Over the last couple months, I've been feeling really exhausted, drained, and overall burnt out. I thought to myself, "This doesn't make sense!", since I absolutely love what I do, and get to do it with my amazing wife and business partner, Angela.
Recently, I signed up for The Futur's Pro Group. In case you don't know, the Futur is an educational group geared towards leaders in creative agencies that teaches how to be better creators, business leaders, and managers). As a team, we've been watching a lot of the Futur's free content on Youtube and adapting a lot of their advice to how we run our creative agency. However, in the last week, as we work on restructuring our brand and growing upwards, I decided it was a good time to start doing some professional development so that I can be a better me. Now, I just joined the Pro Group, so I'm planning to share more of my own findings as I continue to learn and adapt what they teach.
One of the things that they go through is helping us as leaders and creatives figure out where our time is actually going. This is something I've never really thought about before, and when I actually thought to myself and wrote it out on a notepad, I was horrified. This is not where I want to be. Since I only just started, I estimated how much time I spend on the following sections:
My days usually start at around 9:00AM, and end at about 8:00PM. It's not always like that, but that's how it's been lately. I'll take a break for lunch (sometimes) and dinner (usually), and then spend about an hour or two with my family before escaping back to the office to do more work. This isn't how it's always been, as I'm a strong believer in not over-working. I'm not a fan of the "work til' you die" mentality, because life simply is too short. It definitely helps that I actually enjoy what I do for work--but that's kind of the problem, too. My work day (as of right now) is broken up like this:
A lot of this I feel goes towards bettering myself personally rather then solely for House Creative. However, they can often times go hand in hand. My time is spent doing:
Contrary to what it looks like, I love being outside and getting exercise. I'm not a big fan of gyms, but I do like running. In the winter time, I'll jog on the track (I refuse to use treadmills) or do other cardio workouts. Lately, I have been focusing so much on work that this was the first section to get sacrificed, and because of this, everything else followed suit. But this doesn't only include exercise; I also include spiritual care and scripture reading as well. Now, I'm not trying to push my faith on anyone, so some people would say they take time to meditate or follow the tenets of their own faith, but ideally, I would spend time reading scripture or worshiping either by listening to or playing music.
Ideally, I'd like it to look like this:
I broke leisure down by this:
So, I tend to take too many breaks on Facebook. I knew this already, but putting it on paper was scary. When I start recording, I'll probably throw my phone out the window. Breaks are important; very important! It can help declutter your brain and get your ready for the next task that needs to be achieved. You can spend your break reading, talking, eating a snack, or even on your phone watching cool cat videos on Youtube or seeing what's happening in the Dubstep scene (is that still a thing?). However, this should be done sparingly. I have caught myself going down a rabbit hole of scrolling through Facebook for what I thought to be a few minutes, and it ended up being a couple hours. Yeah, that bad. Just remember, Facebook is designed to waste your time. Trust me, as a marketer, my job is to grab your attention. However, maybe I'm tooting my own horn here, but finding cool blog posts on your news feed like this one (that's geared more towards personal development) isn't on the same level as what that famous celebrity was caught doing. Nor is reading the comments and being entertained by the arguments people have with each other. It's easy to get sucked into social media. It's hard to put it down. Remember that! I am aiming to decrease this to about 10%.
Furthermore, I do play video games, but not a lot. I play a game maybe every couple weeks lately, and when things slow down, I'll go through a time where I'll play every night for a week, but then won't pick up a game for over a month. Don't be guilted out of gaming. If you like to game, do it! My personal favourites are sandbox games, strategy, or RPGS. I'm a slow gamer. However, play Call of Duty, or Halo, or whatever. Games inspire me to create more, and I love looking at how they designed everything from the 3D models to the user interface. I plan to cut this in half, but it depends on the season. In warmer months, I hope to rarely game, but in the winter that might increase, because it is something I occasionally enjoy. Long story short, being a nerd is cool now, because it helps me do better work. And better work = more money. Take that, bully from middle school!
Netflix really means all the streaming platforms. We have Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Disney+, and we still can't find anything to watch. Still...better than cable, am I right? In our family, we want to be at a place where watching a TV show or movie is a weapon of last resort. I'm not into sitting on couches all day, yet I have found myself doing it. What's up with that? I'd like to change this to about 5%.
Family time means many things. It could be playing with my son, or taking the family to the park for a picnic, or going on drives. It could also mean having outings of all sorts. It might also mean date night with Angie, or holding my 3-month old daughter. Contrary to what the above percentage might say, I actually love spending time with my family. I'm learning that things don't really get less busy, it's really about how I prioritize things. Ideally, this needs to be at a 50%.
