Being your own good boss

Hello, friends. Just this week, I was fantasizing about having an extra six hours a day. With a 30-hour day, I reckoned I could work enough, spend sufficient time with my family, and sleep adequately. But I soon realized that it’s a just pleasant delusion – not only because it’s temporally impossible, but also because I’m sure other things would crop up. Even if I had my miraculous 30-hour day, I’d probably end up grinding my teeth and muttering about a 36-hour day.

So when my friend, the author Stephanie Burgis, linked to this lovely piece of writing advice from fellow children’s novelist R J Anderson, I made time to read it. It’s called “How I Stopped Being My Own Bad Boss”, which immediately made sense to me. We all undermine ourselves from time to time (right? RIGHT? If you don’t, I’m not sure I want to hear from you) but being self-employed carries its own special range of freedoms and responsibilities. And, more often than I care to think about, I have sabotaged my own work day.

My recent specialty was running errands on work time. I’d drop off the children at school/babysitter and think, “On my way home, I’ll get groceries.” It made so much sense: I was already going past the store. Going alone is so much quicker than taking along two small children. It was even a great time of day to shop: no queues at the checkout. And groceries are the reverse of frivolous. But only after a couple of months did I realize how much time I was stealing from myself. It wasn’t just 20 minutes in the grocery store. It was getting home and putting the food away. And then cleaning up after the morning rush. And then, while I was at it, throwing in a load of laundry. And then remembering that online banking/phone call/random bit of life admin I’d meant to do. And before I knew it, it was 11 o’clock and I’d lost the freshest, most focused part of my work day. So I made a vow: from now on, I only run errands with children at my side. It’s a much longer trip to the grocery store, by a large margin. It’s a little odd, showing up at the accountant’s office with two miniature bodyguards. But I’m protecting my work time. I stopped doing things outside the writer’s job description. In R J Anderson’s words, I stopped being my own bad boss.

Anderson’s advice is terrific: forthright, concrete, constructive. As she bravely admits, “I used to [feel] stressed & overwhelmed nearly all the time… In fact, I seriously considered quitting writing altogether at one point because I felt like I had no life outside of writing anymore.” This is what she did to turn herself around.

If you’re a writer, an aspiring writer, self-employed, or otherwise looking for ways to work more productively, I highly recommend reading what Anderson has to say.

How about you, readers? Do you have any tips to share, or bad-boss confessions to make?

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2 Responses to “Being your own good boss”

  1. Cass says:

    I always wanted to be a writer up until I started high school. All through primary school, that was it- being a writer was the ultimate dream and one day I was going to make it happen. But after a while I realised it didn’t want to write. I wanted to be paid to read all the time. Haha
    After reading what you just wrote I think I made the right choice. Haha. I’m 15 and I am horrible at keeping to my own rules and that’s just know when I have due dates to meet. I can’t imagine myself in 15 years when I’m 30 and trying to follow my own rules when I have more freedom then I do know. It’s nice to hear about what it’s like to be an author though. I really like reading your blog. Actually I just really like reading. Haha :D

  2. Ying says:

    I’m glad my blog is one of the things you enjoy reading, Cass! It’s always nice to hear from you. I hope this doesn’t sound patronizing (it’s certainly not intended that way), but self-discipline definitely grows – and gets easier – with practice. If you’re meeting due dates in high school, you’re well on your way.

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