Hello! I hope you’re enjoying a nice Memorial Day weekend!
I’m not doing anything special… 😀 Since I quit my regular job almost 2 yeas ago (!!), I don’t keep track of holidays very much any more, except for the big winter holidays. Dave is out of town this weekend (he comes home later tonight, thou) so I’m just enjoying peace and quiet.
Speaking of peace and quiet (notice my smooth segue? :D), I was on my mini sabbatical a couple of weeks ago.
(If you don’t know what my mini sabbaticals are, I’ve been taking every 7th week off since October 2015 to rest and recharge. You can read more about it here.)
I’d been feeling tired, unmotivated, and low-energy for a couple of weeks leading up to it and knew I really needed that time off.
I had a couple of work stuff and chores to take care of but didn’t plan too much else. Had dinner with a couple of friends but otherwise enjoyed my alone time, which is super important for an introvert like me! (Dave was out of town for work for most of the week.)
On Tuesday, I went to my pottery class. I had a few underglazed mugs that came out of the kiln so I glazed them.
I find glazing (putting the shiny coat once it’s fired once) to be the hardest part! I tend to lay it on too thick, I guess, and it tends to crack once it’s fired…:( I hope these mugs will turn out OK. (BTW, I talked about the joys and struggles of being a beginner on this blog post!)
On Thursday afternoon I block printed! My pottery instructor asked me to make a studio apron for her, so I’d been designing a new pottery-themed art for it.
It was more complicated than my usual design, and I loved how it came out! And she loved the apron 🙂
On Saturday, I vended at the Bastyr University Herb & Food Fair! We had such a gorgeous weather and had a great turnout!
Shows are a lot of work, but most of the time it’s worth it! This fair had a nice laid-back vibe, and the shoppers were super nice 🙂
And lots of cute dogs, too!! <3<3<3
The show was more successful than I expected, which is always a plus 🙂
Although my sabbatical was a bit on a busy side, I was so energized and ready to go by the time Monday rolled around. I was so focused and productive.
It confirmed my belief again that taking a regular time off isn’t a luxury for me or my business – it’s a requirement for my success and happiness!
If you’re curious about how I spend my sabbatical weeks, you can read my past sabbatical blog posts here!
I can’t believe my next mini sabbatical week is coming up! It’s been 6 weeks already?? Time sure flies.
I’m actually taking an extended sabbatical this time and going to a 10-day silent meditation retreat.
I’ll be gone from June 1 through 12.
I went to my first silent meditation retreat about 3 years ago, and it totally changed my life! It was so enriching and deeply healing. I remember coming out of it feeling so content and happy. Like I didn’t have any emotional or physical knots anywhere.
As the name of the retreat suggests, you don’t talk to anyone for 10 days and either meditate or learn how to meditate for a good chunk of the day from 4am to 9pm .
(You can see my experience from the last meditation retreat in this post if you’re interested. You can also learn more about this particular meditation retreat here.)
I signed up for this retreat earlier this year. I didn’t know why exactly, but I felt ready for it. Last time I went was the spring before I got married. It was also the time when I was contemplating cutting back my hours at my day job so I could dedicate more time and energy into art.
I had another huge life change last summer when I quit my day job cold turkey and felt I needed to pause again to reflect on things that have happened since then.
To be honest, I’ve been feeling pretty anxious about it. I’m nervous about not working for so many days. In fact I’ve thought about postponing it more than once. It’s not like I have employees who can run the show while I’m gone. When I’m gone, my business needs to be on hold, too.
But I figured there is never a “good” time to take off anyway.
When you are an entrepreneur, there is always things to do. Your to-do list never ends. You could easily end up working ridiculous hours, never taking a day off, and burn out eventually if you’re not careful.
I’ve talked to Dave about my concerns, and he reminded me how great I felt last time I went to the retreat. He really noticed I came home a different (i.e. better) person then!
Another friend I talked to pointed out to me that this time of reflection will help me recharge my creative battery, too. So while I’m not able to “work” per-se during the retreat, I’m still doing something positive to grow my creative business.
So I’m giving myself a permission to go and enjoy my time to just sit quietly.
The hardest part of silent meditation for me is not the no-talking part.
I actually really enjoy that part. I’m a proud introvert, and it’s nice that even if you’re surrounded by strangers, you’re not expected to make a small talk with anyone 😀 Not talking to anyone for 10 days while having no responsibility was pretty amazing!
