I know I'm a little late in saying it, but Happy New Years! I love the fresh new slate that a new year brings. I've never been in the thought camp of "New Year, New Me" but maybe something more like "New Year, Same Me Constantly Trying To Find Ways To Improve Myself" - I guess that isn't as catchy though.
As a lot of you know I'm just coming back from an extended holiday break and getting back into the swing of things. This was the first time that I really took a significant amount of time off since the beginning of Honey and the Hive and it was really magical getting to spend this time completely focused on my family during the holiday season. Our little guy's birthday is nestled right in there between Christmas and New Years too so it's a huge time of celebration for our family. I am so thankful to have had a holiday season that was successful enough to allow me to take this time away because it was absolutely what I needed to recuperate after the whirlwind of the past few months and it allowed me to get some insight into myself and the way I'm working and running my business (and my life!) that I may not have otherwise gotten.
The main goal that I have set for myself in this new year is to find balance - in my life, in my business, in my relationships, my health, and my responsibilities. I think that you'll see this theme of balance a lot throughout this post as the main thing that I learned in this time away is that I completely lack it. You see, when I get busy in my work I tend to push other things aside until they stack up and up and up and up and it all becomes so much that it inevitably comes tumbling down and I find myself in a pretty low spot. I love what I do, and I think that sometimes that causes me to put blinders on and focus soley on my job - I get overwhelmed with the business tasks and neglect myself. I let go of any personal care routine I may have established, I'll forget to eat until really late in the afternoon, I neglect exercise and taking care of my body, I order take out instead of cooking a nutritious meal, and to top it all off I find myself not getting adequate sleep. I'm basically just exacerbating an already really big problem and creating a model of work and life that just isn't sustainable.
Putting a pause on my work for a few weeks allowed me to realize that it is the center of everything that I do (again, I LOVE what I do - but even when your work gives you purpose and joy, you need to make time for the other things in life that bring you purpose and joy.) The first 2 or so days of my extended break I found myself kind of sitting there with the lingering thought of "well, what do I do now?" I'd check my email over and over again (even though it wasn't necessary - auto responders were on, all orders were shipped, everything was OK!) get lost in an infinite Instagram scroll, or do other little work tasks until I'd catch myself and remind myself that I was taking a break for a reason. It was kind of astonishing to see how programmed I am (even after my kiddo was home from school) to be working in some capacity. I realized right then and there that I had a really big problem with shutting it off or "clocking out" for the day.
After overcoming the hurdle of the first few days and breaking some of those bad habits I was able to settle into these two weeks and fully enjoy them. Spending time with my son got to be fully dedicated to him. I found a slower pace - I remember that on the 3rd or 4th day I was sitting in the living room drinking my morning coffee and just enjoying the quiet morning in this newly renovated space and realized that I couldn't remember the last time I just sat and enjoyed my coffee without sipping it alongside a dozen of other tasks. I found time to read, to practice yoga, to do crafts with my kiddo and make dinner together at night. I got more of a handle on the chores and responsibilities around our house - I found this calm peaceful feeling that I've been lacking in my life and I noticed that in doing so everything and everyone around me seemed a lot lighter too.
I was really scared that in coming back to work this Monday that I would lose everything that I've worked so hard to achieve these past few weeks, and I'll tell you it has definitely been a practice not to fall into the same habits. While it's only been a few days I am happy to report that I have been able to stay on track and although I've realized a few areas need some work I'm proud of where I am right now.
So here are some things that I learned, and the ways that I am working to correct them.
The Time Adds Up, And You Can't Get It Back
One of the biggest things that I noticed was that I spend so. much. time. (even after I've deemed myself "done" for the day) scrolling through Instagram, checking my email, etc. I turned on the Screen Time app on my phone right before taking this break and seeing how many hours a day I spend on my phone was really eye-opening and honestly pretty scary. There was a day that I spent 9 hours on my phone. Nine hours. Yes, a lot of my job involves social media and responding to emails (but, I don't even respond to emails on my phone!) but I can admit that while maybe one or even two of those hours is justified, the rest is just mindless scrolling. I would catch myself in the kitchen grabbing my phone to pull up a recipe I saved for dinner and instead I'd be back on Instagram, checking through my emails, and 15 minutes would go by before I had the jolt of realization of why I had even grabbed my phone in the first place. I am constantly saying that I don't have time to exercise, or to make a proper meal, or to catch up on the laundry but I'm spending so many unnecessary hours a day just looking at my phone which isn't allowing me to find peace of mind, or tackle some of the looming tasks that are adding unnecessary stress to my life. Social media is a great tool both for business and for connecting with friends - I really do love seeing what my friends are up to each day and seeing the photos that they share within the app, but I need to limit the time spent on it. This is a habit that I know is going to take me some time to break, but I'm happy to report that I've cut my unnecessary screen time down to less than half of what it was.
Boundaries are Important
This I feel goes pretty hand in hand with my first point, but I noticed that I have no boundaries from my work life to my home life. Sure, with my studio being directly across the hall from my bedroom it's easy to run in there and do a few things on a Saturday afternoon, but doing that doesn't allow me the time that I need to relax and rejuvenate in order to be creative and thrive in my work. I found an overbearing feeling of burn-out over the past few months. I didn't feel creative, I wasn't having the "ah-ha!" moments that I used to, and my work was starting to just feel like going through the motions - I absolutely hated feeling that way. I realized that in actually really, truly taking time off and experiencing life these past few weeks that I was beginning to have those creative ideas again. I had ideas for art I wanted to make. I had ideas to make this platform and everything that Honey and the Hive is even better for all of us. So as much as I love my work, I also need to take time for the other things in my life that I love. By setting a schedule (and so far) sticking to it, I've been able to enjoy my afternoons with Dallas once he gets home from school. To be a better mom. Our evenings are going smoother, and I'm not feeling so overwhelmed. By actually not checking my email 15 times an hour after I'm "clocked out" for the day, I'm not stressing over the tasks of tomorrow while I am supposed to be spending time with my family, but instead I'm actually fully present and getting to enjoy this time. This is another area that I'm going to have to spend more time on, but I've made tremendous progress here too.