Though eating meals can also be family time, it's slightly different. Meals tend to be the best time to put technology and outside distractions aside and simply talk. It is also a time to re-nourish yourself, enjoy good food, and decompress. Breakfast should be spent with getting yourself prepped for the day and starting it off on the right track, while lunch is a great time to catch a breather, eat some food, and maybe go on a short walk (if you have the time). Dinner should be guarded closely, because it's easily thrown out the door. I know, because I do it. I'm aiming for this to stay the same, but have a higher-quality experience. I don't want to be as distracted.
I'm also an outdoor enthusiast. I love camping, hiking, hunting, fishing, and everything in between. Since living in Saskatchewan, I've had a harder time finding ways to do this. Going to a farmer's field is simply not the same as visiting the mountains that surrounded me in Montana. I'm working on improving my outlook on this and embracing beauty that likes to sneak up on you here, but obviously, I haven't really done that enough (or at all). This really should be more like 15% of my leisure (or more if I spend it with family or friends).
The dreaded topic. Chores can mean a few things, however, though it of course means cleaning to me, primarily. I love having a clean house, but as we get busy, this also gets thrown out the window as well. I'll see it disappear in an instant, and then our house ends up looking like it got hit by an asteroid made up of dirty laundry and toys. Because this tends to be sacrificed, I see my mental health spiral down from this point. So why is it so easy to give up, if it's the catalyst to the entire burn-out equation?
First, let's break this down on how much I spend doing "chores":
I find that when I'm in the moment--I have a design in my head, or a task to be done--I will say, "Meh, I'll do it later, I have to go do this!". The problem is, I never actually do it. Something else always comes up. I gotta stop doing this! Instead, just do it then and there, and then it's going to help in the long run. That might be cliche advice, but it's so true. Furthermore, I have an ADHD brain, so if I don't write something down, I'll forget. That's a lot of the anxiety that causes me to put aside chores. So instead, I used to like having sticky notes lying around. That doesn't work anymore, because I can never find those freakin' things, so I downloaded Evernote instead. I literally have an entire "note" made up of one-liner notes that if you were to look at it, you'd see a bunch of random jarble, but for me, it works. When I write things down, I can tend to remember.
In terms of bills and handling our own finances, I've had great luck with Everydollar. While it doesn't seem like it saves me time, it definitely saves me money, which inevitably saves me time because I'm not wasting it worrying so much about money. Budgeting is important. So is taking the time to pay your bills (I can be bad at remembering this). I spend about 50% of my time budgeting or paying bills (because I enjoy finances), 30% cleaning or organizing, and 20% of my time shopping for groceries, clothes (which isn't something I enjoy), or things we need.
I need help!
Kidding. No, but it shows that I need to slow down. Something that I learned in my five year stint with the military that has stuck with me is this:
Fast is slow, and slow is fast.
When you try to do too much too fast, it actually slows you down. We're not meant to be robots. We can't calculate thousands of individual tasks in seconds. When I am trying to design a website, while also managing a team, while also feeding my daughter (who stays with us in the office because she's too young for daycare), and also trying to make a Facebook post for a client, while also watching a seminar, I will fail; and not just at one thing. The website won't be designed well, my team won't feel taken care of, my daughter will be crying because the bottle isn't in her mouth, it's been on the floor for the last five minutes, the Facebook post will be put on the wrong client's page (this has never happened), and I'll have to re-watch the seminar again.
Slow down. You can't do everything.
As House Creative grows and becomes more established and experienced, we have found why some people and agencies get paid so much. First, a lot of it is skill/experience. However, it's also based on how much time things take, and how much they value their time. When I agree to design a business/organization's brand, I am agreeing to dedicating over 1,400 hours (at least) of labour to the project if I account for our entire team. That means in an ideal circumstance, each team member is dedicating at least forty hours per week for three months. Sometimes I don't need everyone, sometimes I need to hire out freelancers or other companies. Nonetheless, that's valuable time that is going to keep them from something else--more projects, a vacation, professional development, or even their families. Again, don't get me wrong; we all love what we do. But, that tends to make it even harder for us as creatives to put our foot down and guard our time. And that is why creative work costs thousands (or tens of thousands) of dollars.
What I'm learning is that time is so important. I'll never get it back. So why do we give it up so easily?
Why do I give up time so easily?