I shared the same dream of many woodworkers, to turn my woodworking hobby into a business. As I worked towards that goal, talked to, and read many woodworkers blogs and forum posts, there was a recurring concern. If I did this for a living, would I still enjoy it?
Five years ago, when I flipped that preverbal switch to make my woodworking hobby my job, I told myself that I would not allow that to happen. I sited that old adage “If you make what you love to do your profession you will never work another day in your life”. Well I did just that and I have discovered that, that adage is certainly misleading.
When working with my first client, I told her I would have their project done within 6-8 weeks, which is a reasonable period to build a dresser. At the time, I had not yet learned to work fast and efficiently, the need to think ahead to prevent from having to reset up a tool eluded me. To keep my delivery date promise to the customer, I worked the last 5 weeks of the project without taking a day off. By the time I started to apply the finish I was rushing, not only to complete the project on time but because mentally I was ready to be done with the project. The result was a less than stellar finish and I ended up stripping it off and refinishing it.
You would think I would have learned my lesson but as I grew my business, I became more stressed about delivery dates and my quality of work. If I messed something up or something I built wasn’t up to the quality I wanted to be, I would lay awake at night stressing about it. Wondering, would the customer notice it if I left the mistake? Did I want to take that chance, or should I just fix it? In the end, I would always fix it, but it would come as a cost to my enjoyment of the craft. Since I worked from home, it was easy to just go out into the shop at 2am and go back to work, if I was stressing out about a project.
I was losing my enjoyment of the craft, the very thing I told myself I would not do. As entrepreneurs and creatives our minds are always going. We are always trying to figure out what to create next, how to better turn a profit, and have a long list of things we need to get done but never have the time to do them. This is a curse of working from home, it is easy to slip off to our workspaces and work nonstop. Something needed to change if I was going to keep myself motivated and keep my business alive.
Then one day my wife called me on her way home from work. She was clearly upset, as I tried to talk to her to s calm her down, she stopped me and said. “I don’t feel like talking about it, I just want to drive, listen to the radio, and decompress on my way home”.
That’s when it hit me; I was not taking time to decompress at the end of the day. I no longer had to drive home from work, giving me time to decompress and let my mind know it was the end of the workday. When I started my business, I always thought that I would be saving an hour and a half of my day by not having to drive. Now I realize that the commute home was a necessary part of letting the stress of the day go. It is a time to reflect on what happened that day and plan what I was going to do tomorrow to get back on track with whatever went off the rails that day. The drive in was a time to remind myself of the to do list of things I needed to get done.
Now at the end of my workday, I sit down and write out a to due list for what I need to do the next day. To keep my on track and keep the stress of finish a project on time I start of each project by marking out completion goals on my calendar. These are project milestones that I should have completed by on this date to be sure the project stays on track and is finishes on time. I now have a way to re-plan my workdays if something goes wrong without stressing over it. Just by taking a few minutes to reflect on my day and plan for the next, allows me to decompress as if it is my commute home. I make sure I take regular days off, and I am back to enjoying my craft again.
Even if you don’t actually sit in a car and drive to and from work, take a few minutes before you start your day and after to plan for what you want to accomplish that day and the next. Sit in your favorite chair and relax for a few minutes. You will be surprised what it will do for your state of mind.