Are you struggling to find your flow as a creative entrepreneur?
Working for yourself – fitting it all in, making time for work, family, your health . . . it can feel impossible to find your flow. You might even find yourself spending more time thinking about how to get it all done than actually doing the work.
Most of us are familiar with the concept of ‘flow state’ – where we are so deeply engaged in our craft that the world falls away and we become suspended in the moment, clear, focused and full of joy.
That’s the Holy Grail of Flow.
But there’s also another, more mundane type of flow related to our work life, that for many of us is even harder to achieve.
What if you could find a flow and rhythm to your work life that felt joyful, even effortless?
What if you could silence that critical little voice in your head that chirps up when you’re trying to enjoy time with your kids or just a quiet cup of coffee, nagging that you ought to be working?
You can (and it’s awesome).
Slow Work allows us to fundamentally shift our approach to work. With it we can structure our day, week and year in a way that nourishes both our work AND our spirit.
Slow Work provides all the tools we need to help us find our flow at work.
Are you ready? Let’s go.
Shift Your Mindset to Find Your Flow
Let go of traditional ideas of productivity and even what ‘work’ looks like.
We don’t have to hustle or work ourselves to the bone, available to our customers 24/7, shunning sleep and life, in order to build a profitable, impactful business.
Instead, we can choose to value the pause. Value the spaces in between. Learn to recognize the ‘work’ that happens in the quiet moments, the moments of withdrawal, stillness, reflection.
This non-traditional attitude towards work has been one of the greatest blessings from my work as an artist.
As we learn to draw, we begin to see negative space – the spaces in between things, the nothingness – as something in and of itself.
We recognize as artists that negative space is essential to the artwork as a whole, providing structure and balance and unity.
When we recognize the empty spaces in the artwork as an integral component of the piece itself, we begin to understand the value of negative space in our method of working as well as in the actual piece of art.
From this perspective, suddenly – the time we spend in nature, looking at art, reading great books, observing people, simply living our life – all of it becomes integral to the process of making of our art.
Just like the negative space in our painting, the ’empty’ space in our work process becomes part of the work.
How would this shift in perspective change how you feel about your work and, more importantly – yourself?
Might you be able to release some self-doubt? Some shame? That critical voice in your head that tells you that if you’re not constantly slaving away, you’re not worthy of success?
Root Yourself in the Seasons
If you want to find your flow as a slow, creative entrepreneur, root yourself in the season you’re in.
(And, by the way, the season of your business AND the season of your life both matter – equally.)
We don’t build businesses in a vacuum, but that’s how the traditional business world operates. Your family life, personal values, unique challenges and often even your dreams – aren’t supposed to enter into the equation when it comes to work.
But if we can honour the seasons we find ourselves in, we’ll slip into our state of flow with ease.
That might mean leaning into the effort and uncertainty of a new venture or allowing lots of margin in your work life while your kids are young.
Regardless of your situation, accept and acknowledge your personal season. Learn to work within its boundaries.
Farming is a quintessential ‘slow’ profession because it forces us to root deeply into the seasons.
I’ve learned the hard way that life on the farm requires submission to the seasons. No amount of self-doubt, hesitancy or fear will stall lambing season. Ready or not, babies will be born.
Your schedule doesn’t matter. The fact that your kids are sick or it’s 3 in the morning or a parent is ailing or the laundry is piling up on every flat surface . . . none of that factors into it.
Lambing simply is when it is.
If you fight it, you’ll spend the entire month stressed and feeling like a failure.
But, here’s the secret. If you lean into the chaos, you’ll find the beauty in it.
You might even find that the work that initially felt like chaos has an elegant flow all its own.
Finding a general sense of flow in your work is tough. Rhythm is the key.
Rhythm – of the year, of the seasons, of the week, of the day – this is your personal Slow Work drumbeat.
Build a nourishing, grounding sense of rhythm into your work and you’ll enjoy a quiet, gentle sense of flow in your work and your life as a whole – even when things are hectic.
HOW THE HECK DO WE FIND OUR FLOW THROUGH RHYTHM?
Rhythm, rituals and routines are the backbone of habit building and solid habits are key if you want to find your flow and create rhythm in your life.
The beauty of habits are they allow us to move through tasks on autopilot. We don’t have to decide each morning in what order we’ll eat, brush our teeth or shower. We just do it.
Building rhythm into your work will bring the same sense of ease to your workday.