The toughest part was being alone with the endless thoughts that came up.
It was the dark and angry thoughts that upset me the most. I was surprised I had so much anger inside me for so long. And it was a constant practice of noticing those thoughts, observing them without a judgement, and letting go of them. Over and over.
It seemed like my mind never shut up! And without other noises distracting me, the voice in my head grew louder. What a fascinating experience it was!
I’d also come up with the best ideas while I was meditating. But you’re not supposed to write down anything either, so that was another tough part.
You learn to let go of things. Whether it’s good or bad.
You’re also not allowed to draw or exercise during the retreat. I know that will definitely be a challenge for me!
But like the last time, I’m trying not to have a lot of expectations. I will experience what I’m supposed to and gain (or not gain) whatever comes out of it. Maybe I’ll have a totally awesome experience again. And maybe I won’t. And that’s OK, too.
I’ll be completely offline between June 1 and 12. That means there will be two weeks without any new blog posts! If you comment or send me any questions, I won’t be able to answer them until after I come back.
I can’t wait to tell you all about it when I come back! Take care until then ❤
p.s. If you wanted your Father’s Day card in time, order it tomorrow, Monday, May 30, for timely shipping 🙂
It’s a time when I intentionally slow down and focus on things I don’t get to normally. I might work on fun creative projects for myself or reflect on my business goals and processes during my mini sabbaticals.
You can see a couple of my past sabbatical report backs here and here by the way.
What’s great about taking a regular time-off is I can schedule work in advance around it, and it motivates me to hustle and stay productive when I’m “on.”
Because I work very hard on weeks between my mini sabbaticals, I usually enjoy my time off relatively guilt-free.
By the time my 7th week rolls around, I’m SO ready. I can definitely feel the burn and feel my time off is well deserved.
But what about the time when I’m forced to slow down outside of my scheduled time off?
Life happens. You try your best to “schedule” things and stick to them, but it doesn’t always happen according to your plan.
I had to face this during February and March of this year when I suffered a stomach ulcer. And it really forced me to slow down and take care of myself
It didn’t come easy. I felt so guilty slowing down even though I was in a lot of pain.
Before I knew I had an ulcer, I just thought I had an upset stomach for some reason. I’d been on a Candida diet for several weeks prior and just started adding some foods back in my diet again. So I thought it was a natural reaction to the diet change and tried to “wait and see” if it got better on its own.
Weeks passed by, and it got worse.
I couldn’t eat very much and was feeling weak. I was depressed because I couldn’t eat (and you know how much I LOVE to eat!) and was afraid to eat because the pain would come after eating. I wasn’t sleeping well due to the pain or the fear of pain.
I was stressed out and scared. Desperate for information, I looked it up on the internet, and it tells you all kinds of potential causes for your symptoms, including cancer…(which I believed wasn’t the case based on other symptoms but still scary.)
Our insurance coverage (we’re on Obama care) is less than awesome, so the potential medical cost would stress me out, too.
I felt bad and guilty laying around on the couch during the work hours.
I thought, my eyes and hands still work, so I should be able to do work.
If I “took it slow” outside of my scheduled time off, I won’t be able to achieve my goals, will I? Nobody else can do what I do for me. And, I don’t have a paid sick leave any more!!
I’d press on even if I was in a lot of pain. I’d try to stick to my regular routine as much as possible.
I didn’t want to admit to myself that I needed to course correct because I didn’t think I could afford to.
Eventually, I saw my naturopath and got the diagnosis. She put me on a treatment plan, and I gradually started feeling better.
Putting a name to what I was experiencing helped shift my mindset. It gave me a permission to focus on healing.
When I thought I was just having a random stomachache, I was so annoyed and tried to ignore it.
But as soon as I learned the official diagnosis, it suddenly made it OK for me to focus on feeling better. It made my experience somehow more real and serious.
Like, finally I had a legitimate reason to slow down.
It’s weird I needed someone with an authority to tell me what I was experiencing was a real thing, and that I didn’t need to feel guilty about slowing down. But apparently, I did.
My work and goals were important, but it wasn’t worth sacrificing my health for.
I needed to prioritize getting better, and everything else needed to take a back seat.
So whenever the pain would come on, I didn’t even bother to get any work done. I simply stopped resisting. I just laid on the couch and did things to help ease the pain (heat pad, massage, tea etc.) for as long as I needed.
