You may have an existing career that you want to keep until your art or writing business takes off, or to keep indefinitely if you like it enough.
For example, I love helping business owners to connect with more of the clients who need them, and I'm also passionate about writing novels and drawing webcomics.
After several years of treating the latter passion as a spare-time activity, I realized I wasn't happy with that.
I wanted to make creating content for my readers a more consistent priority, both to serve them better and for my own happiness.
Of course, this presented a challenge: how do I find enough time to run two businesses, while giving both of them the care and attention they need?
If you're in the same boat, hopefully my experience will help you.
Today, I'm sharing a few specific strategies I used to make a time management system that works for me, and I'll explain how you can use those strategies to have more time for your writing or art while getting things done.
Strategy #1: Know yourself and how you function best.
At first, I tried splitting my work days in half. Four hours on my coaching and marketing business, and four hours on content creation and marketing for my fiction work.
For some people, that might have been a good arrangement. But after a few weeks of trying it, I found that it simply did not work for me.
I'm one of those people who does not switch gears easily. When I'm in "marketing business mode", I work better if I can just settle into that mode and stay in it until the job is done, even if that means working longer than expected.
The trouble with that was, my days often DID bring more work than I'd anticipated, and this work was usually of the kind that involved commitments to others that I didn't want to break.
This meant my marketing business work often ended up spilling into the time I'd reserved for my art and writing, which left me feeling frustrated, resentful, and out of control of my schedule.
Working when I expect to be working is fine, but working when I expected to be doing something else is another matter entirely! Especially when there's a touching or hilarious scene that I'm dying to write, but I feel obligated to postpone it until I've fulfilled my promises to non-fictional people.
To make matters worse, I always felt like I wasn't spending enough time on my marketing business, even though, for purposes of an even split, I was spending too much time on it!
I don't like feeling like I'm going halfway on something, and splitting my days 50-50 basically guaranteed that I would chronically feel that way toward BOTH of my businesses.
For me to create a better time management system that worked for me, my first step was to get a better understanding of how I work.
First, I took a bit of time to observe the way I emotionally reacted to the work scenario I'd created for myself. I noticed that, on the days when I simply expected to work all day, I could work from the moment I got up to the moment I went to bed without having a problem with it.
But on the days when I expected to be done by a certain time and wasn't, I got upset and resentful in a way that I couldn't seem to talk myself out of.
Based on this, plus the abovementioned difficulty in switching gears, I concluded that it was time to adjust the way I distributed my work hours.
Strategy #2: Understand your desires and goals.
When my time management system failed to satisfy me, I took a few minutes to do an exercise I learned from Mary Morrissey: I asked myself, "What would I love?"
Not "What seems feasible at this time?", but "what would I LOVE?"
The answer I came up with was, "I want to continue helping people to connect with more clients, but I'd also love to wake up on most days and know that I have few or no obligations to anyone except for creating stories."
This seemed like a big stretch; I was already working longer hours than I planned to on my marketing business. How was I going to create weekdays when I could focus almost exclusively on my writing and art, when I was having trouble just setting the evenings aside for it?
I didn't want this shift to come at the expense of my valued clients, so I needed to find a way to make more time for both of my businesses.
Strategy #3: Remember that you have more control than you think, and be willing to experiment.
I've learned better than to assume that my circumstances are outside my control. We create our own circumstances more often than many people think, and even when things outside our control affect our lives, we can still choose how to respond.
So rather than assuming I was too busy and couldn't do it, I wrote up a new schedule for myself.
On Monday and Tuesday, I would spend two hours each day on my coaching and marketing business. On those days, I would catch up on the emails that came in over the weekend, complete high-priority tasks, and put out fires.
The rest of the day on those days, I would work on the stories that have captured my heart.
On Wednesday through Friday, I would work on my coaching and marketing business from when I woke up until I got everything done, even if that meant copyediting a project while I brushed and flossed my teeth at bedtime. If I got finished early and got some free time, bonus - but I wouldn't frustrate myself by expecting it.
With this arrangement, I would be devoting entire days to each business instead of just select chunks of those days, so I could serve all of my clients without feeling rushed to get everything done by a specific time of the day.
And my impossible little dream of having four days out of the week to work on my stories and art became reality.
All because I took three simple steps: I was honest about what I wanted, I paid attention to how I function and chose to work with that instead of against it, and I chose to create and implement a specific, actionable plan to make those goals happen in a way that works for me.
What was the result of my experiment?
Since I started managing my time this way, I've found that I'm more productive in both of my areas of passion.
I'm creating content far more quickly and consistently in my art and writing business, and I'm serving my marketing clients with more joy and focus, which helps both our relationships and the quality of my work.
I'm spending more hours per week on each of my businesses now than I was before, but it feels like less, because I'm doing it in a way that's in sync with my natural process instead of fighting myself.
Will you do it the same way? Who knows.
Maybe working from wake up to lie down on one business three days a week doesn't work for you. Maybe you'll function better if you split your days half-and-half.
What's important is that you know what you want and how you function, be completely honest about what you'd love, and create a strategy that enables you to do what you love in a way that works in harmony with your natural tendencies and strengths.
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