If you are diving headfirst into your work, then some part of your life gets put on the back burner. In my case, it's my social life (and, ya know, making tons of money). No surprise there for anyone who knows me. Case in point, it's an absolutely gorgeous Saturday in Nashville and I am sitting outside my condo with my dog typing this, but here's the thing: I am doing exactly what I want to be doing at this moment. A really quick life question I have for you before I start talking about why deadlines are EXTREMELY important for any person trying to be their own boss is this: What makes you happiest? What do you do everyday? Realistically, how can these two lists become one? That right there is what I think success is. Just having those 2 lists be the exact same thing. What does this have to do with making deadlines? Well, top of my list is creating and sharing what I create. It's what I believe my "purpose" to be, it's my dream, it's what I wake up and go to sleep thinking about. Therefore, to make this dream become my everyday reality, I need to prioritize, I need to be able to support myself with it, and I need to fully commit to it. If you are in the same boat here's something really valuable I have learned and I hope it's helpful to anyone who's on the same path right now and feeling overwhelmed.
To stay productive, it's important to have something extremely specific to work towards. Not "make more money this month" or "paint more" or "work on my website this week", but goals like "compile a new collection of at least 4 pieces by May 15th and be prepared to give an artist talk" or "apply to 7 group art shows by 5 pm tomorrow" or "upload my latest collection to my website by Friday". The more specific and set you can be with the date AND time, the better, or else you just won't adhere to these deadlines at all. Daily To-Do lists are really helpful with this (I love making hand-written lists every morning) as are calendar reminders and Google calendar, if you want to structure and plan out your whole day. It will keep you on track especially if you are like me and get ADD working from home when there are a million household chores staring at you in the face, your dog is pawing at you, and Netflix exists. In the words of Christene Barberich, Editor in Chief of Refinery29 “I don’t think you can truly know what you’re made of until you are in charge of your days. How you use that time, and the work you pursue, teaches you so much about who you are and what you can become”. I make at least 5 big deadlines per month and countless, small daily tasks to meet those deadlines. I put in a lot of hours, at least double my previous full-time job hours, but if you are doing what you love it's not work and there is no better way to spend your time.
This is a pretty simple concept and I take no credit in it. Our teachers and bosses have been scaring us with deadlines since the beginning of time. When your paycheck or grade or reputation was on the line, it was pretty easy to have the work done, and it shouldn't be any different when you are beginning your life as an entrepreneur, because guess what, those things are still on the line, just in a different way. Respect yourself and the tasks you’ve set for yourself just as you would for your employer. If the day is ending and I still haven’t met my deadline, I work overtime and say no to a lot of things that come up because getting this work done was my priority. Being your own dream employee is just as important as being your own boss.
The final point that I have about making your own deadlines is this: don’t be too attached to the results of your efforts, only worry about the process. Once you’ve met your deadline, say goodbye to that project and start on the next one. If your deadline involved applying to a showcase, sharing your work, gaining experience, or practicing your craft and you gave it your all and finished what you needed to get done on time, then you succeeded. Serious productivity always results in something positive. You create what failure is in your head by telling yourself what results you expect to come from your hard work. For example, I hope reading this wasn't a huge waste of your time, but my goal for this blog is just to share my experience and what I am learning as I become my own boss, and have it posted by Monday, May 15th at 11:00 a.m., so even if you hated reading it, and I am so sorry if you did, I achieved what I set out to achieve. It sounds really cheesy, but once I stopped asking myself “what if this doesn’t work?” I became more productive than I have ever been.
These few points have all really helped me especially during weeks when I didn’t have many commissions or freelance work and felt a little directionless. I would panic about not making enough money that week or wonder if all of my efforts were wasted and felt really overwhelmed. All I needed to do was fill my days with small, realistic, achievable goals and that stress just went away. It’s definitely hard going out on your own, but I have to always remind myself “this was my choice (which I realize is a luxury) this is what I love and what makes me happiest, feeling scared and worrying is silly and I don't have time for it today anyways I've got too much to do”.