I also learned to use the time between my bouts of stomach pain to focus on my work. I had a shorter amount of time to work, so it naturally helped me to stay motivated and productive.
Fortunately, I responded to the treatment really well and have been feeling well since April! Thank goodness for that!
Nothing makes me more grateful for my health than having been ill.
You can schedule your sabbaticals, but you can’t schedule when you get sick.
When you get sick and your body is screaming for help, don’t resist it. Give yourself permission to tend to your needs. If you have a hard time doing that, like I do, let someone else tell you it’s OK.
And when you slow down to take care of yourself, stop feeling guilty about it. Guilt does not serve anyone, and it certainly doesn’t help you heal faster 🙂
In the past, I tried to be somewhat productive during my sabbaticals wether it’s learning something new or getting a project done. But this time, I was determined to just do whatever I felt like doing, whenever I wanted to.
I had no agendas or goals. I just wanted to relax and unwind and that’s exactly what I did 🙂
Here is the report back from my super relaxing week off:
1. I read a bunch!
My husband Dave got me a Kindle for my birthday in January. I’d never had an e-reader before and wasn’t sure how I’d like reading on a device vs. paper books.
Well, it turns out, I LOVED it.
I love being able to get a bunch of books for free from a local library and also buy Japanese e-books through Amazon Japan for much cheaper (and quicker!).
Normally, I get to read like 15 minutes before I go to bed (if I’m lucky!) but during my sabbatical week, I just read whenever I wanted for as long as I wanted.
I still got up fairly early every morning, but instead of writing, I just read on the couch. It was such a luxury to spend hours reading during the day!
I also received an advance copy of Lisa Congdon’s The Joy of Swimmingthe other day and started diving in (pun intended!) during my sabbatical week.
Lisa is one of the artists I admire so very much, and I’ve been fortunate enough to be her friend on the internet. And I’m SO honored to be contributing a book review for this upcoming book!
I’ll write more about this beautifully illustrated book of hers in the coming weeks. But let me tell you it’s so delightful and inspiring ❤ The book will be released on April 17, and you can preorder it now here!
2. Cooking & Eating
You know food is my passion. I’m more passionate about eating than cooking 😀 but in order for me to eat good food, I’m often exploring different ways to cook with fresh, nutritional ingredients.
Growing up in Japan, I had a close relationship with fermented/cultured foods. Maybe it’s wired in my DNA 🙂 but I love the process of making fermented foods very much. Fermented foods are full of flavors and good probiotics that help your digestive functions.
I’ve been making yogurt, bread, fermented nut/seed spread, miso, pickled vegetables etc. for quite some time. Homemade fermented foods taste a lot better than the store-bought ones, and I feel good knowing exactly what’s in it and how it was made.
Yes you do need to put in some prep work, but after that, you just let them be and let the nature work its magic!
I feel like a little kid on a Christmas day every time I open up a crock or jar of fermented foods for the first time. It’s not always successful but after you’ve done it a couple of times, you’ll get a hang of it. I love how everything turns out slightly differently every time even if you follow the same recipe.
Anyway, I made the vegetarian kimchi above with Chinese cabbage, daikon radish, and carrots, and it turned out yummy!
I was also able to take extra time to prepare yummy breakfast like this in the morning during my time off.
Funny thing is, I grew up in a household where we ate more western style breakfast (like toast and eggs) but I’ve been getting into eating more traditional Japanese food for breakfast. It’s nice to switch things around depending on my mood 🙂
3. Fun & Unproductive Things to Refuel
The rest of the week, I did things just for fun 🙂
I had a very nice (and overdue) facial at Luminous Skincare Studio using the gift certificate Dave gave me for our anniversary, had tea with friends, had a night out with Dave to watch Academy nominated animated shorts and just enjoyed each other’s company more 🙂
And of course, this guy really enjoyed extended lap time with his mama ❤
Overall, It was soooooo relaxing and exactly what I needed! I’ve said this before and will say it again – Deciding to take every 7th week off was the best thing I’ve done for myself and my creative business!
My short answer: it comes from my deep desire to make my art business successful. I daydreamed about becoming a full-time artist for so long, and once I had the opportunity I wanted it to work out so badly. I hate letting myself down. And since I’m just a one-woman show right now, if I don’t hustle, it won’t happen. And I’d be a very sad person if I failed!