1) BEGIN BY ROOTING INTO THE SEASONS OF THE YEAR
Are there times of year when your life gets hairy? Back to school with your kids in September, or the holidays when family descends in droves?
Plan your work to build in grace and resiliency during these times.
I recently quit doing in-person holiday markets, since they devour all of my time from late August through till Christmas. Suddenly, I could spend August to early December focused on other important work, and give myself fully to my kids and family during December, guilt free.
I easily made up the difference in income with the pressure of the markets removed, and my kids were a lot happier for it. The holidays shifted from a stressful time of feeling rushed and burnt-out to a joyful time of family and community.
Look for opportunities to create annual rhythms in your life – both your work AND your personal life.
Whether it’s an annual girl’s trip to a conference, going fishing each spring with your kids, a seasonal course offering in your business or apple picking each fall – all these predictable, repeatable events help create a sense of security and ease in your life as a whole.
2) BREAK IT DOWN BY MONTH, WEEK AND DAY
Most of us have regular tasks in both our work and personal lives that recur on a regular basis. Schedule them in so they happen on the same day of the month or week.
This provides us with a framework for our schedule, one that allows flexibility while also ensuring that important tasks don’t get missed.
3) BLOCK YOUR TIME BY TASK OR GROUP OF TASKS
I know, I know. I hear from a lot of women that time blocking doesn’t work for them, but I’m sorry – that’s your limiting beliefs talking.
You do NOT have to colour code your entire day planner and have your life scheduled down to the minute in order to make use of time blocking.
I am NOT a particularly detailed oriented person – I like the idea of having those beautiful bullet journals, but I buy ’em, start ’em and leave ’em. I just don’t have time between chasing loose pigs and running kids to soccer practice and minding my store and weeding the garden and . . . to carefully colour code every moment of my life.
TIME BLOCKING DOESN’T HAVE TO BE AN ANXIETY-INDUCING PROCESS
It can be a simple as a rough weekly plan – Social Media Monday morning, write to your email list on Tuesday afternoon, follow up with leads each weekday after lunch.
The goal is to have a rhythm to your work and to avoid multitasking.
Deep work, especially, requires a good chunk of uninterrupted time and benefits from rituals and routines to help you get into the true deep flow state.
For me – I primarily do my writing – my most important deep work – very early in the morning at my desk, or before my nightly reading (for pleasure) on my laptop in bed with a glass of wine.
Doing things at the same time and place with consistent visual, auditory and even scent cues, will help you look forward to your deep work blocks, maintain consistency within your rhythms and build an overarching sense of flow in your work.
4) USE SYSTEMS TO CREATE FLOW AND RHYTHM IN YOUR TASKS
Simple systems will help you make the most of time blocking. If you have to decide what to do first and what order to do tasks in, you’ll waste all your time making decisions when you should be doing the thing itself.
This doesn’t have to be complicated, and in fact, shouldn’t be.
For example, one of my time blocks is invoicing my wholesale clients. I do this on Thursday mornings.
My ‘system’ is simply a short set of steps.
- Check inbox to retrieve totals for invoices.
- Duplicate last week’s invoice and update with this week’s total.
- Send invoice via Square.
- Download PDF copy of invoice.
- Attach PDF invoice in email to customer’s accounting department.
It takes less than five minutes per client, but it’s one of the most important tasks I do all week, generating 90% of my weekly revenue.
You can create systems for nearly any task, and it doesn’t have to be complicated.
You can have a steps to follow each time you write and publish a blog post, go to the gym, put the kids to bed, pay your bills or ship orders.
If you need to have a list of steps for your most crucial systems when you’re getting started, go for it, but ideally – for most – you won’t need them.
Keep it as simple as humanly possible and you’ll find that your systems, in time, will become habits that ebb and flow within your daily life with ease.
For more complicated recurring tasks – like producing a new audio coaching package for example, I use a template in Trello.
And choosing to consistently using templates in Trello for more complicated tasks? That’s a system, too.
Finally, as You Work to Find Your Flow – Give Yourself Grace
You’ll never find your flow if you try to force it. It has to come to you. This sounds pretty fluffy, but I promise, its not.
The moment I find myself pushing things – everything falls apart. Without exception.
It is possible to strive without pushing.
Think of guiding a boulder down a gentle slope vs. pushing it uphill.
Both are active and intentional, but one exerts a lot more effort and strain.
And, in my experience, the moment I stop pushing so hard, I turn round to realize – that the thing I was striving for?
It was right behind me all along, just waiting for me to stop making such a fuss and SEE.