mid-September and is kind of crazy that more than one month has passed since I quit my day job!  It totally doesn’t feel like it.

I thought not having a regular routine would make my days feel a lot longer, but nope.  In fact, they feel a lot shorter than when I was juggling a day job and art.  Which is an interesting phenomenon.  Is it because I’m having fun??  Maybe.

I feel busier than ever.  My calendar is filled with back-to-back tasks.  Some days, I can only accomplish one of those to-dos and feel bad.  Days and weeks pass by, and I wonder where all of my “extra” time has gone?

Although I’m excited and motivated every day, to be completely honest, I’ve been pretty overwhelmed, too.

I dreamed of becoming a full-time artist for a long time.  And now that I finally have the life I wanted so much, I want to make everything I do count towards my success.  I push myself every day to accomplish as much as I can.  And then only a few weeks into my new artist life, I started noticing signs of burnout.

It was a day after a craft show in August. I felt so exhausted physically and mentally.  My body was aching from carrying my show supplies, too.  I didn’t want to do or think about anything.  I didn’t care about anything.  I was running on empty.

But, wait a minute.  I can’t be burned out.  I’m living my dream!  Right?

I was confused and frustrated.  Am I not cut out for this?  Do I not have what it takes to have a successful business?  Why would following a passion make me burn out?

What do I do when I feel overwhelmed and lost?  Well, I decided to follow my own advice: slow down and be kind to yourself. 

So I hit the pause button.  

Let’s think about this.  I left my day job, where I created my community and my identity for the last 14+ years, only a month ago.  It’s one of the biggest life transitions I’ve ever experienced.  No matter how exciting it is, it is also massively stressful.  Working on my business and making art non-stop, though exhilarating, would of course result in burnout if I don’t take care of myself intentionally.

I realized putting in a safeguard from burnout is probably one of the best things I could do for my long-term success.

So here are things I’ve been doing to take care of myself and be productive.  As you can see, these are small things you can incorporate into your daily life, too, if you’re looking for different tools to try!

  • I try not to multi-task.  Instead, I try to tackle one thing at a time in a very focused way.  My focused time looks like this: turning my cell phone on airplane mode, setting an alarm (anywhere between 30 minutes to one hour depending on how I’m feeling and what I’m working on), closing social media and email tabs on my browser, and letting my husband/office mate know that I’m not available (we share our home office when he’s not traveling for work).  Then I’ll just start working on one task on my agenda.  I might work on a blog post.  I might work on a new art piece.  Until the alarm goes off, I’m not checking my email or social media.  Or talk to anyone (ok, occasionally I pet my kitty if he insists).  When the alarm goes off, if I’m at a good stopping point, I’ll stop and take a break (e.g. get up and stretch, grab snacks, check my social media, email etc.).  If I’m on a roll, I’ll just keep working on it until I’m done or at a good stopping point.  After taking a break, I repeat the process to continue working on the same project or work on something else.  This method helps me avoid wasting my mental energy from switching from one thing to another.  My ability to focus has improved by following this process, and sometimes I can go for a couple of hours without taking a break!
  • I try to eat healthy meals rich with protein and good fats.  Fortunately, I never forget to eat 🙂  I get hungry every few hours and am not functional if I’m hungry.  As hard as it is, I try to minimize my sugar intake to maintain stable energy level throughout the day.  It’s easier said than done, though, because I LOVE chocolate.  I allow myself to have small amount of sugar after having a meal.  My go-to snacks lately are: pistachios, dark-dark chocolate with some coconut butter (meet Coconut Manna, my favorite coconut butter), and LÄRABAR ÜBER™!
  • I don’t check my email after dinner.  When I had a day job, my boundaries were a lot clearer because my “work” email was not on my phone.  I wouldn’t know if people had questions or needed something from me on my off days unless I go out of my way to check it from home (which I hardly ever did.)  Now things are different because my “work” and personal email come to the same inbox.  Yes, I could just read it and not respond until next business day, but it would still take up mental space if I knew those emails were waiting for me.
  • I try to go to bed by 10pm so I can get up rested and early the next morning.  I usually get up between 6 and 6:30am and go to the gym or start my day early.  It’s a nice feeling to get a couple of things done before lunch.  I have more mental energy in the morning as well and feel more ready to tackle things I don’t like, like doing my finances, in the morning rather than later in the day.  7 to 8 hour sleep is my ideal.
  • No screen time one hour before bed.  I’ve read several articles that suggest blue light from your electric devices keep your brains from producing sleepy hormone called melatonin.  My naturopath once suggested no screen time two hours before bedtime, but I find one hour to be more do-able.  It helps clam my mind and makes the transition to bedtime easier.
  • No work on Sundays.  It didn’t help that my husband was away for work most of August.  I could’ve literally kept working during all of my waking hours if I wanted to.  But it’s not healthy for me or for our relationship if I focus on my business all the time.  As a person who thrive in structure, I decided to take at least one day off per week.  Sunday seems the most convenient as the rest of the world takes the day off too, but you can designate any other days that work for you and your family.  If you don’t need structure as much as I do, taking a few hours off here and there may work although your brain still has to work on switching from work to non-work mode, and you might not get as much rest that way.  And, of course, schedule your day off on your calendar.  Otherwise, you’ll just find more things to do and keep working!

I’m not perfect and don’t always follow my own advice, but it’s been helping me feel more spacious and less drained.

It’s a fact: there will always be things to do, and you can’t always get to everything.  My learning is to be OK with not getting everything done and knowing it’s going to be fine.

Although it may feel counter-intuitive, by setting boundaries around how much I “work,” I’ve become more productive and happy.  My dream life feels more sustainable now!

As we move into the new seasons, there will be more things to do and transitions to manage.  Put your self-care plan in place before things get too stressful.  Just like everything else, daily practice will help you form a habit!  Your future self will thank you later 🙂

Thank you for hanging out with me and looking forward to seeing you next week!

xoxo Yuko

p.s. If you’re in Seattle next Saturday, September 19th, come by the Summer Parkways Event in Ballard!  I will be joining their craft fair from 10am to 6 pm.

 

yuko_flowers

3 thoughts on “My productivity tip? Hit the pause button.

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