Hello, June. How did you sneak up on us like that? If you need me, I’ll be over here processing the fact that we’re almost halfway through the year. Now before I begin this post, I owe you all an apology. I know it’s been a little quiet on here. Not that you’re hitting refresh on my page with anticipation, but when I started this blog I had every intention of posting more consistently. Truth is, I was not putting first things first.
I let life get in the way, which is to say I started saying yes to things; side jobs, last minute trips, meetings with friends, helping with other people’s projects. I hadn’t established a solid work-from-home schedule so when someone asked me to be somewhere at a specific time that fit their schedule, I agreed. My time was “flexible”, I thought.
It took me a minute to realize that by being “flexible”, I was giving away my peace of mind. My day was at the mercy of urgent, but unimportant things. All of which I was bending over backward to accomplish. Someone needed this by tomorrow. They could only meet on this day. Could I come at such-and-such time? Of course, yes, I’ll be there. *Poof* went the day, week, month.
I was getting a lot done, but only about a third of it had to do with what was important to me. It left very little time for writing. When I did write, my drafts didn’t see the light of day. I wasn’t giving myself a margin for creativity, revisions, and error. Not to mention the space in my schedule I needed for photography, graphic design, marketing, and all the other necessary components of blogging. Clearly, I needed a few lessons on managing myself and my time.
Here’s what I learned when it comes to putting first things first:
Decide what matters.
Luckily, around this time, my book club happened to be reading The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (who am I kidding, we’re still reading it… it’s dense, people). The third habit is to put first things first. Basically, it teaches you to figure out what really matters to you and then operate from that awareness. I realized my issue was that I was prioritizing my schedule instead of scheduling my priorities.
I mentioned this to my friend Jenn, a fellow writer and entrepreneur. A few years ago she left a stable career, moved to Florida, and started her own business. She is doing well enough that she just bought her first house. I asked her how she does it all — works from home, manages her time efficiently, doesn’t lose her mind.
“I think sometimes we rely on schedules to provide us with a sense of purpose when what really gives us purpose is doing things that we love. Schedule more time for those things first.” – Jennifer Joy
She proceeded to walk me through her daily schedule, from waking up at 7:30 a.m., not touching her phone until 9:30 a.m., the chunks of time she works versus the time she forces herself to be active, social, or outside. It may sound basic, but the conversation for me was life-changing.
Up until that point, I was writing first thing in the morning and then burned our or spinning the rest of the day. This schedule was structured and balanced. It allowed time for work, yes, but also working out, eating breakfast, running errands, doing yoga, meeting with friends, and taking on side projects. Simply put, it’s doable. And having a schedule that works with your life, as opposed to against it, adds so many hours to the day.
Say no to the rest.
Let’s be real, writing (or following your dreams, for that matter) does not immediately pay the bills. Most writers I know, even the successful ones, have several other sources of income. I knew going into this year that I wanted to work from home and write. I made this decision not just so I could be creative, but so I could prioritize my relationship, travel on a whim, see my family and eventually be a stay-at-home mom. The funny thing is that not long after committing to that decision, job opportunities started pouring in.
Offers with insanely high-income brackets. A world tour with a pop star. Jobs with full benefits.
I know most of you reading this probably think I’m crazy to turn down opportunities like that. I probably am. Let me tell you it was not without strong consideration and inner turmoil. Here is the thing about those opportunities: they were safe, tempting… and completely distracting. I had a big picture in mind and each of these took me away from it.
Saying no is a powerful thing, and I almost couldn’t bring myself to do it. That is until I remembered what I was saying yes to.
Invest in yourself.
Writing means betting on myself. Taking a chance to pursue a career direction that I have very little experience in. For a while, I let the notion of that deter me. It was easier (and more satisfying) to help other people check things off their list than admit I had no idea where to start with the list of my own.
The thing about blogging is, everyone seems to be a blogger. It is very easy to look around, get overwhelmed, and give up (in fact, more than 90% of blogs are not updated). I realized that if I was going to be serious about blogging, I needed to invest in myself to learn the skills that make bloggers relevant. I bought a ticket, somewhat hesitantly, to a three-day branding workshop in Nashville hosted by Bloguettes.
What followed was not only a crash course in blogging, but inside tips and expert knowledge on branding, social media, photography, Photoshop, and Lightroom. I left each day with my mind reeling. I was inspired, full of ideas, and so excited about implementing them now that I knew how to. It would send me back to LA with a renewed sense of what I want to do.
Not only was the workshop worth every penny, but it taught me that I can’t afford not to invest in myself.
Give it time.
Rome wasn’t built in a day. Being the impatient person I am, I forget that easily. That said, putting first things first is a process. It takes a lot of thought about your big picture, and then implementation of that into your time. How you spend your days matter, and those days add up. It may feel like we have forever, but we don’t. There will be a day where you can’t do what you always wanted to do. Don’t let the devil talk you into tomorrow, start today.
I have no idea if I’ll ever have success as a writer, but I know writing is something I’d like to do each day. It, along with my health, emotional well-being, and relationships, are a few of the things I’m being intentional about putting first. It is up to us to fill our days with purpose and direction and to manage our lives according to what’s important.
Everything else can take a back seat.