My Journey As A Creative Designer - Woodworking and Beyond #442: Challenge of the Day - Self-Discipline

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Blog entry by Sheila Landry (scrollgirl) posted 08-26-2011 01:06 PM 1356 reads 0 times favorited 6 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 441: Go While the Going is Good! Part 442 of My Journey As A Creative Designer - Woodworking and Beyond series Part 443: Making Good Progress »

After what seems like a very long time, it is good to be back to doing some drawing again. It hasn’t been that I haven’t had ideas, but more because there just seems like so many other things get in the way. I look back on my own productivity and wonder if I should be more disciplined in what I am doing. Sometimes I think that is the answer, but then there are other times when I know that the other stuff that I do is necessary also to keep things running smoothly and everyone happy. It is hard to draw clear lines sometimes.

I suppose that it is one of those things where I just need to do my best and see where it brings me. But then when writing that down and really thinking about it, it makes me wonder if that isn’t the root of the problem after all. Or is there really a ‘problem?’ After all – how much production is ‘enough’ and how much is overload?

I wonder sometimes how I feel that I am not doing enough when I know I spend most of my time working in some shape or form. Besides what everyone sees up front, there are all the little personal jobs and things that I do every day that steal the hours away. I don’t show everything here because many of the things I do are insignificant in themselves or a small part of a bigger process and not worth mentioning. But when I think about them honestly, they do take up time and that is where many of the hours slip away to. So I suppose they aren’t insignificant at all.

I find I spend a lot of time on my mail. It does take a notable amount of my time during an average day. I don’t mind that because I do like to get to know people and help them, but I sometimes feel a bit overwhelmed and there are many days that I don’t finish mail until noon. And I never really finish, it seems. There is always more there to keep me busy if I wait long enough.

While we were gone those couple of days, I did not have access to a computer from the time I left on Tuesday morning until the time we returned late Wednesday evening. Part of me was anxious about that. I felt as if my lifeline to part of my world had been cut off. With all that was going on around me though, I found that I didn’t think much of it most of the time. I survived and the world survived fine without me.

There was one point on Wednesday when we were checking out of the hotel and while standing at the desk, I noticed that there was a computer in the lobby for email and such for the guests to use. I will admit, I almost went to it and checked on things, but there was a man using it and although I was flirting with the idea of waiting for him to finish so I could check things out, I overcame the urge and did not. After all, this was to be a real break.

It made me think though.

Dennis had said something to me a few weeks ago when I was feeling overwhelmed about not having to answer the emails the second that they come into the inbox. It was one of those things that should be quite obvious, but for some reason wasn’t (to me at least.) I believe that I have my mind trained to answer emails within three seconds of receiving them no matter what I am doing at the time. I do think this stems from those days when my business was not very successful and communication with customers were few and far between. To be honest with you, at that time I had nothing better to do then jump on the emails and answer them as soon as they arrived. Thus the probable cause of the ‘limited’ success (I am being generous to myself using that term.)

As I began to rebuild my business, I associated success with the number of emails and questions that I received and even though I receive far more today than I did back then, I still pride myself on returning answers to them in seconds, not hours or even minutes. I know that can be good from a customer’s point of view, but as I continue to grow my business it is getting harder and harder to keep up. Something has got to give.

Is there a ‘grey area’ that I can find in this situation that will work? I hope so. I am open to suggestions from my other friends who have their own businesses and have come across this situation. I need to think it through and come up with something that will work for everyone.

I very much enjoy talking to people and helping them too. Many of my customers also become my friends as we talk and communicate on a regular basis. I don’t want to lose those friendships, but I also realize that there are only so many hours in a day and if I continue to grow at the rate that I want to, it will be impossible for me to keep up with correspondence in this manner. I think I have to think a bit more and separate the social aspect of my communications from my professional aspects. After all, if I worked in an office, I would certainly have to limit how much social visiting I would do. How else would I be productive?

I feel as if I am rambling on a bit here today and I do apologize for that. It has just occurred to me how much of some of my days are spent on this and not working on my designs. I don’t like the anxious feeling that I have when I want to get these projects on paper and make them a reality and sometimes it seems that I just can’t manage the time to do so. I am just looking at what needs to be adjusted in order for me to feel a bit more productive.

I think I am going to try some new approaches to things in the next couple of days and see how it goes. I am at the point where I have a lot of drawing ahead of me and I want to accomplish it before I lose the inspiration. I am going to try not to allow myself get side tracked so easily and stay focused on the task at hand. Maybe a designated time for correspondence and so forth would work better than randomly weaving it into my daily routine. I will still fill orders immediately, but the general questions and things that need my attention would probably do OK if I waited a couple of hours and did them all at once. When I was gone for two days, no one perished and no one was even upset that it took a bit longer for me to answer. The world still turned. Perhaps I do this to myself. (Ya think?)

So I am off to draw.

I am working on a set of ornaments that are so far coming out very nicely. I don’t know if I will be able to finish drawing them up today, but we will see how far I can get if I truly focus and stay on task. I have a long list of things that I want to work on and have ready for this year, and the only way I am going to be able to get them done is to be a bit more disciplined. I have to start somewhere.

You have to decide what your highest priorities are and have the courage – pleasantly, smilingly, nonapologetically – to say ‘no’ to other things. And the way to do that is by having a bigger ‘yes’ burning inside. The enemy of the ‘best’ is often the ‘good.’ ~Stephen Covey

-- Designer/Artist/Teacher. Owner of Sheila Landry Designs ( Scroll saw, wood working and painting patterns and surfaces. "Knowledge is Power"

6 comments so far

View ShopTinker's profile


884 posts in 2792 days

#1 posted 08-26-2011 03:31 PM

I can really relate with you on the email problem. I had days where it seemed all I did is respond to emails from staff, customers, professional business associates. I had to get a way from the idea of instant response. Limiting myself to “break” time response or at the completion of a large task. This greatly improved my focus and efficiency.

