by Gabriela Pereira
By all accounts, I’m living the “designer lifestyle.” I run an online business and have the flexibility to fit my work schedule around my life. Forget about packing a suitcase, most days I run my whole business out of my purse. And as a mom who squeezes her work hours around the schedules of my toddler son and newborn daughter, my workweek sure seems like it only has four hours in it, and I can’t say it feels all that glamorous.
There’s lot of hype on the internet about entrepreneurship, location independence and running a business where you want, when you want. A lot of people think this means sending out your newsletter while hiking through a rainforest or checking email from a lounge chair on a white sand beach. Well, last time I checked, the rainforest doesn’t have WiFi, and if I tried doing email from the beach all I’d end up with is sand in my laptop.
Here’s the truth no one tells you about this entrepreneurial “designer lifestyle.”
1. Be prepared to defend your time with your life.
Does this sound extreme? That’s because it is. You must defend your time because no one else will defend it for you. Since you can work anytime, other people will automatically assume that you have all this extra “free time” during the day. The truth is, we all have the same twenty-four hours to work with but no one sees the hours you work early in the morning, late at night, on the weekends, or whenever else you get things done. This makes it all the more important for you to protect those precious work hours from interlopers. Also, because you can work anywhere and anytime, you may be tempted to work all the time, no matter where you are. Do not give in. Just as you must protect your work hours from interruptions and distractions, you must take care of your non-work time as well.
2. There is no such thing as work-life balance.
It’s impossible to find this balance because the scale constantly tips from one extreme to the other. Our brains are not built to multi-task. All we can do is shift our attention from one thing to another. This means that in any given moment, either work or life will demand ALL your attention and you can’t give it to both at the same time. The best thing you can do is accept that there is no balance and embrace this crazy roller-coaster ride.
3. It’s not about discipline, it’s about force of will.
When I tell people I run my own business from home, the most frequent response is: “Wow, you must be so disciplined.” I will tell you right now I am one of the least disciplined people ever. If I relied on discipline to run my business I would probably fritter my days away eating bonbons and watching bad TV. Instead, what gets me through my day (and my to-do list) is sheer, bullheaded stubbornness. I don’t have a secret system that makes my business magically run itself. I don’t have some magic bullet solution that will somehow make entrepreneurship easy. I’m just unbelievably stubborn and I refuse to give up until everything gets checked off the list. And when that happens, I make another list.
The truth is…
The designer lifestyle is much less about style as it is about life, and by life I mean real life, with all the mess and muck and magic that goes with it. And there IS a magic to it that I wouldn’t trade for anything: like sharing a mid-day snack with my toddler son, or having an afternoon cuddle with my baby girl, or knowing that I can go on vacation and still “check in on the office” because that office is my purse. All you need to make this magic happen is a little appetite for chaos, and a really sturdy handbag.
Gabriela Pereira is the Instigator of DIYMFA.com, the do-it-yourself alternative to a Master’s degree in writing, and she holds an MFA from the New School (New York, NY). While undercover as a graduate student, she learned the inside scoop on MFA programs, invented a slew of writing tools all her own, and discovered new, more effective ways for writers to learn their craft. Now she wants to share what she learned and help writers around the world get the “knowledge without the college.”
Before founding DIY MFA, Gabriela taught several writing courses in New York City at organizations like 826NYC, Everybody Wins, EHTP, and a local writing workshop she built from the ground up. More recently she has shifted gears to teaching exclusively at DIY MFA but continues to speak and lead workshops at national and international writing conferences both online and off.
Her favorite thing to do is come up with new dastardly plans and innovative resources for DIY MFA. When she’s not working, Gabriela loves to write middle-grade and teen fiction, with short stories “grown-ups” thrown in for good measure. She is represented by Jeff Kleinman at Folio Literary Management and is currently working on a book on writing.
Gabriela lives in NYC with Lawyer-Hubby, Little Man, Lady Bug, and a trifecta of feline critters. You can connect with her on Twitter (@DIYMFA).