Today I'm sharing my pursuit for good mental health while being a self-employed creative – something that is much easier said than done.
When I first started working for myself full time, I was super pumped. I was also jumping from client project to client project, starting an endless number of personal projects, redesigning my website, migrating my blog, along with invoicing, reviewing contracts, having client meetings, negotiating, and other miscellaneous admin work. I just wanted to work, and I jumped in head first and I totally loved it.
Then it started to wear me down. I started having more existential moments of "what-is-it-all-for" and "what-am-i-doing-with-my-life". Have you ever noticed that there are thousands of books, articles, and podcasts about how to quit your day job and follow your dreams? There's not so many about what happens when your dreams become reality, and how to handle life after the leap. Jumping in full steam, like I had been doing to get this career started, wasn't going to be sustainable as a business in the long run.
So I'm exploring through that realm now, figuring out how to manage myself, my time, and my business, so that I can have a long, sustainable career (and life). Here are the four major changes I've made that have helped me feel more clear-headed and less stressed:
1. A MORNING ROUTINE
One of my favorite tools has been Todd Henry's Accidental Creative podcast. His podcast on the importance of a morning routine has been one of my favorites that I keep referring back to over and over.
My morning routine, modeled slightly after his suggestions, includes:
10 minutes of meditation (using my favorite app, Headspace)
20 minutes of challenging/business reading
10 minutes of fun/pleasure reading
10 minutes of planning my day/writing lists/to-do lists/goals/etc.
I try to do this all before even checking my phone for email or Instagram updates (this is very hard). I find that on days when I can fit in the whole routine, I feel calmer and more productive for the rest of the day.
2. REINVENTING THE TO-DO LIST
A big change I made in the last couple weeks was my to-do list. I'm a pretty organized creature of habit, and I really love making lists. So I usually make a daily to-do list in my planner, and then struggle with getting it all done and referring to the list each day. Turns out, these lists are a bit unreasonable because I'm just writing down everything I want to do and not taking into account how much time I actually have to do everything.
At first I tried using Jessica Hische's Ultra Schedule as a new model for my unstructured days, but that was too vague for me. So I modified it so that I actually make my to-do list in my calendar, as blocks of time. I also keep a running list of illustration work/client work/personal work/personal life to-do's so that I don't forget anything, but my new calendar to-do list has been revolutionary. I have a better idea of how much I can get done in a day – and actually do it all. It keeps me more accountable for how I spend my work time. I'm working on shutting off by 7pm nowadays, and also only responding to email twice a day.
3. GETTING THE OFFICE IN TOP SHAPE
It should also be said that I finally got a new computer after a good long run on my MacbookPro. That laptop went with me through design school, 3 internships, and 3 years of freelance work, and it was worse for the wear. It was like my life was buffering! I finally made the investment to get a desktop set up, and I love my iMac so much I don't know how I did without it. So she must get some props for my newfound productivity.
4. WORKING OUT THE MENTAL HEAD SPACE
And finally, I'm also working out 3x a week in the evenings. I find that helps release a lot of stress and anxiety, especially at the end of the day.
What do you do about your mental fitness? I would love to hear what you've found helpful!