How to – Work Smarter Not Harder
Although we are in the middle of a pandemic, speaking to my friends and family we have all remarked that we can’t understand why, with all this time on our hands, we are actually busier than ever and don’t know where the weeks are going.
Even before this crisis, being busy had somehow become a badge of honour, a sign of importance. It has somehow become super cool. Ultimately, though, it is not sustainable and not good for us. Shouldering the weight of too many responsibilities, whether they be self-imposed or imposed upon us, the affect on our health is real. Sleepless nights, panic attacks, mood swings and feelings of low self-worth and generally being unhappy with our lives.
So, I am going to give you some advice here which I know I should be taking myself, too but I know that these tips work when you put them into use.
Make a List
Make a list of all the tasks you need to get through. Just grab a sheet of paper and write them all down. Then put them into four categories:
Really important tasks which will take less than 15 mins to complete;
Really important tasks which will take more than 15 mins to complete;
Less important tasks which will take less than 15 mins to complete; and
Less important tasks which will take more than 15 mins to compete.
It is sometimes helpful to have a large sheet of paper and set up four boxes in a grid and place the items in the most appropriate box.
Now ask yourself this. Are there any items on your list which someone else can do for you? Yes? Then ask them to help. People like to be asked to help, just remember to tell them how much you appreciate their help and don’t criticise if they get it wrong, otherwise they won’t help you again. Don’t give them anything to do which it so important that if they get it wrong it will cause you an even bigger problem.
What should become apparent though is that there are lots of items on your list which take up a ton of your valuable time but could be easily done by someone else, leaving you free to deal with the really important stuff.
There are some good online systems out there if you prefer to put everything online which once set up can be a godsend. Trello is particularly good.
I know, its scary, and maybe you will need to learn a whole bunch of new tech but honestly it will make life easier. Believe me. I love to use ink pens and I love the act of writing, so when my family told me to give up my beloved Filofax, I dug my heels in. Eventually, though (it took me a year at least), I agreed that using the calendar attached to my email makes my life so much easier. It also means that I can send appointments to family and friends to confirm dates arranged and cancel them easily, too if needs be. One very quick and easy tool.
This is also true of your social media presence. You can schedule your Instagram and Facebook posts by simply spending time producing all your content in one sitting and have them done for weeks ahead. Even better, you can ask someone to schedule them for you. It is a fairly easy task, although you will need to use apps for the IG scheduling.
You can get really techie and use apps like Plann, IFTT, MeetEdgar and Zapier, to name but a few. You may need to find a ‘twentysomething’ person to help you through setting it all up (or even running to for you), but my advice is to take the time to learn the tech just in case you need to take back the reigns if they get too busy with their own lives to help out.
It is hard to say no, particularly when it is someone you know, like, respect, etc., but you have to understand your own limits and, sometimes, saying no is not only better for your self-esteem but often gains you more respect.
If you have spread yourself so thin between a variety of projects you really want to be involved with and you don’t know who to say no to, ask for help. I stupidly pile up my life with tons of responsibilities because I can see how to make things work better or I know that I can set up a system to benefit lots of people and I forget just how much work is involved with the task.
Recently I set up a website for fellow artists. Everyone was worrying about how they were going to sell their work in this Year of The Virus but whilst some people suggested a website, no one was doing anything. With huge amounts of input from my two (twentysomething) sons, I was able to get a site up and running in a very short time, but I still have a plate full of other stuff I have taken on.
I realised that whilst I could set up the website and the supporting social media platforms, I simply could not run it all. I reached out to the people who wanted to be on the website and asked them to take on responsibility for a variety of roles. Thankfully, I received lots of offers. I still have additional work through overseeing the project and I still need to delegate other areas of my life, but people like to be involved and I need to let go of as much as possible and say no to the next brilliant idea I am presented with. 😊
Smell the Roses
When you take on too much and you push yourself to the edge, you are not doing anyone any favours and I mean anyone. If you push yourself too hard you end up making mistakes and compounding the amount of jobs you need to get through. What you really need to do it stop, take a breath be kind and gentle with yourself.
Going for a 20-minute walk when things get too much can be a perfect way to unwind. If that’s not possible, work five-minute breaks into every hour by getting up and making yourself a drink, snack or just going to chat to someone.
Taking a break realigns you, it helps you to refocus on your goals and will give you the mental clarity to go back to the task and work at it with renewed energy.
Set Your Hours
It is really hard as an artist to set your hours. We often find ourselves up into the early hours getting artwork finished, catching up on paperwork or getting things ready for exhibitions. And, whilst it is sometime unavoidable, working into the night every night because there aren’t enough hours in the day is a slippery slope to failure. Believe me; I’ve been there.
Running a household during the day and making sure everyone else has what they need before you focus on what you need can mean working into the small hours. Also, those ridiculous thoughts we get about not being good enough can eat away at you. What you want and need are every bit as important as what your family needs. Yes, you can be there for them, but they need to be there for you too.
Don’t think I’ve got it sorted because I haven’t. It took some tears from everyone when I first put my foot down about what I needed outside of being a wife and mother. So, I still make dinner and we all sit down together to eat most nights. After dinner, I spend time with my husband, often watching TV but we socialise, too and we have games nights.
I do all my work during the day just like a paid job and when needs must I wait until my family are in bed before I go back to my desk to deal with the really important stuff which comes in during the evening. It is all about balance; about everyone feeling that they are important within the family unit and staying connected with the people who are most important in your life.
So, whilst being busy is not a bad thing being so busy that it has the potential to make you ill is not good. By taking time out, you will be far more productive in the long run and you will be happier, too. So work smarter, not harder and life will feel better.