Sunday, April 11, 2010

How to succeed at three full-time jobs

In this recession world of cutbacks, RIFs, and layoffs, it seems everyone and their cousin is out of work. Being in corporate retail management, I didn't think I would face that problem, but three months ago my company announced they would be closing my store. So I considered my alternatives and made a plan that (I hope) will keep me in beans and rice at the very least.

The long run is that I will be singing for my supper as part of a local rock/country duo, and supplementing my income with my jewelry sales. The problem is that in the meantime I still have my 50+ hours per week corporate gig which (for the sake of my severance pay) I can't leave quite yet. So I've embarked on a quest to figure out how to do three full-time jobs at the same time... Without losing my sanity or having family and friends forget who I am.

First of all I have found that prioritizing my time is no longer an option. When every hour has literally ten useful applications (not counting time wasters like reading the comics or watching TV) it really brings home the need for doing the most important things first.

I recently read a story (on an Etsy page no less) about a professor who illustrated the importance of prioritizing. He filled a glass jar with rocks and asked his class if it was full. Then he poured pebbles in around the rocks and asked again if it was full. Next he poured in sand, and finally water, at which point the jar truly was full. The moral of the story was that if he'd put the sand and the water in first, the rocks would never have fit.

Taking that to heart, I now prioritize by that scale. Yesterday I bought some new sterling silver clasps; is creating a rock task today or a sand task? I heard a great new song that I'd like to add to the playlist; does it qualify as a pebble or a rock? This is not a new idea, but it's a new way for me to illustrate the truth for myself, and I'm finding it very helpful to rate each activity. I've found that the same task can be water one day and a rock three days later if I don't get around to it; other tasks are always pebbles but have to be done every day.

I find every minute in the day that I can make useful. If I get up early and have an extra ten minutes before I go to work, I'll pop into the studio and play with a necklace I'm restringing. If my man isn't ready for bed yet I'll pull out the guitar and my country songbook and see what I can pick out. If I have a slow afternoon at the "day job" I may take a break to write out an artist bio for a particular website, or sketch out an idea for my booth setup.

Second, I am planning more. I have a calendar on the fridge for the week. I post my "wage slavery" as I so politely call it, all my gigs and shows, and any planned activities like yoga dates with my HSO (highly significant other) or dinner with the fam. (This also helps when I forget to tell Bill about plans, or when he forgets what I have told him!)

One of the first things I did this year was write out a list of craft shows I wanted to get into and when I have to have get application in. This has also been very helpful with budgeting booth fees. One of my former managers used to say, "Proper Planning Prevents Piss-Poor Performance." I've never been good at applying that, but now that I'm responsible for my own success I'm getting better!

Third, I am relying on others. Nobody is a truly self-made man or woman, but some of us seem to require more help than others. And that's okay! My HSO works from home, and I am accepting the idea that it's okay to let him do the dishes every day. I don't feel as guilty that I haven't done the laundry in a month, since he's willing to grab the contents of one hamper and throw it in the wash with soap. (He does take time to separate and fold everything too... What a sweetheart!) Also, when my band is booked on a Thursday evening and I am supposed to be setting up before my weekly Farmer's Market is over, I have family members and a good friend who have volunteered to booth for me and pack everything up so I can retrieve it later.

My musical partner is still doing a lot of the management tasks associated with running a band; he finds us gigs and makes the schedule. Fortunately,he's better suited to it anyways, since he knows everyone in the area and they know he's earned the glowing reputation he has.

Just make sure that the help you're getting is reasonable; for example, you don't want to have your partner take on all the child-raising duties and get burned out after three months. Take an evening to yourself and send him/her off with friends, to the mall, to the bar, wherever. Even running errands alone can be a break! Be fair, be aware, and be appreciative.

But there's still some things that nobody can do for me and which still fall through the cracks. So my last method of dealing with all of it is to relax more. Not spend more time relaxing, but be more aware that I am relaxing. Since I have so little time free, I enjoy my free time to the fullest. I think how lucky I am to be eating a delicious dinner made by my sister or my mom, I contemplate how nice it is to be lying in bed watching a movie with my man, I revel in the joy of a late morning lie-in. It's kind of Zen I know, and very self-reflective.

Also, if I don't get through the entire priority list for my day, I don't sweat it. Rarely do I find that I miss the rocks, and even most pebbles can safely be put off till tomorrow. On occasion I'll burn the midnight oil to get a project done, but with good planning I usually avoid those anyays.

Right now I feel like I'm being put through a ringer. I have a list of tasks that only I can do, and that are very important to build my business: set up my website, blog regularly, devise some giveaways, come up with ideas for the rebranding this fall, do my taxes (like, NOW), maybe create some more jewelry for heaven's sake?!? I don't know how many I will be able to get done while I'm still working full-time, so (for example) I won't open a Twitter account until I know I can be more active. But I'm making a list... And once I've joined the ranks of the so-called "unemployed" I'll start knocking them off.

In the mean time my top priorities are 1. regularly uploading items to Etsy - with exceptional photos - 2. getting my name out locally and 3. studying what other sellers are doing so I don't make as many rookie mistakes. Oh yeah, and creating more jewelry!


  1. I loved reading this! Thank you so much for posting it and for feeling like you could share this with all of this.

    I totally understand, I'm working part time, student teaching two days a week, going to class 4 nights a week and trying to squeeze in time for a social life as well as make my little etsy shop the best it could be.

    But that's what this space is here for, to support and cheer for each other. You can do it and it sounds like you are already making steps towards managing everything the best way you can.

    Best Wishes and I can't wait to read more posts!


  2. me too, what an awesome post!!

    I have a 13 months old baby, I'm a stay at home mom and really can use the money from my etsy shop!!! LOL

    I can't really go to craft shows because of the baby, but would love to have my shop's name spread locally.

    I've been leaving postcard flyers at small local shop and I really hope it helps!

    thank you for the great post!