Yesterday’s clock-out

Our lovely friend Tina returned to Ann Arbor yesterday, so we began our 2010 work year after we got back from the airport.

First off, Erik and I had a “lunch meeting” to discuss the new year’s budget. It’s silly, but now that we’re both working at home on our own projects, it’s actually kind of useful to adapt some “normal” work vocabulary for ourselves. For example, this budget meeting: we scheduled it in advance, met over lunch, looked over last year’s paperwork, brainstormed, made notes, and then returned to our respective daily work after the meeting adjourned. Somehow, calling it a meeting just helps keep everything structured in my mind — and helps us remember just how important this budget is to our current work. The whole reason we’re able to do what we’re doing now — pursuing our own projects, not worrying overmuch about income — is that we budget carefully, so we’re able to live off our savings and investments for as long as we need. 2009 was our first full year of doing this, so we learned a lot, and tried to apply that knowledge to our new budget for 2010.

Another thing we learned from 2009 was that when we don’t set boundaries between our work and our home lives, it’s easy to just work all day from waking till bedtime, and then, even though we’ve been in each other’s faces all day long, we don’t really see each other. So each day we aim for about a five or six pm end to the workday, and if we’re really busy, we will actually say to each other: “Hey, I have to work late tonight, sorry.” This is another piece of business vocabulary that sounds kind of goofy when we use it, but really helps us define our work lives (and, by extension, our home lives) in a clearer way.

I’m in charge of this area of the budget (Erik does the investments and pays all the utilities, rent, insurance, and so forth), so I got our new one set up, then began on David Allen‘s reorganization plan. Like my other favorite organization guru, Peter Walsh, Allen recommends an intensive overhaul of one’s workspace as the first step toward getting one’s life in order. (Walsh calls this the Kick Start.) Basically, one goes through one’s space, throws out anything one no longer needs, and reorganizes what’s remaining into a more streamlined system. There’s a lot of overlap between Allen’s advice for this process and Walsh’s, but what I found especially useful about Allen’s method is that he says to take everything you’d like to change (books you’re not sure what to do with, electronics with dead batteries, unfiled papers, and so on) and remove it from where it currently lives. He counsels: “Resist the urge to say, as almost everyone does initially, ‘Well, I know what’s in that stack, and that’s where I want to leave it.’ That’s exactly what hasn’t worked before, and it all needs to go.” So I took his advice, and wow! I did end up making a lot of changes, even to the areas of my desk that I’d thought were organized already.

One of Allen’s most important ideas is that any item that isn’t totally organized will take its psychic toll on us, because we (a) don’t really know what it is, (b) don’t know what to do with it, and (c) therefore don’t really want to touch it. I know this is totally true for me. I have tons and tons of files and notebooks and bins that are just overflowing with stuff, and I never really deal with them because I’m overwhelmed by the “don’t know what to do with this” feeling every time I look at them. The Kick Start is meant to remove that feeling by getting all our stuff down to a perfectly clear organizational system. I only had a couple of hours yesterday afternoon, so I was only able to get through one of my three work desks (I have one for writing, one for the computer, and one for crafting). I spent an hour doing what Allen calls “collecting” (taking everything out), and then another hour “processing” (sorting through all the stuff I took out). It was pretty exhausting, dealing with all the psychic weight of all that stuff, but I felt extraordinarily calm and focused after I was done. I’m looking forward to tackling the rest of my office today and tomorrow.

After this partial overhaul, I visited a new yoga studio in Hercules, Tierra Yoga, and thoroughly enjoyed my first Yin Yoga class. The studio just opened on Saturday, and the owner, Ilia, welcome me with literal open arms. She was just overflowing with joyful pride about her studio, and it’s no wonder; it’s a beautiful little place, completely green, and it’s the first yoga studio in this part of the county. I told her about my recycled/upcycled creations and showed her my mat tote, and she invited me to bring some to display and sell in the studio. I’m eager to do it, though I’m already pretty behind on the shop for the new year… but I’ll find time! I’ve been wanting to make more mat bags anyway.

That was pretty much it for the day, though I did read an old IttyBiz article that evening that has been on my mind ever since. In it, Naomi says that financial security can be a crutch for new business owners, which I strongly suspect is true in my case. On the other hand, there’s the whole “room of one’s own” idea, about needing space and resources before one can truly tap into one’s creativity. I think there’s a lot of truth to both these views. Someone who’s desperate for money might try stupid things that aren’t really necessary (though undoubtedly there are valuable lessons to be learned from everything), while someone who’s too comfortable will not stretch enough. It’s always a tricky balance for me, figuring out how to work as hard as I possibly can on my various projects without sacrificing other areas of my life that I also value: cooking, yoga, seeing friends and family. I know that if I cut out healthy eating, socializing, and exercising from my weekly routines, I’d have so much more time to write, draw, craft, and work on the business, and it’d be a lot easier to plan my time because I wouldn’t have all these weird interruptions all the time (like today: I’m leaving for Upeksha yoga, lunch, and a singing lesson in about an hour, and that’s going to end up eating about three hours of my workday). But then all I’d be doing is working, and that’s not good. Or is it? Maybe this is the time to be working long hours and pouring myself totally into my work, before we have to have kids and all that. I don’t know. This is something I think about all the time, and that’s why the IttyBiz article really sticks in my head.