Howdy Do It, Week 4

Hey Pitch, it’s Ellie back for week 4 of Howdy Do It! The past couple weeks have been kind of rough for me (but you know that right?). Since I began my plunge into self-employment, I’ve felt a little overwhelmed with all the things I’d love to do for my own business, and the lack of time I seem to have to get those things done. Having your own business means that the to-do list is never-ending, and sometimes it’s hard to know where to prioritize. By the end of the week, it escalated to the point that I had a hard time concentrating, and had a few days where I didn’t get much done on any aspect of work, much less Hello Tenfold and Mint. I’ll admit, the break was nice but the stress… well, not so much. I started to write a post on ways to get through the “stuck” moments, and then realized I wasn’t quite sure myself, and wanted to hear how other people do it. I turned to some of my favorite designers and bloggers to ask for their tips. Hope you enjoy reading through these as much as I do, and be sure to visit their sites for all kinds of inspiration!


My routine of ways to relax and clear my head when I’m feeling overwhelmed by work, changes all the time. Basically the one thing that seems to be consistent is to do anything but be on the computer, and still stay constructive and keep my mind off the work. My most recent favorite thing I have discovered, and my husband is liking it, is cooking different things. I’ve never been interested in cooking too much, I do know how to cook but I have discovered a new love for it. I’ve been taking a lot of interest in trying new recipes, things I don’t usually cook! I find it so relaxing and fun. By the time I’m finished if I’m still not ready to deal with the work I will clean something, or retail therapy is always a favorite.

1. MAKE LISTS. Make lots of lists. Make as many lists as you need. Have no shame There is no better feeling in the world than crossing something off of a list. With three business areas to manage it’s imperative for me to keep track of what needs to get done and when. I find that making an hour by hour list the night before really helps me feel like I have control over my day, and most importantly, that it CAN be done. By lunch time I’m usually crossing things off the list for later in the day and can even sneak in a little free time.
2. GET OUTSIDE. When I started working from home everyone kept telling me to get out and go for a walk when I’d get stressed. A walk?! Who has time for a walk?! I get it, a 15 minute stroll feels like too much of a burden some days, but it’s really just about getting yourself up and away from your work. Just open your door and step outside to breathe in some fresh air. Those few moments make a world of difference. You’ll feel more awake and invigorated and read to tackle that ever-growing to do list (see #1)
3. TALK IT OUT. Working from home can feel terribly isolating and lonely. It’s easy to get caught up in all the things that need to get done on any given day and before you know it, it’s dark outside and you haven’t spoken to a single person (houseplants don’t count, and it’s just sad). Although it takes some time out of your day, it’s so important to experience some form of non-client related contact. There are so many of us in this creative self-employed community, take advantage and build a network of people whose work you respect and admire and make them a part of your own personal support group. Take some time to meet for tea. Or for a quick chat on the phone. These small interactions will brighten your day and give you some perspective to understand that you are part of something much bigger than what faces you at your desk.

I am obsessive about making lists, for Bumblesea and my personal life. It’s easier for me to work with clearly defined goals and break them down into smaller manageable tasks to get done over time. I love the free task management software from because it helps prioritize what I need to do and manage huge projects I’m tackling.

I love to write lists {that is how the freakin to do list was born!}. On days when I can not focus, I watch old black and white movies, take my dog for a walk, go out to lunch and brainstorm with creative friends. Ironically, their creativity tends to jumpstart mine. I allow myself to take time away from my computer. When I sit back down to work, I tend to be uber-focused and finish a lot of projects. My work is much better when I am happy and relaxed.


A few things that help me are setting strict deadlines – I’ll tell myself that I have to make 10 necklaces an at-home work night (I have a day job so I can’t work every night or I’d go insane!) and set schedules for what day I’ll photograph everything, what day I’ll assemble packaging, etc. If I try to just free-flow with my schedule, or get ahead of myself and think, “Oh I can just slack off a little now!” it always goes awry. It’s also so so so so SO important that every night after working, I clean my work area up and have it nice and organized for the next time I sit down to work. Nothing makes me feel less motivated than a messy work space. This one is really hard for me because I’m kind of a slob, but I try hard to force myself because it really affects me! I also find that listening to radio shows like This American Life and Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me! making working SO much easier. I also love watching My So Called Life while making necklaces:)

I often get a bit overwhelmed by things on the business side of my business. I am not great with numbers so things like taxes and keeping records make me want to scream. I try to grab lunch with someone who’s busier than I am and I usually come home feeling like the things I have to do aren’t a big deal (this may have the adverse effect on the other person).

I turn to the FCC…. Family. Community. Coffee. My family provides me with the support that I need when it comes to time management, motivation, and inspiration. They pitch in whenever needed and know when to lend a hand or just listen when I need to talk. The handmade community is a major source of inspiration and guidance. There are so many knowledgeable folks out there willing to share their expertise on that side of the indie business world. It is so comforting when someone online can relate to business matters that might be hard on a personal schedule. Coffee not only provides me with a pick-me-up late at night in the studio but it also encourages me to sit down, relax, and sip while reading my favorite blogs, creating lists and schedules, and working on the accounting.

I work from home, so when I feel overwhelmed, I go for a walk around Manhattan’s West Village, where I live. I look in stationery shops, browse in teeny book stores, peek inside new restaurants, and sometimes stop for a Magnolia cupcake. Then I return home refreshed and ready to work again. Honestly, sometimes I feel like the West Village saves me! It feels like my cheerful co-worker 🙂

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Totally related to this overwhelming feeling (at least for me) is the feeling of guilt. Margot has a great post over on Mint today discussing just that, so pop over to check it out. Thanks to all our participants this week, and please leave your own tips in the comment section! Hey, we’ll take all the help we can get, right?!

PHOTO CREDITS: Mouseteeff + Date pillow

Howdy Do It came from how do you do It, the question Ellie & Margot found themselves asking about their freelance lifestyles, and so Howdy Do It was born, a weekly column about the things we do to keep ourselves organized, inspired and on track. To see Ellie’s weekly Howdy Post, visit Mint.



This has been incredibly helpful. I really enjoyed reading all of the responses! It does feel so nice to cross things off of a list. Also, the clean work area is a must! I can barely move if my desk is cluttered…. such a downer.
A big thanks to all. An important topic that truly means a lot 🙂


Great post! I feel better knowing others are in the same boat as I am! and really nice ideas I hadn’t thought of.


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