Even though I had a great job, it’s no surprise my heart wasn’t in it 100%. I was sad that I wasn’t following my creative passion all the time. I was frustrated that I couldn’t devote more time and energy into my art business. I had this yearning to have my life centered around creativity, and my reality wasn’t matching my vision.
When I quit my day job last summer, my reality finally matched my vision. And the scary thing was, I didn’t have any more excuse for how slow my business was growing. There was no “oh, well I have a day job and don’t have time to do my art and make my business happen!” It was time to hustle. It was time to do what I said I wanted to do for a long time. People around me seemed to think I could do it, and I had to prove to myself I could do it, too.
It’ll have been 6 months since I quit my day job when this post comes out, and the best thing about running my own show is actually not the fact I have more time to make art (because actually, I do a lot of other stuff to run the business than making art…), but it’s the fact I get to make decisions about my work and do what I love on my own terms. It also means if I slack off, it’ll take me longer to achieve my goals or not at all.
Sure it can be hard and stressful, and there are many annoying things about being your own boss. But it’s also extremely fulfilling. I just love it and want to protect it as much as I can!
With that said, I have other tools to keep me motivated and disciplined for the long run. Hope you’ll find them helpful!
1. Find your “why”
When I work for a goal, like working out regularly and sticking to a healthy eating habit, I need to have a very clear purpose. If I don’t understand why I’m doing something, I tend to be less engaged with the process, and it usually won’t last.
So when I quit my day job last summer, I spent half a day creating my artist manifesto. I went through a whole process to clarify why it’s important for me to have art and creativity as a center piece of my life. It’s a declaration of how I want to be in the world. You can peek into my process here.
My artist manifesto is put up on the wall by my desk, and every time I look at it, I feel encouraged and centered.
2. Seanwes podcast
I get SO much motivation about creativity and business from a handlettering artist/entrepreneur, Sean McCabe’s contents (especially his podcasts and YouTube channel). When I feel like slacking off, I listen to his podcast and get fired up immediately. You must check out his work if you’re a creative entrepreneur!
This 2-minute video always gives me the motivation boost! Show up every day for two years.
3. Public Commitment
When I’m working on something big or new, I like to let the public (i.e. social media & blog) know that I’m doing it and when. It worked really well when I worked on my 365 Day Happiness Project from 2014-2015. Even though my audience probably isn’t tracking what I’m doing as closely as I am, it gives me the extra motivation to say it out loud to the people who support my work.
4. Track your progress
I like to write down what I’ve accomplished every day. For most days, it’s small things like, writing a blog, sketching ideas for new work, or shipping my Etsy orders etc. But I’m no longer saying “What did I do today?” and actually see how productive I’ve been. And if I hadn’t been productive, I could review the day to see where I got stuck.
What’s great about tracking your progress, ideally every day, is that you can see how your everyday small accomplishments are helping you achieve your big goals. What you do every day, though it might seem unimportant, counts.
I hate doing finances. I just find no joy in the bookkeeping activity! But I make myself do my finances at the beginning of each month. I usually have a pretty good idea about how much revenue I had the previous month, but it’s nice to see the actual numbers especially if it’s more than what you thought! And it makes the year-end tax preparation a lot easier…
I also started tracking my social media following monthly a few months ago. I don’t want to put too much weight on how many people follow me on social media, but it’s good to know that my audience is growing 🙂
5. Accountability Partner
I have a few accountability partners I meet on a monthly basis. Having a one-on-one accountability and a dedicated time and space to talk about your goals and challenges is very helpful. It’s like when I know we have a visitor, we do a better job of cleaning our house. When I know I’m going to have my accountability meetings, I’ll be extra motivated to get stuff done. I wrote my experience with my accountability partners here and here if you’re interested!
6. Set a deadline for a project (even if it’s fake!)
I’m not gonna lie – If I don’t have a deadline for a project, it will NOT get done. It’s a fact. When someone (usually a personal friend) wants me to do something for them and tell me “whenever you have time, no rush!” It just won’t happen. I need a hard deadline to get motivated!!
So when I don’t have an external deadline assigned to me, I usually set one for myself and pretend it’s the hard and fast timeline to get something done by. I often combine this with the public commitment piece for extra motivation!
For example, when I had offered to teach my block printing class and group coaching sessions this spring at a local art school, I set the dates and time for the classes first and started promoting them before I had the contents. This way I have to make it happen, and it helps me backwards plan all the steps to execute it.