It’s funny how at the end of a very busy day you sometimes fell like you didn’t get anything done. While you may have taken care of a hundred little things, that all need to be done, you didn’t finish anything on your task list. Welcome to my world. :)

-- Dan - Valparaiso, Indiana, "A smart man changes his mind, a fool never does."

View huntter2022's profile


275 posts in 2639 days

#2 posted 08-26-2011 04:27 PM

I find alot times I need to set time limit on the computer as it will devor your time quickly . Then when I ‘m done with what I need to get done . Come back and finish were I left off.

-- David ; "BE SAFE BE HAPPY" Brockport , NY

View BreakingBoardom's profile


615 posts in 3105 days

#3 posted 08-26-2011 06:27 PM

Do all the emails from your site go to the same place? Maybe have a different place for orders and general questions and even just socializing from friends. Then you could still do the orders right away and get to answering the general questions at like two different times during the day or something. Might help you from getting interrupted so often.

-- Matt -

View BritBoxmaker's profile


4611 posts in 3060 days

#4 posted 08-26-2011 06:32 PM

Admitting you’re anxious about something is the first step to overcoming the anxiety. Email can wait. I always preferred Emails at work to a phone call. The phone call yanked on my chain and interrupted what I was doing, particularly galling if that was thinking. An Email in contrast allows you room to assimilate (not a Borg thing), decide what you are going to do about it, act and reply all at your own pace.

I must admit I did wonder where you were when your blog didn’t appear but the remembered that you might just be out of touch. Its called privacy, its wonderful. I tell my friends, who have to have their cell phones on all the time (even overnight! some of them), about this marvelous thing we used to have called Privacy, where no one could interrupt you, you did things at your own pace or even just read a book (substitute your own favourite, private thing here). They look at me as if I am from another planet. Then I remind them people can always leave a message (which you pick up when and where you want to. The technology is there you your use not visa versa.

ps If you wish to respond to this comment please feel free to do so in your own good time

-- Martyn -- Boxologist, Pattern Juggler and Candyman of the visually challenging.

View Dennisgrosen's profile


10880 posts in 3139 days

#5 posted 08-26-2011 11:20 PM

;—) a little sad smile is on my face why you may ask
how can it bee that every one I know have to learn it the hard way including myself
with this E-mail thing, the cellphone and for that matter the notebook computer
people who bring it with them on vacation and answering the boss and others from the work
discover they need a vacation to take away the stress from the vacation with other words
they donĀ“t feel that they had privat time at all on the vacation
you just have to learn it Sheila …. restrict the time on E-mails and have it scheduled in the day
when you do it …. that is how you survive and being more effective with out stress

have a great evening :-) ... here it has started with lightning and thunder + heavy rain
just right over the house ….. always enjoying when the wether play up to dance :-))
not to be flooded though … LOL …..or other disastres

take care

View Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)'s profile

Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)

9231 posts in 2944 days

#6 posted 08-27-2011 12:18 AM

Thank you all for your thoughts and input.

Dan – That is exactly how I feel sometimes. I do think the idea of giving responses a couple of times a day will make the day much more productive for me. It is hard not to act on that impulse to answer right away, but for most things it really isn’t necessary for me to do so.

Dave – It is hard for me to set limits, because I am here much of the day as my job. But limiting time on email and certain sites is what I have to do to be productive.

Matt – I do have them all go to one place, along with the notifications. Although I have been applying more labels (I have Gmail which allows you to not only label, but to color code incoming messages.) This does help because I can glance at the messages and know right away what category they fall in and decide whether they need my immediate attention or not. I think in the long run when I discipline myself to filter these things I will do better in the long run.

Martyn – Sometimes even though we know we are anxious, we don’t know why we are. Lately I have been wondering why I was so tired at night and seemingly accomplished little during the day. The anxiety came from not meeting my own standard of output over and over again. I really do like my friends here and my customers. I don’t like to put them off or tell them that I don’t want to talk, but I was losing touch with my own agenda and putting it on the back burner. I really like the quote I used this morning. It summed things up very well for me. I felt good the other day when I walked away from checking the email. All it would have done was bring work into the picture on a day that I wanted to get away. I figured out that once in a while, I deserve that. And I really and truly need it. In the long run it did me more good to let it go for a day. I don’t own a cell phone and hope I never do. News will find me soon enough. When I had my car accident, a passing motorist stopped and was good enough to call for help. I find little need for one for myself. I also find it extremely rude and irritating when you are with someone who is text messaging every two minutes. It is just wrong.

Dennis – I hope you stay dry. We had lots of thunder and lightning last night here and I also like the sound of a good thunderstorm. After I unplugged everything important, I really enjoyed the sound of it. It is quite relaxing to me. Thanks again for your thoughts last week too. They really got me thinking.

As you all can see, I waited until after dinner to respond to the messages. I did get a lot of drawing done today and feel good about it. I hope everyone keeps talking with me, and I am glad you all understand if I don’t get back in a split second. I know as my friends you understand that I do my best and that is good enough for you. Thank you for that. You guys are the best! :)


-- Designer/Artist/Teacher. Owner of Sheila Landry Designs ( Scroll saw, wood working and painting patterns and surfaces. "Knowledge is Power"

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