Saturday, 15 March 2008

Separating the day job from the art job

I had to do my first lot of performance reviews the other day. Things were going wrong at work, I had very little time to myself, and I really had to sit down and spend a couple of hours assessing how my staff were going. My manager mentioned that she did hers at home. At this point I'm thinking 'I've been working my butt off all week, and you want me to take stuff home? I already have 'work' at home - it's called my illustration/ art business'.

Sometimes working from home (and not getting paid for it) is unavoidable. But when you're running a business from home already, sometimes the last thing you need is to bring more 'work' home. Here are some thoughts on separating the day job from the art job, in particular how to leave the day job at the 'office'.

Avoid bringing the work home in the first place

1. Schedule time for the task at work and tell everyone else to take a number in the queue.
If it's really an important task, other people should respect you enough to listen when you say 'no, I can't do that right now,' or 'I'll get to that as soon as I've done this'. Of course we all live in the real world where other people can be jerks! Everyone has an agenda, but sometimes you have to stick up for your own. Most people don't even think beyond their own tasks and deadlines, so unless you tell them you're busy they won't know. Communication is key!

2. Ask for help and use it when it is offered
At most places, there's too much work and not enough people. But unless you raise the issue of having too much work, your boss may not know. That being said, you may have the manager from hell who doesn't care, but if they are a decent human being they will try to help you out. You can do this by re-prioritising tasks, delegating work to others, swapping tasks with team mates, getting help. There is no shame in saying that you need assistance. And if someone offers a hand and they can seriously help, take them up on the offer! A boss would rather have two people doing the work and it getting done on time, rather than one person doing it, missing the deadline, and going on stress leave from the mild heart attack they suffered trying to be a superhero.

3. Work away from your desk/ away from your co-workers to get work done
Turn off the email, put the phone to voice mail, switch your mobile to silent. If you use Outlook for meeting schedules, add an outlook 'meeting' showing that you are busy. Be unavailable. Those other tasks can normally wait a few hours (of course there are exceptions to every rule!) Better yet, book a meeting room and close the door. Go out to the tea room when nobody is there. If all else fails, tell everyone to leave you alone and put on the headphones. Make a sign that says 'please come back at 2pm'. Be serious about it. The minute you answer one person, the rest of the office will forget or choose to ignore what you've asked them to do.

4. Go into work early or stay back late (on occasion)
If you need more time to do the work, then do it at work. If you're lucky you get paid overtime/ time in lieu , if not, it impresses the boss that you're still there when everyone else has gone home! I'm lucky that I have flexible hours, but I find that I often get more done in the two hours before everyone gets in, than in most of the day. The same when I've worked late. With no one there to bug you, the task can often take less time. And because you're at work, you don't have the distractions of home.

5. Get a new job
If you are finding you're working 10hrs everyday, and then bringing home another 2-3 hours of work, then you seriously need to think about whether your job is worth it, and whether you really have the energy to be split between two careers. I'm not advocating throwing in the job immediately, but it might be an idea to start looking for a new job.

70+ hours a week means that your health is probably shot, you have a serious caffeine addiction and that you have no social life. And the reality is that you really can't be productive every hour of those 70+ hours. You need to eat, to recharge the batteries, to think outside the box. If you're slugging away at work, then you don't have time for your brain or body to switch off and recuperate.

You may love your job and it's really not a chore, but when you think about those hours - that is a two person job! And there's only one of you!

If you have to bring home work from the day job...

1. Try to avoid doing work from the day job where you run your art business
You should try and separate your art business from the rest of your life, in the same way that you should separate your day job from your home life. This may be simply having everything stored in a box which you pull out when you want to paint, a separate room for painting/ packaging products, an 'area' assigned for art. In all likelihood the day job is different to your art business, so try and do your work in an area where you won't be distracted by your outstanding art business 'work'.

2. Have a breather before you start the work
When you come home from the office, there are two ways you can continue with your day job 'homework':
1. When you get home kick off the shoes, maybe have a shower, grab something to eat, have a short period of time to do something you enjoy. You can't work 15 hours straight and not expect to turn into a crazy person. Trust me, last year I did about 2 weeks straight of 12-15hour days, and fell flat on my face at the end of it. It screws with your diet, your sleeping patterns, and your social life. You need to have down time. You deserve to have down time.

2. If it's a task that will only take an hour, get home, grab something to eat, have a quick break, then dig in and get it over with. That way you have the rest of the evening free.

3. Prioritise your work
Your day job in all likelihood pays most of your bills, or is at least more reliable income than your art business (unless you're a casual, but that's another story!). If you have work that you know is coming up which is REALLY important, then let your customers and clients know that things are going to take longer than normal to process. Think about putting your commission queue on hold, sending out orders only once a week, cutting back on forum visits, going through your inbox once a day and answering emails at scheduled times.

The same thing goes for deadlines with commissions. Schedule deadlines for when you know you've got time off from work (if you can), or organise an RDO/ day off close to the deadline. Hopefully you're already finished, but if you're not, you don't have the day job to contend with.