7. Develop habits that set you up for a long-term success
Of course, I’m human, and if I’m on all the time, I’ll eventually burn out. I believe firmly that avoiding burn-out is one of my top priorities for my long-term success and well-being. If I lose joy in what I do or get sick because I neglect to take care of myself, all bets are off, right?
Some of the habits I’ve developed for self-care are: getting 7-8 hours of sleep every night, getting up early and do something productive first thing in the morning, workout regularly, eating a healthy diet, no social media during meals, making sure I have plenty of alone/quiet time, and taking every 7th week off to recharge.
As you can imagine, maintaining these habits are not always easy! It means you have to say no to many things you enjoy doing. But that’s the thing about habits – once you get used to doing something over and over, you’ll start to feel off-balance if you don’t do it! And even if you slip every once in a while, it’ll be a lot easier to get back into it. If you’re trying to replace some of your unhelpful habits with more helpful ones, I say go slow, focus on one thing at a time! Be patient and kind to yourself if it doesn’t happen as quickly as you want. Developing new habits takes time.
Finding your motivation isn’t easy – especially if you’ve been trying hard for a long time and haven’t seen any significant results. These tools have helped me find a motivation when I felt like crawling into a hole and forget about everything. I hope it’ll inspire you to come up with strategies that work for you!
Take care, my friend 🙂
p.s. My Creative Coaching service is officially open! Let me know if you’re a creative person needing help getting stuff done. Learn more here.
How was your week? I hope your new year is off to a good start and that you’re able to get back into the groove of things after the holidays.
It’s been almost 6 months since I quit my day job! Hooray! Boy how time flies! My next 6 months are already filling up with exciting opportunities, and I’m so grateful 🙂
I’m opening up my Creative Coaching service officially in a couple of weeks, will be guest teaching for the Journey Within e-course in March, and offering in-person Block Printing workshops and Creative Coaching group sessions in Seattle in April and May. It’ll be a hectic few months, but I’m not complaining! If you build it, they’ll come, right?
By the time this blog post comes out, I’ll have taken yet another sabbatical week! I decided to take every 7th week off to step back and recharge last fall following Seanwes‘ advice, and this is my 3rd one already! Taking a regular time off makes me anxious a little bit especially when there is so much to do, but I have no doubt my mini sabbaticals are keeping me from getting burnt out. When you’re following your passion and work for yourself, it’s so easy to just work, work, work. It’s engaging, and you want to see the results fast. But you’ll eventually get burnt out if you don’t take care of yourself. And then what?
Taking regular sabbaticals works for me because I can plan things around it in advance, and once you get in a habit of it, one week off every 7 weeks isn’t that big of a deal.
But I understand that it’s not always feasible to hit the “off” switch regularly if you don’t have the flexibility to do so. Maybe you have a day job or want to align your time off with your kids’ school schedule etc. And that’s totally fine. You just need to find a self-care strategy that works for you and your unique situation.
In the last 6 months, I’ve been developing a few daily habits that help me stay well. The daily small maintenance is helping to repair any wear and tear as it happens so I still have energy to enjoy my sabbaticals when it happens. Just like your house or a car, if you treat them crappy all the time and try to fix them all at once, it’s going to be more work and is gonna cost you more. Maybe some damages will be permanent. It’s same for your self-care. If you do a little bit of maintenance every day, you won’t need to do an overhaul down the road. It’s totally OK to prioritize it 🙂
So, on my mini sabbatical post today, I wanted to share a few daily self-care habits I’ve developed:
1) Get up early and take advantage of the quiet time.
I get up at 5:30am most of the days. On my workout day, I go to the gym first thing in the morning. On my non-workout day, I grab a glass of water and start writing. It’s usually my blog posts, or sometimes it’s my newsletter or some other contents.
You might be wondering, “Well, getting up early in the morning doesn’t sound like a self-care! Isn’t sleeping-in better?” I know. I started it as a way to be more productive. But I also noticed how quiet my mind is when I begin my day early and focus on one thing. I feel more spacious and my brain is less cluttered with noise and to-do lists.
And It feels GREAT to get my writing or workout done before 7am. You have the whole day ahead of you to work on your other tasks! This could be particularly a good habit for those who have kids or live with other people. This is sometimes the only quiet time I have all day because my husband also works from home, and once he (and our noisy parakeets) gets up, our tiny apartment is no longer a quiet oasis 😀 As an introvert, I need my alone, quiet time on a regular basis, and this is a great way to ensure I get it every day.
