4 Essential Habits for Intentional Creativepreneurs
Every night after dinner, I immediately look around for something sweet. I'm sure there's some sort of food-science chemistry magic behind my nightly dessert craving, but I think a lot of it can be chalked up to plain old habit. I've always eaten dessert after dinner. Therefore, I finish dinner and I want something sweet---even if I'm not really hungry. Habits are powerful things. Nine times out of ten I will find something sweet to munch on, even if our house is empty of anything resembling real dessert. (I know I'm not the only one who's eaten chocolate chips right out of the bag.)
The real problem with habits is that most of us develop them accidentally.
Swinging by Starbucks before work feels like a fun treat, so you make it part of your routine more often . . . and before you know it, you're spending $35/week on frappuccinos you suddenly can't live without. You don't want to miss an important message from a client, so you decide to check your email every hour . . . but that hourly email check quickly turns into automatically popping into your inbox anytime you have a second to spare.
Your habits can run your life if you're not careful. But if you carefully craft intentional habits, your business and creative life can see a huge boost. Take control over your habits by intentionally adding some of these to your regular routine.
4 Essential Habits for Intentional Creatives
1. Track your accounting.
I can't tell you how much of a mess your business accounting will become if you don't get in the habit of regularly tracking income and expenses. I used to wait until the end of each month to tally everything up and make sure the numbers looked right, but by then it was already a nightmare. (And don't even think about waiting until tax time to get your accounting ducks in a row!) Most creatives dislike dealing with numbers, but the process will be nearly painless if you keep on top of it.
Here's how I've worked accounting tasks into my schedule:
- Organize and file receipts. (Doing this every day gets receipts out of my inbox/wallet before I have time to lose them! For me, this means either taking a photo or forwarding an email receipt to my accounting software for approval later.)
- Invoice one-off projects as needed.
- Deposit physical checks at the bank.
- Record all income and expenses for the week in my accounting software. (I love Wave---and it's free!)
- Record all income and expenses in my business checkbook register.
- Approve all receipts in Wave and make sure they're attached to the proper expense for easy reference.
- Follow up on overdue invoices.
- Transfer money to my business savings account in anticipation of quarterly taxes (plus a little extra, just in case).
- Balance my business checking account.
- Invoice regular retainer clients.
2. Set aside dedicated admin time.
If you're looking at the list of accounting tasks thinking you'd never have time to do all that on a regular basis, you're missing out on the magic of admin time. Many creative business owners fall into the bad habit of spending all their time on client work. Then they're frustrated that they need to use their nights and weekends to take care of the admin tasks that keep their business growing and running smoothly.
Having a dedicated time specifically for admin duties fixes this problem. Before you say you don't have time for admin time in your work schedule, remember that this is about forming habits. It doesn't have to be a whole day! Start by creating a list of tasks you currently don't have time for during regular work hours. It might include things like accounting, invoicing, brainstorming future business projects, working on your blog or performing website maintenance, setting up automated systems for your business, researching new tools, actually taking action on that e-course you bought last month, etc.
Next, spend one hour, once a week working through this list. Make it the same time every week so it becomes a real habit and not just something you tried once or twice. One hour probably won't be enough time to accomplish everything on your list, but it's enough to give your new habit a start. Once you've established admin time, it's easier to expand it or to pinpoint tasks you could outsource.
3. Do one creative thing every day.
When you use your creativity to earn an income, it can start to feel like less of a passion and more of a burden. That's not what anyone wants from their dream job! (Of course, sometimes it turns out that your creative passion isn't your dream job . . . in which case this podcast episode might interest you.) Not making space for creativity outside of your business is a sure recipe for burnout.
Give yourself room to explore your creativity in ways that have nothing to do with your business. Getting in the habit of doing something creative every day is good for your soul. Not only will you feel more fulfilled, you'll also see that extra creativity spill over into your business life.
Don't let lack of time be your excuse for avoiding personal creativity! Check out how you can use the #2030Make Challenge to make space for the creative in your everyday life.
4. Step away from the screen.
Screen time is probably the biggest habit most of us have accidentally cultivated. My biggest beef with screen time is that it tends to disrupt intentional living. Think about it: You planned on checking for one important email, but that led to Facebook, which led to BuzzFeed, which led to the land of no return.
You'll be healthier and more present if you can create designated "non-screen times" throughout your day. I try not to let myself get sucked into screens before breakfast, during dinner and evening family time, and at least an hour before bed. Building in times that aren't tethered to a screen gives your mind the break it needs to be energized and creative throughout the rest of the day.
Smart Resources for Forming Habits
Why is it that bad habits crop up with no problem, but good habits take so much work? If you're having trouble forming new habits or you aren't sure where to start, these resources can help you out.
(Honesty time: I haven't actually read either of the books I'm about to recommend. BUT I've heard enough smart, trustworthy people swear by them that I'm willing to give them a plug. And the Gretchen Rubin book is currently sitting on my nightstand, so that counts for something, right?)
Better Than Before is the bestselling book by Gretchen Rubin that you've probably heard about a million times already. Rubin is always good for handing out practical, actionable advice you can actually use, and Better Than Before is no exception. This book will help you determine what motivates you when it comes to following through on new habits---which is exactly what you need when you're figuring out how the heck to make a not-so-fun habit like accounting part of your regular life.
If Better Than Before is the "how" to form new habits, The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg is the "why." This book is something of a legend among productivity nerds as Duhigg digs into the importance of habits and how they might manifest themselves in your daily life.
Which habits keep you sane as a creative entrepreneur?