If you look at the date of my last blog post, you'll see it was over two years ago. I know, I KNOW! I'm certainly no professional when it comes to blogging, but I do thoroughly enjoy writing and documenting moments, so that should be enough to power me through.
One of the reasons I got so behind in blogging was my schedule got absolutely jam-packed! I went full-time with Sparked Media Collective (my St. Louis based filmmaking business) and things have been chaotic ever since. I'm very lucky! I've had a constant stream of work, projects, networking meetings, meet-ups, shoots, weddings, plus everything else that comes along with normal life!
To tell the truth, running a full-time small business was hard work; much harder than I ever imagined it would be. It was easy to get lost in the hullabaloo of everyday tasks, and I would glance up from my desk and realize falling autumn leaves had turned into falling snowflakes.
In complete shock at the swiftness of time's passing, I declared that I must become more efficient! I must keep a tight schedule and fill up every nook and cranny of my google calendar in order to fit everything in. I read books on efficiency, articles about eating frogs and getting early worms. I set alarms, downloaded timekeeping apps, and wrote out strict hour-by-hour schedules for myself.
This balls-to-the-wall approach to business quickly became overwhelming and exhausting. I left no room for inspiration to breathe, and my creativity quickly became stifled and seemed to completely vacate my work. My wedding films didn't come together like I wanted them to, and the emotion, typically the pulse for my videos, was nowhere to be found.
For any creative entrepreneur, running a small business is hard. I found a particular set of struggles as a single, ENFP, twenty-something.
For one, living alone and working from home can be very challenging. Things would happen in my business: I'd come across a problem in my editing software, and would have nobody to vent to. Or, I'd receive a booking for a dream wedding and the only creature I could do my happy dance with was my cat, Aslan.
Another issue is not having enough structure in my schedule. I didn't have many regular appointments or regimens in my life to keep me anchored. Because of this, my sleep patterns became irregular, I didn't work when I should have, and would scramble for every deadline. I started living a frantic, reactive life as opposed to an intentional, contented life. It's hard to enforce a regimen when only you are holding yourself accountable.
About a year ago, I was scrambling for another deadline when I realized this way of life wasn't working. I was tired of of frantic and panic and guilt and inefficiency. I didn't want to work harder, I wanted to work smarter. This is when I realized: It wasn't a regimen I needed, it was a rhythm.
I didn't need a strict, detailed, minute-by-minute schedule. I needed a pliable, breathable, living guide to the way I live my life.
Finding my rhythm meant finding the right balance between structure and flexibility for my life. I love the idea of rhythm. I have a lot of friends who are talented musicians, and I'm always amazed at how all the moving parts, the different people, different styles, and different instruments, can be united and driven in the same direction underneath the guidance of rhythm.
So, I decided to overhaul the way I was structuring my life. I read an incredible book, Design Your Day by Claire Diaz-Ortiz (seriously, this book is wonderful! It's some of the best money I have ever spent!) and decided to stop living in chaos and reaction, and begin living in peace and proaction. The process was difficult, and I had to have both discipline and grace for myself. Here are a few key points I drew from my year of "Finding My Rhythm."
1. Have Grace for Yourself
One of the hardest things to learn was to have grace for myself when I screwed up. When I woke up late, or missed a deadline, or tried to pack too much into my calendar, I learned to shake it off, forgive myself, and move forward with my work.
There were periods of great productivity, but too little sleep or self-care. There were periods of complete inactivity (and multiple rewatches of Parks and Recreation and The Gilmore Girls) and very little work getting done. Then, there were sweet golden spaces of time, where I worked and rested in complete balance. It's when I've been able to accomplish some of my best work, and been in my happiest and healthiest mental and emotional state. It's taken a long time, and I'm still not in the place where I want to be. But, I'm in a much better place than where I was a year ago! My goal is to be in the sweet, golden space as much as possible, and to have grace for myself when I'm not there.
2. Everyone Has a Different Rhythm
One of the most important takeaways I drew from both Design Your Day, and from my personal experience, was you have to find a rhythm that works for you! Looking for an easy way to accomplish a good work/life balance, I often looked to see what other people were doing. Some people offer up their entire schedule and productivity breakdown online, which is great! But me being me, I decided to just nab their schedule and try to slap it onto my own life. When I did this, (surprise, surprise!) it didn't work! There were bits and pieces I found useful, but finding a rhythm that worked for me took lots of trial and error.
Take time to try different things. A regimented schedule that's the same every day didn't work for me, but it could work very well for you! Detailed and up-to-date to-do lists work great for me, but stress other people out. Some people like to keep Bullet Journals, but I would have a panic attack that I was going to mess up a layout I'd just spent three hours making! Some people like to set alarms throughout the day to keep them on track, while this would be completely distracting for others.
Try researching different methods, and tinker with them until they work for you. Don't be afraid to try something new, and don't give up on something when it immediately doesn't work.
3. Practical Pointers (because I always look for this bullet point in these kind of lists!)
Here is a list within my list (how many official blogging rules am I breaking right now??) containing a few practical rhythms I implemented in my work that have helped me build and keep a more consistent, healthy rhythm in my life.
Realistic To-Do Lists
For me personally, setting three medium sized goals and three small-sized goals each day is the sweet spot! If I add more, and I can't complete my list, which leaves me feeling guilty and unproductive. If I added less, not enough things get done! I try to complete the hardest goal, or the goal I am least excited about, first thing! Once that is done, I feel way more empowered to tackle the rest of the day!
Short-Term Goal Setting
I found that when I was lacking motivation, setting a short-term goal and sticking to it was really helpful! If I was struggling to continue editing a video, I would set an alarm for one hour, and would aim to have a certain section of that video finished before the alarm goes off. This enacts an internal timer to complete the task, and you also feel accomplished once it is done! I end up using this a couple of times a few times a week, especially when I'm charging through long documentary edits!
Knowing My Limits & Learning To Say No
This isn't the most practical point, but it's been one of the most important things I've realized in the last year. You have your own rhythm, with your own style, and your own limits. Find out what yours are, and defend them.
Some people are able to put fifteen items on their to-do list every day, and check off each one. Some people only need five-six hours of sleep a night and others are useless without a solid eight. Some people have anxiety with social engagements or unknown environments, and can't engage as much as others. Some people can knock out a project a week, where other people need six months to complete a similar project.
Whatever your boundaries are, don't be ashamed of them. It's healthy and downright important to know what you need in order to live your best life, and it's okay for you to protect your boundaries. When you live your best life, you will create your best work.
I realized that I was addicted to busy and saying "yes." I wanted to appear capable, helpful, and good. I wanted to be the person that people could turn to. However, this lead to a whole lot of heartbreak and a frantic life that I didn't want to lead. I had to learn to find my boundaries, and say "no." I'm still not perfect at this, but I'm learning.
I so appreciate you reading my first venture back into blogging! I would love to hear from you if you did read! What does your rhythm look like? What productivity tools have helped you? How cute do you think Aslan is??