An important note for getting up early is, I don’t check my email or social media until after breakfast. I want my mind to be free of information clutter as much as possible during my morning quiet time. Delaying your email or social media response for a couple of hours shouldn’t be a huge problem. They can wait.
2) Go to bed early.
In order to get up early to enjoy a quiet start of the day, you need to go to bed early. This is somewhat of a new habit for me. I’ve never been a night owl but used to go to bed around 10:30 or 11, which made it harder for me to get up at 5:30 every morning.
Nowadays I try to go to bed at around 9:30pm. I just feel better having 7 to 8 hours of sleep every night. To facilitate a good night sleep, I was trying to have no screen time (i.e. no smartphone, browsing on my laptop, Netflix shows etc.) at least one hour before bed, but this early bedtime is making it a little harder. But I try to end my screen time by 9pm and transition into getting ready for bed then.
3) Don’t eat and work at the same time.
When I worked at my day job, I used to eat my lunch at my desk checking email or browsing the internet because that’s what you do on your breaks, right?
Now that I work for myself at home, I had to make more of an effort to separate work and breaks. So when I eat breakfast or lunch, I physically move away from my desk and don’t look at my email or social media while I eat. It usually takes less than half an hour for me to eat, but having that time away from the information noise and mental clutter and focusing on the food you eat is quite meditative.
That’s it! These are the 3 habits I keep every day to stay energized and well. Building a new habit is not easy. It takes time and repetition even if you don’t feel like doing it. But once it becomes a habit, it gets easier to stick to.
I do this because I need it. I need plenty of rest and nourishment to keep going. It’s not an option: it’s a necessity for my long-term well-being and success. I need alone time, good food, exercise, and sleep to function at the highest level.
Everyone needs different things to stay well. Your self-care starts with learning more about yourself! Make some time to do that this week 🙂
OK guys, I’ll come back next week and share what I’ve done during my sabbatical week!
Lately I’ve noticed saying no to potential opportunities more or be a lot more thoughtful about saying yes. I’d been trying to say no to time wasters all along, but this is money-making opportunities I’m talking about here. It’s not like I’m making a lot of money from my art yet. How can I afford to say no, then?
You’ve probably heard the advice “take any jobs you can get” especially when you’re starting out. I’ve always felt a little funny about this notion that when you’re a new at something, you should be grateful and say yes to anything no matter what. Say yes to projects or clients you don’t feel good about. Because, how else are you going to pay your bills, right?
When you compromise your values or processes to pay your bills especially if the job is closely related to your passion, it’s bound to make you feel resentful and burn out.
If you feel like you can’t afford to be choosey with the project you take on, it probably means that you need to have other ways of bringing in an income. You could do the Overlap Technique Seanwes talks about and keep a day job, or work on building up your savings so you could quit cold-turkey and don’t have to worry about paying your bills while you pursue your passion.
OK, so let’s assume your bills are taken care of for the purpose of this conversation. If the money is the number one reason why you can’t say no, then you need to figure that out first even if that means you can’t pursue your passion fully or at all until your bills are taken care of. I know it sucks, but seriously, mixing your passion and money is a tricky business.
If you’re dreaming about making a living doing what you love, do whatever it takes to avoid burn-out! It’s the best thing you can do!
Let’s talk about how you know when to say no. I ask these questions to help me decide if the opportunity is right for me.
1) Do you have time to do it?
I’m getting better at this but used to underestimate how long anything took from start to finish. I would get frustrated because I said yes to things thinking it’d only take so long to finish but in reality it took waaaaaay too long.
For instance, I just recently said no to an art show. It’ll be showing some of the pieces I already have. And I almost said yes because I know the organizer and like her personally, and it’s not like I needed to create a whole new artwork for it. But it was coinciding with a couple of big holiday craft shows I’m doing. Since I’ve done a few art shows now, I know putting together a show, even if you’re not making new art, can be a lot of work!
I’m having an art show right now at a nearby cafe, so my husband suggested I just take them down and hang the same art work at the new place when the show is over (the new place is only a few blocks away). But I don’t want to show the same pieces again because it’s boring.
