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?