... and other Self-Employed Stay-at-Home Set-Your-Own-Schedule Creative Introverted Independent Entrepreneurs
When I recently heard about “The Hard Thing Rule” for cultivating grit, it reinforced my resolve to become a morning person. Waking up early is not something most people do by choice, and especially not as early as I’ve been aiming for, so … definitely gritty. And it’s the ultimate choice of doing the hard thing FIRST since waking up is literally the very first thing we do every day, straddling the gap between sleep and consciousness.
Since then I’ve been looking out for other “gritty” things I can do. Stuff that is rough on my skin. Stuff that I kind of grit my teeth to try and get through, especially stuff that is physically challenging. Opportunities to engage my whole body or at least be aware of it in a different way. Like finishing off my shower with a few minutes of cold water, but NOT calling back a bill collector or other sedentary tasks.
Switching gears is hard for me. I have a very difficult time transitioning from one task to another. Even when I switch from one sedentary task to another sedentary task, it definitely helps (but adds more of a gritty challenge) to PHYSICALLY switch things up. To move my body in between the task I am finishing and the new task I hope to begin, rather than just trying to shift only my mental gears.
Even if it is completely unnecessary to physically change your position or move to a different space, it is ALWAYS good for your body AND good for your focus, productivity, clarity and mental agility to get up and away from your desk to reset yourself and come back fresh. Take off your thinking cap. Change your task- or role-specific imaginary uniform. It is never a waste of time.
I have to remind myself that getting up between tasks is always worthwhile when I am, say, editing/processing/publishing videos. Even if it’s just going down the stairs and climbing back up them once or three times. Getting up to stretch or move around helps me identify and break down alllllllllll of the separate tasks involved in post-production of videos AND it helps me do each step FASTER with more ease, patience and efficiency. If I get up and try to do a pushup or dance around to one song, both the gritty physical “interruption” and the work itself become more clearly contained and manageable. My perception of what is work and what is reward also changes as the practice of getting up and moving around becomes a habit I don’t have to WILL myself to do, and as I see that I am making progress, bit by bit, on the video (or whatever) I’m working on.
Getting up to move around also helps to physically wear myself out more which quiets my overthinking mind and doubts. I become more invested in getting tasks DONE instead of getting them done PERFECTLY (which is impossible anyway, but also reminds me that looking at a piece of work with fresh eyes later is a whole task in itself, and doing the things needed in that process of using an editing eye is a whole other series of polishing tasks).
Those of us who are self-employed creative people have a lot of traits and habits in common. Some are assets, others are liabilities. We have visions of awesomeness! We are excited about our ideas (and we have SOOOO MANY of them haha)! But we often underestimate the complexity and difficulty of bringing our ideas to completion and money-making fruition. We underestimate how much time it will take. We underestimate that we’re probably going to need to rest during the process, and we are not going to be able to do the great job we earnestly want to do just by staying up all night, sacrificing our health.
We often don’t want to “waste time” on the planning necessary to execute our vision. Like that whole thing about setting clear measurable goals and breaking them down into small manageable ordered tasks; remember how I started this example by describing “editing/processing/publishing videos”? We’re already burying our brilliance when we fail to acknowledge all of these are their own separate kinds of work with different tasks and skills required for each of them. We are not just “making a video”! We are usually undertaking DOZENS of jobs when we tell ourselves all we have to do is crank out a video. When we do that, we’re not just underestimating our job(s), we’re devaluing ourselves and setting ourselves up for disappointment, failure, ill health or all three.
So! Break stuff down into truly manageable tasks instead of one big 3 or 6 or 12 hour long ordeal. When you do that (and especially when you get up to move around in between them), you will build confidence and make the whole entire job way easier because EACH PART will be easier. You will build in success by recognizing lots of tasks you are successfully FINISHING, preparing you to smoothly sit back down and do the next task.
We also really want to be in flow, completely immersed in our creative process, shutting the world out and getting into our groove. Flow is super awesome and necessary! But part of where we get frustrated is when we imagine a super-complex multi-skilled project like publishing a VIDEO is an opportunity to experience flow from start to finish. IT IS NOT. For those of us who are doing it all, having to switch between downloading, organizing and backing up assets (like content we’ve shot), and editing the content (and oh my gosh that can involve SO MANY steps and different skills and resources!), and adding titles and credits, and being interrupted by software updates, and having to watch some tutorials and try to learn something new to achieve something you desire or solve a new problem with footage, and picking out music and adding it in, and rendering it, and uploading it — not to mention all of the styling and set decorating and shooting and performing and clean-up and marketing (!!!! So many jobs!!!), etc. — THAT IS TOO MANY THINGS TO DO ALL IN ONE SITTING. It is too many things to do in three or six or a dozen sittings, frankly. So break it down into tasks and take breaks in between. It is truly easier to do one hundred seventeen tasks to create and publish a video and TAKE BREAKS between each task than it is to “just make one video”. This is the realistic truth of how many valuable jobs you are undertaking.