If I don’t follow my husband’s reasonable advice, I’d need to take them down from the current venue, bring them home, choose different pieces to show, make sure I have a scan of all the original works (and if not, scan, edit, and upload them), trim them, mat them, and frame them (go get frames if I don’t have them). I’m gonna need display signs, coordinate uninstall/install with the people of each venue, drive, park, etc. Uninstalling the pieces doesn’t take very much time, but it’s still work. Installation usually takes longer when I’m doing a good ol’ nail on the wall method. You have to measure, level, and hang your pieces carefully. When I’m hanging about 12-ish pieces, it usually takes anywhere between 1.5 to 2 hours. Now that’s a chunk of time! And that doesn’t even include all the prep time, which could take 2-6 hours.
If it wasn’t the holiday crazy time, I would’ve said yes. Like I said, I almost said yes to this. And I’m sure I would’ve managed it somehow had I said yes. But it’s been a little bit of a pattern lately, and I always get so overwhelmed and resentful and swear I’d never do that to myself again. So I said no and felt GOOD.
In order for me to know exactly how long my tasks take, I log my hours on Google calendar. I like having a documentation because I can’t hold that information in my head! It’s also helpful to track your progress over time, too. When I was working on a series of watercolor abstract paintings, I got quicker as I worked on more pieces e.g. 8 hours per piece to about 6.5-7 hours. So in the future, if I do a similar project, I can make a pretty accurate estimation of how long it will take to complete it.
With that said, though, 99% of the time, things take longer than I think. I need to remember that when I’m scheduling things. I try not to schedule things back to back and also schedule some extra buffer time just in case. And don’t forget to factor in the time it takes to clean up your art equipment, packaging and shipping your stuff, taking and editing photos, backing up your files etc. that’s related to our project! They add up.
2) How is your work going to be valued?
I was recently talking to a potter friend of mine about commission works. We both had a similar reaction about people coming to us with very specific request about what the piece should look like. It feels like they’re coming to you for the technical skills but not for your unique voice or the artistic expression. I’m tempted to charge more for these types of projects where clients have a lot of subjective or arbitrary art directions and want you to follow them exactly. The best kind of clients are ones that love anything and everything you do and pay you to create your best work for the project.
When I work with a client for a commission work, after getting all the initial information back, I talk to them about my creative process and how I use the One Concept Approach.
With this particular process, you get all the relevant information and project goals at the beginning, then you go away and do your work and come back with one final piece for the client. No arbitrary revisions or input. This way, the client can focus on what they’re best at, which is knowing about their goals, and you can focus on what you’re best at, resulting in you providing your client with your best work.
When I heard this concept on Seanwes podcast, it blew my mind. Really?? This is OK? I mean I loved it. It totally shifted my belief about power and value I had as a creative professional. It’s not mean or stubborn. It’s saying: Hey, you came to me because I can create what you want. Let’s be on the same page about how that can happen most effectively for both of us.
Anyway, I do use this approach when I work with clients, and most of them have been totally OK with it. In one situation where we had a problem, it was because we had a miscommunication, and not because this particular approach was bad.
I’m a shameless idealist, so I would choose to turn down a job if the job/client requires me to compromise my values or process. Even if that means I need to get a day job again to pay my bills. And maybe you’re not as sensitive as I am to that aspect – and that’s OK as long as you have strategies to combat burn-out!
3) Ask your gut.
Above all else, your gut is the most effective tool to gauge whether you should say yes or no. Money or no money. Time or no time. You want to pay attention to that gut feeling. We all have it.
Unfortunately, many of us have trained ourselves not to listen to it or talk ourselves out of it because it’s not logical or you’re afraid of the consequences of saying no to something or someone.
Like you, I’ve said yes to many things I shouldn’t have. You know the moment you say yes, you regret it and feel the tight knots in your stomach. You put off working on the project as long as you can. You dread the whole process. You’ll get the project done because you have to, but you’re drained and resentful. Not very nice.
It can be scary to go with your gut especially when your head and heart are saying something else. But once you do, you’ll know that your gut is always right. When I decided to quit my day job cold-turkey, I was scared (= my heart’s voice). I didn’t think I was ready (= my head speaking). But my gut was telling me I needed to do it. So I did and haven’t regretted it once.
