Tag Archives: self-care

Say No

say-no_lores

Hello!

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.

this.
this.

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!

YES.

I want to say yes to myself more. Because if you don’t, nobody else is going to do that for you!

Take care and talk soon!

xoxo Yuko

p.s. I’m so excited to let you know that I’m guest teaching in the Journey Within: A Year of Handmade Art Journals e-course hosted by Kiala Givehand in 2016! Give yourself a gift of art and creativity and learn with me this coming year ❤ Find out more and enroll here 🙂

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Why I Decided to Take a Mini Sabbatical

sabbatical_loresHey guys!

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
  • Cook more
  • Pamper myself

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!

See you soon!

xoxo Yuko

yuko_flowers

 

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.

 

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Birthday Floatin’

When I first heard of the sensory deprivation float a few years ago, I didn’t really get it.  You float in the water with no sound, light, or gravity…  It sounded kind of dark and scary.

数年前、初めて「アイソレーション・タンク」の存在を知ったときは、何がいいのかよく分かりませんでした。音も光も遮断し、タンクの中の水に浮かんで重力も感じない。なんだか暗くて怖いイメージでした。

Since then I’ve been trying different meditation and relaxation techniques to manage stress.  A couple of months ago, I came across a coupon for Urban Float in Seattle.  I decided to have my first float on my birthday!  As one of my friends put it, I was going to “spend my birthday in a fake womb.”

それからストレスを減らすために色んな瞑想や、リラクゼーションの方法を試してきました。数ヶ月前にたまたまシアトルにあるUrban Floatという、アイソレーション・タンクを営むサロンのクーポンを入手し、誕生日に自分へのご褒美として試すことにしました!ある友人には「誕生日を、ニセの胎内で過ごすんだね。」とコメントされてしまいました、、、

I made my appointment for the 50-mins float session.   When I checked in, the nice woman there gave me a quick tour of the room & the pod.  It was comforting to know that there is an emergency button inside of the pod…

1セッション50分で予約をしました。チェックインを済ませると、受付の優しいお姉さんが、施設の説明をしてくれます。タンクの中には緊急用のボタンもあるということで、ちょっぴりホッ。

At this facility, you have an option of floating in a pod that looks kind of like a giant, sci-fi kidney bean (pictured below).  The water is kept at body temperature, and it is a highly saturated epsom salt and water, so your body floats even though the water is less than knee deep.  Once you’re in, you can close the top all the way, or leave it cracked, depending on your comfort level.  You wear ear plugs so the water won’t get in your ears.  This also helps shut out any noise while you float.

ここでは、SFに出てくるような近未来巨大インゲン豆のようなポッドに入るようになっています(下図をご覧あれ)。入っている水は人肌の温度に保たれていて、かなり濃い塩水になっています。なので、ヒザぐらいの深さなのに体がプカプカ浮きます!いったん中に入ると、屋根の部分を自分で閉めます。完全に閉じてしまってもいいし、不安な人はちょっと開けておいてもOK。耳の中に水が入らないようにと、渡された耳栓もします。これは外の音を遮断するためにもグッドです。

pod
space-age pod for floatation

After showering, I wasted no time getting my floatin’ on.  I got in the pod, closed the top all the way and lied down in the water.  It was a strange feeling to just “float.”  Normally, when I’m in the pool or the ocean, I’m trying to swim or move about in the water.  But here, you just lie still.

先にシャワーをしていざポッドに入ります!フタを全部閉めてから、水の中に横たわります。水の中でただ「浮かぶ」という行為にあまりなれていないので、ちょっとヘンな気分。

honeyberry_floatinglg

It took me a few minutes to relax my head.  I’m so used to laying on something solid, something to support my head, so letting my neck to relax in the water was hard.  I was afraid my face is going to be under the water.

頭をただ横たえるというのにも少し時間がかかりました。いつもは何か中身がある(?)ものに頭を横たえるのに慣れているので、水に浮かべるというのはちょっとドキドキしました。力を抜くと、顔まで水の中に沈みそうになってしまって!

I was eventually able to let the water support my head, and my eyes, nose and mouth stayed above water.  They play a soothing music for the first and last 5 minutes of your session.

それでも段々力を抜いて、頭もプカプカ浮かびます。ちょっと沈んでも、目、鼻、口はかろうじて水面上です!セッションの始めと終わりの5分間はリラックスできる音楽が流れます。

I tried not to move my body once I got the hang of floating.  For some reason I was drifting inside of the pod.Eventually, I stopped drifting.  But whenever I focused on not moving my legs or arms, it started twitching!  Because you don’t have other sensations, I became very sensitive to every little move I made in the water.  I felt the water around me rippling with the subtlest of moves.

いったん体を浮かべるのに慣れると、体は出来るだけ動かさないのが◎。浮かんだ初めは何故が体がポッドの中で流れ動いてしまいました。それも何分かすると止まりました。「手足を動かすまい」と思えば思うほど、ピクっと無条件で体が動いてしまったり。他に感覚があまり無いので、少しの動きにもとても敏感になってしまいます。ほんのちょっとの動きでも水に波紋が立ってしまうのが感じられます。

I thought I read on their website that the light inside of the pod would automatically turn off with the music, so I just floated there for several minutes.  I opened my eyes to see if the light had turned off, but it was on…  Actually, it stayed on for the entire time.  I could’ve turned it off manually, but at that point, I didn’t feel like getting up to push the button, so I let it go.  I could also hear sounds from outside as the facility is right by a busy street.

確かこのサロンのウェブサイトには、音楽とポッド内の明かりは自動的に消えると書いてあったと思ったんだけど、何分か経ってからちらっと目を開けると、まだ明かりが点いてる。それはいつまでたっても消えないで、結局セッション中はずっと点いたまんまでした。自分でボタン押して消す事も出来たみたいだけど、その時点で起き上がって消すのも何だったので、そのままにしときました。ちなみに、外は結構大きな通りで交通の雑音とかも何気に聞こえてきました~。

I went in and out of sleep while floating.  Had mini dreams.  Then the music came on to let me know that my time was ending.  It went by too quickly!

そうこうしているうちに、うとうとと眠気が。ちょこちょこ夢も見ました。そうしてあっという間にセッションの終わりを告げる音楽が流れ始めました。早い!

I got out of the pod, showered, and got dressed.  I felt super relaxed and a little groggy afterwards.  I drank lots of water and cooled off before heading out to the busy outside world!

起き上がってシャワーをして、着替え。後はとーってもリラックスし、ちょっと頭がボーっとしました。お水を一杯飲んで、体も冷ましていざ外界へGo!

My very first floating experience didn’t exactly knock my socks off, but it really helped me feel relaxed and detoxed.  I would be very curious to see how I would feel if I had an actual “sensory deprivation” experience, you know, without any light or sounds.  I’m sure it affects different people differently.  If you ever wonder what it’s like, try it and see how you feel!

生まれて初めてのアイソレーション・タンク体験は、思ったほど目からウロコ!とは感じませんでしたが、すごくリラックスできたし、デトックスもばっちりできました。本当に音とか明かりが遮断できていたら、きっと違う経験になっていたでしょうね。こういうのは個人差もあると思うので、興味のある人は是非一度お試しあれ。