Four-hour work weeks, lounging on a beach while “passive income” streams in.
Fluid days of getting lost in canvases and pages, paintings and books in steady demand.
These fantasies sound dreamy, right?
You’re pressed for time. You’re over-scheduled. You’re inundated. You’re making snail’s progress on projects you care about.
The problem with those structure-less fantasies is that for working entrepreneurs or creatives a toxic resentment creeps in toward obligations to clients or co-workers. Obligations to family. Taking care of the business of life. Prison bars, all of them, that keep them from their fantasy of freedom.
What I say about freedom might irritate you, but here’s what I’ve noticed.
People who’ve become their own boss – entrepreneurs, freelancers, creatives – fall into one of two categories.
For the over-schedulers, work life bleeds into and drowns the rest of life. The 24/7 online life has no boundaries.
On the other extreme, the anti-schedulers bemoan that days float by with no progress made on what matters.
Newbie entrepreneurs and business artists often make the mistake of tossing out the work schedule altogether.
We rebel against structure. Something in us that wants to defy the “9-5 scheduled life” and say we’re our own boss also wants to bust free altogether of “the scheduled life.”
But unless we have a patron, benefactor, former corporate job savings, or trust fund, that rebellious frame against schedules and structure ironically could imprison us in a cognitive trap. In fact, even if we have cushy financial resources that free up our time, we still can be trapped.
It turns out that the experience of flow and flourishing does not happen out of conditions of wealth and luxurious relaxation, according to Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, whose break-through studies in creativity gave us the term “flow.”
Instead, flow arises out of meeting challenges of our own volition. And the challenge of time and focus are what I hear most often among the people I work and talk with.
So how do we trip that fantasy trap? Maybe much has to do with how we view freedom and structure.
You might say freedom is “the ability to do what I want when I want.” Fair enough.
But that definition often comes with those fantasies of structureless freedom. “Carefree” equals freedom.
But the perception as much as the circumstances create the prison. Irritating, right?
What if our perceived lack of freedom has less to do with our “online 24/7” times?
What if our experience of freedom has everything to do with how we regard our time, direct our mind, and guide our actions each day and week strategically or not, artfully or not?
Flourishing at Google
Consider a recent longitudinal study being conducted at Google. The study examines work place conditions among Googlers and specifically examines how they address their work schedule.
The Segmenters as the researchers call them clearly separate their work life from the rest of their life. They don’t take work-related emails home with them. They get good sleep at night.
The other group lets it all bleed. They work crazy hours at night. The “rest of their life” is work.
Segmenters make up 30% of the group. Most of the other 70% wish they could function like Segmenters.
Something to note here: People thrive under different working conditions. To Google’s credit, they’re seeking how to create different work environments and conditions that facilitate the Segmenters and the non-Segmenters. But they’re also sensitive to how their very creations have perpetuated restless workers instead of artful workers.
What if the Artfully Scheduled Life, when shaped strategically, could lead to more fulfillment and a different kind of freedom for some people?
I’ve witnessed it happen over and over again.
For a young musician. He had no scheduled life and bountiful aspirations. He felt paralyzed by possibilities. But he changed all that and learned how to advance his aspirations artfully.
For a veteran psychologist. She has a brilliant, sensitive mind, but anxiety and obsessiveness paralyzed her. At first, she refused to schedule her life, but an artful approach to scheduling, prioritizing, and pursuing mastery in her writing helped her abate distress and assume more agency of her creative life.
For a lawyer changing her practice. Suddenly isolated at home, she had no external forces to hold her accountable to how she scheduled her days. She, too, felt paralyzed by the newfound free time as she wanted to pursue creating new programs, books, and more. Simple strategies helped her reclaim agency of her mind, actions, and pursuit of mastery.
And for couples I’ve worked with.
One husband and wife are financially independent of each other although are by no means “wealthy.” They have a child and an infant. With no formal business education, they each have bustling businesses that impact thousands of people.
They both savor engaging people directly. That’s where they each flourish. So they bundle meetings wisely.
They each also have more ideas than either will ever execute. So they have to discern and prioritize and “kill” a lot of projects.
They also relish spending time with each other, friends, children, their homestead. So they partner in their scheduled lives. They each ask for what they want and need. Monthly in-house retreats. Seasonal retreats. Time away.
Their schedules are full. And they both feel free. More often than not.
No perfection. This is a constant work-in-progress. Everyone creates “art” differently especially when the art in question is a day being shaped.
The key is not to surrender agency nor to default to wishful thinking.
Another Frame of Freedom
Maybe we’re trapped by default patterns in how we think, act, create, and speak. After thirty, forty, fifty years, these patterns make up who we think we are and what we think is real.
Freedom might come in being able to recognize the tired patterns of how we think, act, create, and speak. And then trip those cognitive traps.
Freedom might come in being able to prioritize what projects matter most.
To act on them consistently with less stress.
To bypass most overwhelm and shape time instead of letting time spend you by day’s end.
Best you can. Without perfection but with deliberate artfulness.
It’s that kind of freedom I’m hellbent on helping you finesse for yourself and your teams.
Every human mind is wired to thrive within structure. But not in the same way.
Creative Frameworks & Strategies for Mastery
I know you’re pressed for time. Your body’s creaking. Your mind’s a labrador of distractibility.
I get it. I’ve been in all of those places. Several years ago, my concentration vanished. A few years ago, Lyme’s Disease debilitated my body and stamina. Thrice.
But when challenges mount, I devise strategies. And I execute project after project now. Our business bustles.
The people I’ve worked with have learned our Creative Frameworks & Strategies for Mastery.
It’s a program focused on wise project execution. It helps you become a day artist especially if you want to be your own best boss.
These strategies and frameworks change your daily patterns of thinking, acting, creating, making, and executing.
These business artists balk at challenges less. They instead respond to and create change they need. They complain about circumstances less. They instead shape them.
Find freedom to create what matters most. Share this.
That kind of freedom is business as unusual. It’s business as art, and it’s what I am working toward for all of us.
Thanks for running with me,