Wow, thanks for all your comments on my current dilemma. It’s raised quite a few interesting points which I feel I need to get out of my head to get in order.
There was a recurring theme of “well, you do work very hard” – this is not something I was really properly aware of until recently, nor was I really conscious of it happening. But I have somehow gotten to the stage where I feel like every minute not spent doing something productive for the business is a wasted one, even down to structuring when I take a shower to make maximum use of my time before leaving for work via the post office and can I get some sewing done on the subway?
This has a negative impact on me in several different ways – I constantly feel like I’m doing everything at breakneck speed, rushing through one task to get to the next. It’s stressful and makes me a bit jittery sometimes, even though I’m the calm, laidback one at work. One of the things I like about the business is the mail order aspect – I know not why, but when I was growing up, I always thought it would be fun to be packing up parcels of joy for people and sending them on their merry way (I was obsessed with my Post Office playset). I still think that but my desire to wrap up my products in lovely paper and have them bundled up in nice string has definitely diminished. Or maybe not my desire to, but my time to do so.
One of the other impacts is that I have a clear schedule set in my head of how each day is going to pan out to get everything done through necessity. Using this week as an example, I know I am working at 12, so I have to be up early, finish off the sewing that needs doing, frame up the samplers, write up the order list, pack the orders, get ready for work, go to the post office, buy some lunch (breakfast takes a back seat most days), get to work, a hot, sweaty mess, sit weeping into the Radio Times for 8 hours while I quietly panic about everything being done there, get home, have dinner and start that cycle from this morning all over again plus trying to squeeze in emails, stock taking, ordering new supplies, managing the website, writing posts for SCK and maybe squeezing in a few hours sleep too.
Where is the time for my long-suffering husband? For seeing my friends and family? I’m lucky they’ve not completely abandoned me such is my neglect! Case in point – last year, I saw my dad twice – once at Christmas, once when we had relatives visiting. He lives approximately 10 miles away. This is utterly shameful. I only saw my mum more often (maybe three times) because she came to stay with us (granted she does live in Suffolk). Also, did my constant stress impact on me when I was ill? Did that contribute to my gallbladder removal woes? Did I make myself ill over last posting dates and self-imposed deadlines?
There’s also no time for laundry, cooking, tidying or cleaning and that’s left to Lee who does way more than his fair share and makes sure I don’t leave the house in dirty rags. I’m fortunate to have a husband who doesn’t grumble when I reel off the list of places he needs to take me to on a weekend – the couriers, the post office, the studio, etc. In that respect, I’m very lucky. There’s no time for socialising or creating new things or pursuing any of my other interests – I can’t remember the last time I read a book or went swimming and I bet you didn’t even know I am obsessed with the Victorians and social history from that era?
So perhaps the answer is to make more time for myself to get back my love of why I was enjoying running the business in the first place. Take more time to create new things, to wrap each package the way I want it to be and just…enjoy myself. I certainly think that this is the first thing I’m going to try out of all the suggestions that have been left in the comments, Tweeted and emailed to me. I really appreciate everyone who took the time to read and offer up support and hope you’ll stick with me during this journey.
How am I going to achieve more time though? Several ways.
Firstly, by scaling back on the products I offer. I’ve already ditched most of the craft supplies from the website and I’m also ditching my least popular products. This is a wrench as I really wanted the craft supplies section to tie in with the charts, etc but it’s a massive drain on my time and energy trying to source things at reasonable enough prices or quantities for little profit. Also actually owning up to the fact that some products which I thought would be surefire winners are just not that popular is hard to face, but I’m being ruthless (plus I can also reintroduce them in the future). I’m having a massive clear out both on the website of products and at home with the supplies I’ve amassed (the studio sale was a big success! Still plenty of things to rehome, though).
Next up, expanding my band of merry stitcherers. I have been lucky to find a group of great gals (sorry, Jamie, they’re all gals so far!) who are great, neat stitchers that I can rely on to produce the bulk of the stock needed. I will expand this so for the moment, I am farming out more work to allow me more time off. The concept of handmade is important to me but increasingly less so to my customers, which is a point I think deserves a whole other post of its own sometime. I will still be finishing, framing, packing, etc, but I will be doing this less often…
..because thirdly, I’ll be trying (trying being the operative word) to reduce the number of hours I spend on the business each day and trying to scale it back to set times in a week. This is probably something most people will think is crazy that I don’t do already (mar-c for example has set posting and admin days each week) but because of the shifts I work, I can’t really do that so well. But for the moment, whilst I am on pretty regular shifts at work for the next little while, I can give it a go.
Renovating – I still want to revamp the website, possibly not change the name anymore, but definitely give it a new look, to reinvigorate not only the products but myself! I have a much more serene and minimal look in mind which I feel will help set that tone throughout the rest of the business too. Something else to ponder on my new days off.
And lastly – taking time OFF. Going out to dinner, the cinema, swimming, on a bike ride, reading a book, baking a cake, visiting friends and family, socialising, making things for me, enjoying the thrill of not knowing how each day is going to pan out in advance. Blogging more! Ha!
I think I want to try this for a while, at least during the summer and during the period of my attachment at work (til the end of August), and see how it goes. But I’ll still be evaluating the bigger picture of what to do long-term as I go. So keep the suggestions and comments coming, as each one really does help greatly.
For now though – best get to work!
7 thoughts on “Evaluation”
Think you face the same dilemma as many of us, and its very brave of you to be so honest about it….I really hope you have a lovely lovely summer, take the time to spend with your family (believe me, life is shorter that you think sometimes) and your long suffering hubby x must dash… dress to finish and baby to feed 🙂
Home early from work (thanks!) so thought I’d use the time to comment. This all sounds good in theory, but I think you would need to focus on making sure your scheduled time for the business is 100% scheduled/limited and that you absolutely stick to it. I know my situation is not at all the same, but as you know I often get hankerings to stop making to sell altogether because I’m sure it’s not as much fun as it used to be. I’ve done pretty well with that this year and have been loving the relaxation, fun and sense of achievement of learning to crochet and making my ripple blanket. Now, just recently I had to make a biggish order for my second-favourite stockists – you’re my favourite, natch! 😉 – and it only took a few days out of my craft/pottering time, but almost instantly I started to feel niggling stress and resentment at having to do a set amount of a set something in a set time and it really felt like all my good work (non-work) had been undone. It’s a bit like weight-loss – it takes months of sticking to the plan to get any benefit and just a few foolhardy days to undo all that hard work. I guess what I’m saying is that you (and I) should be careful not to half-decide to step back from something, only to find it comes creeping back in and before you know it, you are back to camping outside the post office and sewing past your stop on the underground!
Hope that doesn’t rain on your decision-making parade too much. I do think this is a good decision (and you’re certainly not giving the impression that you’d be happy to pack up your business completely, so rushing into something along those lines would most likely not be wise) but just be careful, please, Mrs!
ps Sorry if this comment has appeared twice – my internet died just after I hit the post button. Thank goodness for copy and paste!
This is an amazing, amazing post. Thank you for it! So good to know other people have the whole time vs life issue too! xx