I do a gut check by imagining saying no to a project. If I feel light and relieved for not having that thing on my plate, then it’s probably not right for me. Maybe it’s not right because I don’t have the time. Maybe it’s not the kind of project I want to take on even if I had time for whatever reasons. You could also imagine saying yes to something and see how you feel. Focus on how you feel in your stomach, not in your head (=logical, rational voice) or heart (= emotions, fear, shame etc.). Your head and heart might try to sway you in a different direction by asking you, “But what about the money?” or “Oh but don’t you wanna have a good relationship with this person? Are you sure you want to say no? They might never ask you to do this again.”
But what’s your gut telling you?? Listen to it and see what happens!
And the thing is, even if you say yes to a wrong thing, it’s not going to be the end of the world. You wouldn’t be excited about it. You may have to pull long days and late nights and not have a day-off for several weeks. You may feel small because your client is micromanaging your creative process.
But you’ll learn from it. No experience is wasted no matter how sucky it is! That’s how I’d like to see life anyway.
I remember several years ago I was in a workshop about self-care, and the facilitator said to us that saying no to something else is saying yes to yourself. A light bulb went on at that moment!
I want to say yes to myself more. Because if you don’t, nobody else is going to do that for you!
This is my very first sabbatical blog post. By the time this post comes out, I’ll have finished my first sabbatical week! Woo hoo!
I’m following Seanwes‘ advice (I pretty much follow all of his advice) to take every 7th week off to step back from my day-to-day and recharge. To learn more about the small scale sabbaticals, you can watch his short video or listen to this podcast episode.
If you’ve been following along my weekly blog, you probably know that I quit my day job to pursue art full-time at the end of July this year. Ever since, I’ve been hustling pretty much non-stop. I’m grateful for all the opportunities and all that I’m learning every day.
At the same time, I was drained.
It’s weird right? You’re following your passion and are able to do what you love all the time. I should be happy and more full of energy, shouldn’t I?
The thing is, it’s still work. In a way it’s even more taxing than being in a day job because now you’re 100% responsible for whatever happens. I’m mentally more engaged every day, making all the decisions and thinking ahead. And making a lot of art can be hard on your body, too.
When I was toying with the idea of taking a week off regularly, I was hesitant at first. I just started doing this full-time not too long ago, and my business is still at an early stage of growth. Is it smart to take a week off now? It’s not like I have paid vacation any more! I started thinking, well, maybe I can take sabbaticals later when my business is bigger and then I can afford to take a time off.
And then I had to shift my mindset around a few things to really recognize the benefits of taking a regular time-off.
By taking a week off every 7 weeks, I may have a small loss in sales or client work. But if I put off taking care of myself, I’m going to burn out for sure. There is absolutely no doubt about that. And if you’re burnt out, there will be no passion to pursue. That’s the worst thing that can happen to any creative people, right?
When I worked with people affected by domestic violence in my old day job, we often talked about self-care as an ethical obligation. Working with people with trauma could cause you to have secondary trauma, which will lead you to burn out. If you don’t recognize the signs of burn-out and take care of yourself, you’re not going to be able to help people effectively. Not to mention your own happiness, and your personal relationships will suffer too.
I know that growing a business is hard work that could take many years. If I put off taking care myself until I could “afford it”, 1) it may never happen because there are always things to do, and there is never a “good” time to take a time off, and 2) my business may never grow to the point where I feel like I can “afford it” because I’ll burn out and quit. Neither option sounds good, does it?
So I’m making a commitment to take every 7th week off to step back and recharge. I’m not going to wait to implement a good plan that’s going to help me and my business grow long term. My future sabbaticals are already on my calendar so I know not to schedule any “work-y” stuff, like client meetings and project deadlines during that week. I’ll probably stay away from my regular blog-writing though I might continue writing for a different project or for fun. I’ll prepare a shorter blog post for each sabbatical week, so you won’t miss me 🙂
Some sabbaticals may just be me relaxing for a week. But here are some of the things I’d like to do during my week-off:
Make art for fun and/or exploration
Learn new skills and information whether it’s about creativity, business, or something totally different (like cat whispering!)
Spend more time with family and friends
Focus on my long-term project – e.g. web redesign, new service development, future visioning etc.
Enjoy other creative things like crochet and sewing
I know for sure that the long-term benefits of taking mini sabbaticals far outweigh any short-term losses. Plus, one week is not that long… It’s not as big of a deal as taking a year off or something! If you get behind during the week off, I’m sure you can catch up in the following weeks because your time off will make you even more productive. Win win!
Oh I can’t wait to report back what I did this past week in my post next Sunday!
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!