There Is More To Life Than Work
As I mentioned in the beginning of this post, my work has become the center of all that I do. I can't say it enough that I absolutely love what I do and there is no other thing in the world that I want to do, but this job can't be the only thing in my life that brings me joy or gives me a sense of purpose. For a long time I've hidden behind Honey and the Hive. If you asked me what I like to do when I'm not working on art or other projects for H+H I would probably look at you with a blank stare because for a really long time that was the only thing I did. I think this is the case for a lot of small business owners. When you build something out of your passions it is like this giant extension of you, a lot of us will refer to our businesses as "our babies" and we tend to treat them as such. For a long time I had this overwhelming idea that if I stepped away that everything I built would crumble - that if I wasn't constantly engaged on social media that everyone would forget about me and my art and that I'd never get another customer and never ship another order and life as I knew it would be over. Overdramatic, huh? I'm happy to say that I have disproven that theory and that in the two weeks that I took off I got emails about custom paintings and those folks were still just as excited on Monday when I returned to my email as they were when they had written the email days before. I still got orders. The world kept spinning. Everything was okay. I think that realization was huge. Nothing that I do needs my immediate attention, and it's okay for me to turn off my phone for an evening (okay, maybe I'm not there yet, but I can set it across the room) and watch a movie with my family. I'm allowed to take weekends off. Everything will be okay. I am a mom and as so many of us parents know the time goes by so fast - it felt like a giant weight had lifted being able to give myself the permission to not be "Kelsey the Illustrator" all the time and to just be "mom" some days. I took time to explore other joys like reading, and cooking, and decorating our home. I spent time exercising and doing yoga. I did some of the stuff that fills me up and truthfully I can be a better artist and a smarter business owner if I, as a person, am happy and fulfilled too.
Schedule Time For Things That Make You Happy
I don't know about you, but I'm a really big to-do list maker, not only does it help keep me motivated and on track, but there is also something so satisfying about crossing off a task that's been accomplished. My mind is so often going in a dozen different directions at once so I find that if I don't write something down I will forget about it, no matter how good-intentioned it was. Learning to add self-care practices like "do yoga", "drink 8 cups of water", "eat lunch", "text Dad back", and "journal at night" might sound really silly to some people but for me it made a huge difference. Not only could I look at my entire list of tasks for the day and plan accordingly to include those things, but it felt really really good to cross out these self-care practices knowing that I had taken time during the day to do something good for myself too.
The Comparison Game Is Real
I had wanted to write this post first thing Monday when I got back into my studio but I realized that I needed to take a few days of actually implementing some of the things that I learned and practicing balance before I could stand on my soapbox and tell you all the awesome things I realized. I'm really glad that I waited because Monday was a really hard day for me. Getting back into the swing of things, being on social media again, talking to my other friends who are small-business owners I felt this lingering voice in my head and all the stress that comes along with it telling me I wasn't doing enough. That I wasn't far enough along in the new year. That I needed to have a plan for my entire year, that all of my collections needed to be planned out. That I had to have and do and be all of these things that I wasn't because I was just coming back into it. I texted my husband, I cried, I felt really really low for about 30 minutes. I felt like I made a mistake and I shouldn't have taken this time off and that my entire year was going to be "off" because of it and I wouldn't reach any of my goals. But then I asked myself… why? Just because some of my friends are doing this thing or that thing doesn't mean I have to as well. All of our businesses are different. We're all different. We all have different goals and points of focus. Right now my goal is not to have every single thing I'm going to do planned out for the year (and why the heck would I put pressure on myself to do that? it's not how I work), my goal is to find balance in the way that I work and the way that I live so that I can be better in all areas of my life. That was like the praise hands moment of "I'm doing something right! I'm figuring it out! I'm finding the balance!" Just because your journey looks different than the person next to you doesn't mean that you're doing something wrong (or that they're doing something wrong) it's just different, and that's totally okay. I can tell you right now I'll never have it all together in the way that some of my friends do, but that doesn't make me any less of a badass business owner, or any less of an artist. It just means I'm different and I'm focused on other things.
Give Yourself Grace
The most important thing that I realized is that major change takes time, and that I need to have a little grace with myself. I knew that completely restructuring the way that I work and live my life was going to be a process and two weeks is definitely not enough time to implement all of the things that I'm trying to. It's going to take me a few months to find a new rhythm and I'm going to mess up a lot along the way. I didn't make time to exercise yesterday and I ate a piece of left over birthday cake after putting Dallas to bed, but on the other hand I also was very mindful about my phone usage, spent quality time with my kiddo, made a home-cooked meal together, and went to bed at a decent time. We can't just wake up one day and be a completely different person. If we want change and growth and balance we have to work for it.
I want to constantly be in the practice of growing and finding balance - as an individual, an artist, a mother, a wife, and a business owner. The two weeks that I took off were a major eye opener and really helped me to address some issues with the way that I was spending my time both in my work life and my personal life and to find ways to improve and better work toward my goals of finding happiness and balance in all areas of my life. I want to be able to pull back from time to time to re-evaluate and acknowledge other areas that I may need help in but for now I'm really happy about the progress that I've made and hope to continue on a more positive and structured path in the way that I approach my work.