Plants Not Pants | Tips for Maintaining Mental Health When You’re Self-Employed
Creativepreneur Work-Life Balance + Your Mental Health
Plants not pants. Its that kind of Wednesday, folks! Actually, it’s that kind of day almost everyday for me, haha! When you work from home, maintaining your mental health as a creativepreneur is so important! Not only do I work from home chasing my writing dreams as an author, my day job as a photographer also allows me the freedom of being a creativepreneur! Working from home can definitely be a lonely existence—you wear the same yoga pants, your hair is perpetually in a bun, you exist as an oversized knit cardigan—but I do love the freedom to not wear pants whenever I want, so it balances out. I’ve worked from home for the last 8 years and its had its ups and downs, but the most important thing for me to find my happiness in it (other than sleeping in) was to give myself balance between work and personal life and creating a flexible schedule for days where I struggled to find structure and days where I needed the freedom and permission to let my creativity flow.
I used to have no separation between running my photography business and my personal life. I would work from the minute I rolled out of bed, hair a hot mess express, until I dropped back into bed late, late at night. I had to chase that #busy right? Ugh! Don’t buy into that bullshit mentality, or you’ll run yourself right into the ground. I fell for it once upon a time, as a young, impressionable new business owner trying to carve my path. On top of that, because my husband Mr. T also works with me in photography, we found ourselves with little time to enjoy our relationship, our personal time, and all social media outlets. We would be sitting on the couch after dinner watching Netflix and I would be checking for new emails on my phone at 9pm. And I would answer them! I made myself available at all times of the day and had no sense of myself anymore. I finally put my foot down and laid down some ground rules for myself:
- No more answering emails from my phone, I would only answer them during a one hour window in the morning and a one and a half hour window in the afternoon!
- Schedule time for social media so I couldn’t get sucked into scrolling for way too long. (Bonus, utilizing my time on social media helped with comparing myself to others, too, because instead of endlessly scrolling and seeing what others I perceived as more successful than me were up to, I just focused on authentic interaction since my time on the app was limited.) If you’re struggling and finding yourself tempted to open Twitter because it’s become a habit, try some productivity apps to block apps on your phone or access on your computer! Chrome has built in extensions to do this. There’s also websites you can use, as well. On the phone, these are some apps you can try to keep your temptations at bay!
- Flexibility! This one’s important for creatives! You need to give yourself the freedom and fluidity and permission to change your schedule around. Hell, that’s half the point of being your own boss, right? The reason I failed so hard in a 9-5 corporate setting was because there was too much structure. Like Goldilocks, we creativepreneurs need to find the right balance (are you sensing the theme yet?) for ourselves, and everyone is different in what works for them and at different times of the day, too. For writing, I find my productivity and writing zone easier to hit if I write in the morning. Knowing when you work best is key to the flexible schedule. Once you do know that, you can say to yourself you’ll write for two hours in the morning on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, and on Tuesday and Thursday mornings you’ll write for one hour and use the second hour for social media. The flexibility comes in when you need more or less time to work on something, like when you’re writing a chapter and inspiration strikes—chase that muse!
My writing schedule looks like this:
M-W-TH: Write for up to 3 hours (morning) – WC GOAL 3k
T-F: 1-2 hours writing after finishing photo business stuff for the day – WC GOAL 1-2k
SAT or SUN: 8 hours minimum writing or daily WC goal, work in 20-30 min sprints all day with 5-10min break – WC GOAL 5k
I’ve been playing around with this schedule since early December and so far it’s working well, and on the days that I need more flexibility I’m free to switch it up to suit my needs. For example, if on a Wednesday I have errands to run or other things come up, I’ll switch to a Tuesday/Friday word count. Or, if inspiration hits on a Tuesday, I’ll keep going until I begin to feel tired. With a writing schedule, I’m able to hit minimum word count goals to make sure I’m progressing on my books and keeping a mindset of writing needs to be done even if I’m not feeling it (and first drafts suck anyway, so keep trekking through it) and if I end up with more words than my goal, it’s a bonus!
Keep track of your mental health! Check in with yourself! And keep doing that, it’s not something you do a few times and then magically you are happy and healthy and perfectly productive, it’s an ongoing sliding scale of still reining yourself in from 16 hour days or only managing one task on your to do list for the day (and hey, if that task was just answering 3 emails, you did good today).
Happy Hump Day and if you’re working on something today like I am, I hope you remember to take a break, go hug your partner or your dog or your partner AND your dog, and remember it’s ok if you don’t do it all in one day!