5 strategies to help you NOT do it all

by Rachel Smith
17 February 2017

This week, a  journo friend of mine who’s expecting her first baby asked her mates on Facebook about what life will be like after her baby arrives – and how she’ll still work, and do everything she normally does (once maternity leave is over). The post was full of the kind of brilliant advice only parents could give, and it’s stayed with me.

I still think the hardest lesson I had to learn after having Charlie was to let go of the fact that I could do everything, especially workwise. Because I used to, and then suddenly – I couldn’t. It sounds depressing, but I think it’s quite liberating to acknowledge that you’re not a superhero, that you have choices and that you have to carefully prioritise in order to create a happier and less stressful life for yourself. Here are some strategies I have used and I’d love to hear yours too!

Strategy 1: Focus on money-making over passion projects.

While pregnant I started a pregnancy and motherhood blog… and yep, I know, nothing like choosing a saturated market – but it was mainly for me and my husband’s family overseas. I religiously wrote a post once a week for a good 18 months. I started to monetise it and worked hard to grow it, but ultimately I didn’t have the resources or the time to focus on it. I had to make the tough call to focus on my work that made money. Hard decision, but ultimately I’m happier for it (and so is the bank and all the people who keep sending me bills). Will I go back to it? Maybe, but when I can afford to have a passion project. The truth is, many of us can’t. And that’s just life.

Strategy 2: Do one thing at a time and do it well.

We like to think we can multi-task over numerous things and spread ourselves thin, while also zipping over to Facebook at regular intervals and checking on what our mates are up to and what’s happening in all the groups we’re in and … well, something invariably suffers. That’s why, when I’m with my kid, I try not to work at all. (Easier said than done). When I’m not with him, I try to close my mail, my social media programs and everything that distracts me so I can narrow my focus to one thing at a time, finish that, then move onto the next. And I have to say, I find it really satisfying to cut out all the mental chit-chat and distraction and just get something done.

Strategy 3: Have a good storage system for ideas.

Creative people are often bursting with ideas ALL THE DAMN TIME. I know I am. I also know I have to make very conscious choices as to which rabbit hole I decide to venture down into. That’s why I’m loving Trello and the ease with which it enables me to save and organise all my ideas and grand plans. It calms my farm to know that while I might not be able to action them TODAY, maybe someday I will and they’re waiting there for when I can.

Strategy 4: Don’t be afraid to negotiate on deadlines.

If I want to take a project on but the deadline is too tight, I’ll ask for more time.  Right at the start of a commission, of course, not the day before the piece is due – but I find most editors are willing to help if they really want you to write the piece for them. Same thing goes with clients. I think they like to know that the person they’re hiring is in demand and busy. It gives them confidence that you’re good and will do a top job on their project.

Strategy 5: Push back against the urge to fill your schedule.

How many times this week have you said to someone without thinking, ‘Oh busy as always!’ or ‘It’s crazy at the moment’ or ‘Sorry, I haven’t had a chance to call you back – this week’s been mental’. Being busy seems to be the mantra we all live by, but do we have to? Is a full schedule necessary? Do we have to say yes to everything? Pack as much into our weekends as possible? No. I found the minute I started to build some breathing room into my life, the better I worked and the happier I was.

Do you agree? Or have another strategy to share? I’d love to hear from you in the comments!

Rachel Smith
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Rachel Smith

As a kid, Rachel used to carry around a little suitcase of pens and paper so she could stop and write stories whenever inspiration struck. These days, she writes for a living, in between running the show at Rachel's List. Some of you may actually believe she looks like a megaphone in real life, but it's not the case. Honest.
Rachel Smith
Find us!

2 responses on "5 strategies to help you NOT do it all"

  1. Totally agree with strategy 4! I’ve found most editors and clients have a little wriggle room with deadlines and the key is to negotiate as soon as you receive a commission. After all, we are freelancers and even though we may not mention it to editors and clients directly, everyone knows we’re juggling multiple projects!

    1. Rachel Smith says:

      Absolutely, Angela. I used to think it was the worst thing to do, to try and wheedle more time on a deadline – but the amount of times an editor or client has agreed makes me think, why do I bust my chops and work like a dog on a weekend, when it might not actually matter at all to THEM if I ask for another few days!?

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