5 ways to reset and organize for fall as a creative business owner
September kicks off our most intense season of the year for our business coming right off of July and August: the months of lots of flexibility, slower work paces and vacations. It's a hard transition. It always is. But part of me loves the feeling of getting all of our September-December projects set up and organized. I think that's school-aged Carlene who also loved buying school supplies and setting up notebooks according to the teacher's syllabus (please note that enthusiasm waned drastically in college when every year involved chemistry).
With Chris joining the business almost three full years ago at this point, we like to problem solve ways we can make each year run more smoothly. And part of that is this very transition after summer. Since the fall and early winter seasons contain the biggest food holidays of the year, getting organized early is the best thing we can do. Being efficient in how we spend our time but most importantly, being efficient so we can try to relax and be balanced, is key. And although working for yourself is amazing, it's hard to relax. Since we work from our home studio, work is always there. It's tempting to just keep working to try to 'get ahead', even though there will always be a task list no matter what.
So that's our challenge this year: how do we maintain the balance from summer, especially in Copenhagen, with being efficient and working hard? How can you create habits to streamline and set boundaries on your work life? Here's what we came up with:
Guide to getting organized after summer for creatives/business owners:
1. Use your calendar
I know, I know. During summer you can go for days without having to use a calendar. Schedules are loose and lazy. But it's time to break it out again. Using a calendar allows you to realistically create deadlines and work periods that make you and your clients happy. And your social life. I use my paper planner for daily tasks but I use my calendar on my computer/phone to block out general tasks (and scheduling on the go). Since spring, I started blocking out what project is the focus for each week/day and it’s helped me not get distracted by what’s next. I even add things to the calendar like procurement/ordering due dates and Chris's photo/video editing days so I don't put a rush on something unnecessarily. Since Chris and I have been at this full time together for nearly 3 years now, we have a good handle on what our maximum output capacity is before burn out each season/each week. This stops us from saying "yes" to overbooking weeks on client requests and allows us to suggest reasonable alternative dates. Also in this category, set aside time at the end of each day to organize tasks for tomorrow. Having your goals for tomorrow ready saves you time the next day. You know where you stand with progress and can jump straight in tomorrow.
I also mentioned social time. We'll touch on this in a few points, but booking relaxation or fun time is just as important for you to be a good creative.
2. Don’t conform to 9-5
This really depends on what your business is (sometimes you HAVE to be available to clients during the work day), but I find I work best first thing in the morning until about 1 PM. I’m garbage by 4 PM. The beauty of a flexible schedule is knowing yourself and knowing when you’re most efficient. Chris is a total night owl thanks to late night art studio in college. I have to sleep.
Beyond knowing when you work best hour by hour, it’s also worth thinking about switching which days you take off. Now honestly, there are two sections of the year when Chris and I work through weekends for clients and we’re okay with that because we know during the month following busy season, we can ultra chill. But week by week, I find I hate the wasted time that comes with running errands on the weekends with everyone else in town. I know I can go to the post office or the grocery or whatever on Tuesday at 10 AM and have zero wait time and traffic or go on Saturday at 10 AM and have the same trip take an hour. That drives me insane. Opening your mind to the fact that if you own your own business you don't have to follow the typical 9-5 schedule or Saturdays and Sundays off. Enjoy the flexibility to make the most of each hour for what works for you.
Having this non-9-5 attitude is also a nice carry over from summer. Why not go for a hike at lunch on a Wednesday?
Being well fed, rested and relaxed is the best setting for tackling business possibilities.
3. Reassess what’s working and what’s not and do it over snacks
Fall is the true new year refresh in my opinion. You did half of the year, you’re half way through getting to the goals you set in January. So what’s not making sense any more? What things did you agree to that you wish you didn’t? What daily task is just not giving you the best return on investment? Can you outsource it? Do people care if you stop (is it all in your head that you think you SHOULD be doing it?).
Whenever you do this reflection by yourself or with your employees or business partner, it helps to be comfortable and have food and beverages. It makes it more relaxing, more time to linger and more time to put out ideas. There's actually a study that looked at judges and their sentencing patterns in relation to breaks. More fair decisions were made after lunch or at the start of the day- just after a rest period. Don't make decisions right before a break (or you're sending someone to jail apparently). When Chris and I do this, I try to build a snack platter (and in summer we do it with rose, in winter it might be red wine or a cocktail).
I like a mix of something crunchy, something salty and something sweet. We like to throw in some goodnessKNOWS snack squares (try the apple ones in fall! I didn't have any on hand but Chris LOVES those) which are very satisfying since they combine whole nuts, real fruits, toasted oats and dark chocolate. There are no artificial colors, flavors or sweeteners so they mix in perfectly with your platter of produce and whole foods. Depending on what's available at the market (or in my fridge) I also like some cut up fruit and veggies with hummus or olives or cheese. Things that are easy to grab without utensils. Also worth noting: that's what makes goodnessKNOWS such a good desk snack (they never last long in the pantry during busy weeks for us!).
I think it's important to walk away from these assessment sessions with an action plan or a review of what's discussed. I mean honestly, take notes. Create tasks. Don't feel like you just spun your wheels.
4. schedule exploration/research/fun days
It can be so easy to stay home all the time. Working from home and then staying home to relax (but not). To be totally honest, we both end up working/scrolling on our phones when we're watching a movie at home. I find the best way to get us both with our heads up is go out and look around.
In January when I tried 24 hours digital free I realized what a difference it made, and had a good run of minimal phone/computer time many weekends after that. But since we got back to work after Copenhagen I’ve noticed my phone checking has been the worst it’s been in months. That’s not efficient. That’s wasting time and splitting my attention. When I analyze why I'm doing that I think it has to do with desiring a mental break but not allowing myself to take a real one.
Scheduling a day a week or every two weeks or heck, even once a month, to go to a museum, go on a hike or try new food out is important. It helps your brain connect the dots on creative concepts from different topics. It helps you shift out of working to having free-floating time to think.
I'm personally going to schedule in one tech-free day a month again (literally on my calendar, schedule it) to revive my time away from my phone habit from January. But I'm also going to try to work in a creative day out. I keep a giant list of places to try or things to see. It's time to use that list.
5. actually create for fun
When you have a job that’s more in the creative realm, sometimes you forget to create for creativity’s sake. Last year Chris decided he wanted to make an avocado piñata from scratch. So he did. He made an avocado skeleton out of cardboard. I fringed the paper for it and we ended up spending maybe 10 minutes photographing it because we got such a kick out of the end result. It was not for work. It was just to create.
Ironically, that avocado piñata has been around the world. In May a German magazine purchased and published the photo in their print edition. It’s also gone viral on Pinterest, being regrammed a ton of times (unfortunately not always crediting us...) on Instagram. But it just goes to show sometimes you just need to make cool stuff. Play. It does your brain and sometimes your brand a lot of good. When we are at our busiest, I forget to create or make and let my brain spend time on those things. When it comes to food after cooking for shoots or recipe testing most of the time cooking dinner just for the two of us sometimes becomes a chore. I admit: I fall into habits. I don’t get creative. And I want to remember that that’s my free time to play.
What good is your work if you don't use the creativity your clients love for more things in your life? Isn't that what we love about summer? It's permission to play and remember the crazy, weird stuff you did in summers as a kid. So why not transition it to fall?
This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of goodnessknows. The opinions and text are all mine.
Dietitian Nutritionist. My husband Chris and I create food and beverage photos, videos, stopmotions and recipes. And they're really cool.