I spoke to a group of 8th graders in Little Elm on Tuesday this week about being a photographer and graphic designer. I shared how I got started as a small business owner, what all I do and then answered questions. One question that came up and then was followed by a few others was how do I do all of these different things? How do I not stress out and panic with everything I'm doing? How do I keep from feeling overwhelmed. Simple answer is I don't. I do feel stressed and overwhelmed. I constantly take on too many projects and then feel overwhelmed. But there are a few things I can do help with the stress, not feel overwhelmed all the time and how I do manage to juggle everything.
1. Being creative is my outlet for stress. Whenever I feel overwhelmed I feel like I need to create something. Usually this just leads me to more work because then I've created something I want to share and get out there to sell but while I'm creating that I'm not thinking about that. I'm thinking about why I'm creating it and how much I enjoy creating it. If it is photography that is overwhelming me then usually I'll sew something or do something creative that doesn't involve photography. Same for when I'm frustrated by sewing.
2. I have at least 5 calendars at one time. Because I have a ton of deadlines I need to meet, my husband travels and my kids are starting to have their own schedules I don't feel as overwhelmed when I can have a calendar right in front of me and feel organized. I've even started one for my oldest so she can see what she has going on and feel prepared. I love paper calendars that I can touch and put stickers on or color coordinate events.
3. Being positive is huge. I used to feel extremely overwhelmed when I was negative. I would dread certain days or deadlines and that would have me procrastinate even more than I normally would. By the time I had to actually get that project or whatever done I felt exhausted and hated it because I was so negative about it. If I was negative about a customer then it made me not want to deal with them and put off uncomfortable conversations. By being positive it lifts a huge weight off me so I don't have to feel like it is a chore or something I hate. I don't feel overwhelmed from the get go because I'm pumped up and ready to go. I can look at my calendar now and go wow this week I have a lot going on better get started! instead of saying ugh I have so much going on how can I possibly survive this? I do still have moments where I'm negative and I'm thinking this is going to suck but then I have to think of something positive. Okay so if this is going to suck what is the positive that will come? Well I will accomplish something I didn't think I would. I could learn something from this. I might get something more than I expected out of this.
4. Don't lump everything into one big task but break it up into little tasks that can be completed. Instead of saying clean the kitchen I can say okay the kitchen needs cleaned and here is the break down of what in the kitchen needs to be done. By doing this I don't have to dread cleaning the kitchen because if I can at least get 5 little tasks done then I feel more accomplished than if I didn't get the whole kitchen cleaned and I can't cross off that one huge bullet point. Same with my work. If I know I have 5 tasks I need to complete just for my photography business, I'm going to write them out but I can also put down okay so here is exactly what I need to do. If its marketing then how many posts do I need to make and where should I post for today? If I need to e-mail or make phone calls then okay who all is important to contact right away and then who can I follow up with? This makes me more productive because I'm able to accomplish exactly what I want to accomplish without it feeling overwhelming. My task this week has been working on 200 handmade envelopes for an upcoming vendor event. It is a lot and it takes time but instead of going oh crap I have 200 to be done by Sunday I've just been working on them when I have a break and I can make 10 or 20 at a time. I just finished those 30 minutes ago because I didn't let them overwhelm me.
5. I have to know my limits. I suffer from anxiety and depression. I'm on medication for them. I love to take on way more than I can handle because I'm a people pleaser. I like to be busy and I can not sit still. But when my rheumatoid arthritis was flaring up stress was making it worse. Of course stress also caused me to get sick and with a compromised immune system I would get really sick. I've had to learn I can't do everything. I've had to say no and I've had to tell people I'm sorry this isn't going to work. At times it really makes me upset that I have to put limits on myself but at the same time I would rather tell people up front no because I'm just too busy than disappoint them when I can't come through. I will push myself to exhaustion when I can't come through and then beat myself up for weeks about it. It is better to know my limits early and say no then to disappoint. I'm very hard on myself so if I have down time I'm constantly thinking I need to be doing something because it isn't being productive but I have to take breaks and I have to know when to take time for family and take time for myself. It is okay to give myself a break.
I still have a lot to learn on how to balance everything. I seriously do not have it all figured out and I hope people who see me doing 100 different things don't think that it is so easy for me. I do stress and I do feel overwhelmed but I also thrive on being busy. I am a workaholic with a billion things always going on in my head. I can't make the thoughts stop so I might as well put them down on paper and I might as well put them to good use.