Unfortunately most of us are not realistic and do not value ourselves, our bodies, our skills and our work when we get into this business alone. It is self-sabotage to underestimate the amount of time, talent, education, energy, and resources doing our jobs alone requires. We were so happy to be independent we would do ANYTHING to make it work, including doing EVERYTHING ourselves better and faster than is humanly possible in any sustainable, profitable, healthy way over a period of more than a year or so at our peak. We wind up getting frustrated and making ourselves sick. We are OUR OWN WORST BOSS.
But man … we’re so attached to our vision and we keep thinking if we just sit here longer and work harder eventually we’ll do just enough extra to finally … what? It doesn’t work, and at some point you wind up shutting down because some part of you KNOWS this shit is completely unsustainable and it’s not going to get better or faster or easier by trying to do more of the same on even less sleep with more eye strain. Sitting at machines for hours and hours and hours on end with severely restricted movement and sleep deprivation is really fucking bad for you. But you can’t afford to NOT do it, not this week or month or today.
So you get migraines or whatever and you wind up in bed and your body and mind are like YES THIS IS WHAT YOU NEED MOST and your body and mind are RIGHT but then at some point you are not even resting because you are so anxious knowing how much you need to WORK to make MONEY but part of your body and mind are so relieved to not be doing anything (and you’re still SO BAD at doing nothing, so you should probably lay here and PRACTICE doing nothing until it WORKS and you actually stop worrying and working in your head). And some part of your body and mind KNOW that if you get up and go back to your workstation, you are most likely going to overdo it and make yourself sick again and all for what?!? All for nothing!! You know what they say; the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.
This business model of gutting it out IS NOT PAYING OFF FOR YOU. So some wise and loving and defensive parts of you are trying to keep you safe and stop you from doing counterproductive destructive insane nonsense, so they keep you in bed and make it SO HARD for you to get up. You NEED to rest. You NEED to space out. You NEED to sleep and be fed. But you’re not even going to be able to afford a bed and food to eat if something doesn’t change.
And that is the grittiest, gutsiest thing you can do: CHANGE. What you were doing and the ways you were doing them do not fucking work, so you have to do something different. You have to change. But change is SUPER FUCKING HARD. This is proven. Look it up. Or even better, just accept the truth of it and take your next weird brave DIFFERENT step knowing it is going to be hard.
This job(S) is harder and more complicated and takes longer than you thought it would when you started out. Now you know! You’re not stupid or slow or incapable; you just didn’t know and it is a testament to how awesome you are that you’ve gotten this far and stuck with it this long. Now you can change based on that experience and earned wisdom!
One of the hardest changes you have to make is to TAKE BREAKS. To TEND TO YOUR BODY and never throw that amazing machine of yours under the bus to suffer for your stubborn-ass stick-to-itive ego.
Change is hard. Learning to take breaks is hard!! Most of us were never taught that you have to LEARN how to take breaks and PRACTICE taking them!!! And that your body and mind will shut down if you don’t nurture them with sleep and motion and variety and super-lubricating gear-switching transmission fluid. IT TAKES GRIT to take breaks. It takes grit to learn how to switch gears in healthy ways with your whole body instead of forcing yourself to try to maintain MOTIONLESS DRIVE on this road that cruise control simply cannot safely operate on. You’re not cruising, sitting there staring at that screen with your shoulder muscles all bunched up, trying to remember what the fuck comes next. You’re not cruising … you’re dying.
If you are like me, you are at a point where just getting out of bed takes grit. Getting out of bed IS the hard thing. Don’t try to get someone who has a normal job with very limited freedom to understand. Don’t ask for permission to confidently rate getting out of bed as “very fucking hard” from anyone who does NOT set their own schedule and does NOT perform every single administrative and self-management task from a blank fucking slate (Decision-making is FUCKING HARD. It is fatiguing. You can google it, and the more freedom you have, the MORE DECISIONS you have to make!). Do not expect someone who gets reliably paid a very predictable amount of money for work with specifications handed down to them from someone to not resent you with all your freedom that they don’t understand is super-challenging to manage yourself, 24/7, with nothing but the potential of making some random-ass amount of money or none at all regardless of how much effort, originality, skills or hours you work.
Today I recognize that GETTING UP is the hard thing. Getting up and stepping away CULTIVATES GRIT, whether it’s getting up early in the morning or stepping away from a project you feel like you can’t afford to not finish tonight or just getting out of bed or off the couch after eating and watching some TV. MOVING — even just a little bit, from one room to another, from lying down on a mattress to lying down on a yoga mat, from sitting to standing and spinning around, or getting a glass of water or going pee — is often The Next Right Thing. But don’t worry … it gets easier. Cultivating “grit” makes you more resilient. And once getting up and moving around becomes a habit, you will stop having to WILL yourself to do it, and instead it will just be the thing you naturally do.
But right now it is probably still hard. Getting up and moving a few steps is one of those “simple, but not easy” things. I am at the point of not needing a reason beyond “do it because it is hard” to make it worth it. It doesn’t need to pay off with “more videos published! More money made! A more impressive resume!” Just loving my body enough to stand up and do what it is MADE for and the grit it takes to overcome inertia are reasons enough.
And now I’m going to post this without it being perfect. Because it is time for me to stand up and make myself some food. I can polish this later, and I’m proud of myself for all the tasks I’ve completed to take it this far where I know it can help other people, but is still worth it even if it only helps me.