As Makers & small business owners, this is our time of year. This is the time we live for... these months leading up to the holidays and all that comes with it. But for us, this time of year brings a unique set of challenges in finding balance and enough hours in the day. I am always interested in how to improve in this area and squeeze as much quality into those hours as possible. I've invited one of my favorite makers, Nicole Knutsen of Naturally Nora Crochet, to share her tips for not just surviving the bustle of the season, but thriving through it! Take it away Nicole...
When I was a child, my grandmother would overwhelm us with loving gestures all autumn long. Family outings, special celebrations, and gifts upon gifts upon gifts. We would find ourselves buried in an avalanche of white tissue paper and golden tinsel every year.
I read a book when I was about eight or nine in which the little girl protagonist received a set of colored pencils in a wooden box as her Christmas gift from her grandmother. This little girl cherished her simple gift and rode home with it in her lap, cradling it like a treasure. That year, I wrote a letter to Santa asking for only one gift, making sure to specify that I did not want anything else. I wanted to feel what the little girl from my book felt-simple pleasure from a simple gift and the freedom to pour out gratitude for a humble holiday. Even as a young child, I felt deep in my soul a longing for that kind of joy.
That simplicity becomes more and more difficult to claim as we grow into adulthood, as we marry and integrate two families, as we commit ourselves to meaningful friendships, as we have our own children, as we start our own businesses. Simplicity and slow living doesn’t just happen, it takes commitment and work.
The demands and expectations of the coming season can overwhelm, draining the comfort and joy out of all the things that bring us our happiest childhood memories, particularly when you are a self-employed-maker-of-cozy. Your boss can be SUCH a task master! I know mine can.
I am taking some steps this year to make this my family’s most intentional holiday season yet, even though it is also likely to be my busiest season as a maker yet. As I tiptoe carefully into fall, I will be focusing on five commitments to help achieve the humble, joyful season I so desire for my family. Care to join me?
Make a Plan
I recently created my own planner, customizing it to include all the areas of my life I am currently attempting to juggle. In addition to daily tasks, I have an area for my various business needs, including weekly goals for making, designing, writing, photography, and social media. By splitting these tasks up throughout my week and planning goals a few weeks in advance, I know how much work I can realistically bite off on any given day. This has literally saved me from insanity as the season has already begun to ramp up with market applications and collaborations.
In addition to my weekly planner. I keep a very strict daily schedule. I am strictly disciplined about work on my computer-writing, photo editing, and patterning must be done in the two hour window my husband and I plan for when he is home throughout the week, before the kids wake up, or after they’ve gone to bed. This is the only way I, personally, can be fully present with my children, which is top priority for me (this is what works for ME; no judgment here at all if you do it differently!) I allow myself time to crochet throughout the day, as the kids play at home or at a park, while they are at dance class or as we wait for an appointment, but my computer stays closed.
Take Time to Prepare
I am a designer. I want to be creating new designs and writing patterns all the time. I am a blogger. I love writing and sharing my heart and soul to encourage others. But, this time of year, I am specifically setting aside one day a week when I work exclusively on building stock for fall markets. For me, it is so easy to get distracted from building stock. I have about fifteen ideas roaming like free range chickens in my mind at any given time (I know you have NO IDEA how that feels!). Compartmentalizing my various business tasks keeps me moving on the parts I wouldn’t naturally do first.
Focus on People
So far, I have talked about organizing your many to-do’s. It is a constant danger for me to focus so much on my to-do list, that the people right next to me who get in the way of said to-do’s are dealt with swiftly and harshly. This isn’t how I want to live, and it isn’t the kind of mother or wife I want to be. I am working this handmade business life in an effort to spend MORE TIME with the people I love. I must have the self-awareness to realize when the opposite is happening, and the discipline to reverse the effects by refocusing on the folks I’ve been given to care for and the folks I am serving through my designs and handmade items.
Develop a Comfortable Pace
Small tasks done consistently over time add up to very big accomplishments! Treat yourself well by having patience with the pace that works for you. A super-productive day is great; a well balanced day is better. I never feel less satisfied than when I rush myself or my family and the simple pleasures of being together are lost on the highway of life. Take a backroad instead-as Phil Dunphy says, “Slow is smooth and smooth is fast!”
Peace is lost when the expectations we feel from others or ourselves are not met. We feel restless, less-than, harried, and worried. But peace is not a state of being that simply alights upon you-you must be intentional about claiming it. For me, this means letting go of those expectations. I had a goal for September to publish “x” amount of patterns. It didn’t happen. There were days and evenings I could have worked on them and I choose not to. I took my kids to their grandparents or had a date night in with my husband instead. Things went undone. I made peace with myself and let go of the expectation that equates success with productivity. Last holiday season, I had Christmas cards all designed, even printed. They are still unsent, sitting in my desk drawer. I claimed the peace the season is truly about and let go of the expectation that equates an adorable photo sent out in December with familial bliss. Above all the commitments I am making this year, claiming peace by releasing expectations is by fay the most vital.
Plan, and prepare, yes. But I challenge you this year to keep you focus on people, move at a healthy pace, and feel deep in your soul a still kind of peace that will last beyond your busiest season as a maker.