And Why We Need a Little Billy Ocean Right Now

As I write this, we are several weeks into self-isolation around the globe. The coronavirus pandemic has put the entire world into weirdsville. I almost never use the word collectively, but in this case it fits. Collectively, we are all feeling much of the same fears and anxieties, not to mention dealing with our own personal versions of isolation.

Right now we need to realize that whatever we’re feeling is cool. If we’re angry or anxious, we need to acknowledge that. If we’re feeling generally upbeat, we should allow that to happen without guilt. Our feelings are going to change throughout the day and over the course of the next few months. It’s part of being human and it’s totally normal that we feel what we feel.

Maybe you don’t want to feel angry or anxious. I sure don’t, but sometimes there it is. Hi there, feelings. Now go away, I’m trying to make a sandwich. 

Since we can’t just swipe left on our bad feelings, there are a few things we can do to get into a new set of feelings that we like better. Here are a few things I’ve been doing lately to change things around for myself:

Get Outside

Before March happened, I would run or walk in my neighborhood. It helps me think, relaxes me, and as a bonus my heart tubes won’t clog up like a sewer drain full of baby wipes. So I’ve continued my routine like nothing has changed. I don’t encounter anyone closer than twenty feet, so we’re all safe.

Seeing the sky, trees, dogs, and waving hello at neighbors has been a huge boost for my overall outlook. This morning there was a woman walking around our ‘hood with a giant steaming mug of something. Just walking. Drinking. Being alive. Sometimes that’s enough.

Get Creative

I know. Getting creative sounds awesome if you’re all happy and feeling it. If you feel like crap, how the hell is that supposed to magically happen?

For me, getting creative can mean doodling. Working on my Rubik’s Cube solve time (I’m under three minutes now). Folding paper into little cranes. Writing blog posts like this one. Working on my side gigs.

Maybe you can’t imagine getting into Picasso mode and pooping out a masterful painting right now, but that’s okay. Making a sandwich and getting artful with the mustard might just work fine.

Cook

Speaking of sandwiches (I think I’m hungry, are you getting that?), cooking can be a super mood lifter. My wife has been throwing herself into new sourdough creations and old savory standbys lately. It feeds her soul and we all benefit (which is also why I need to keep to my running schedule). 

You don’t have to whip up a masterchef-level meal. Just make something yummy and easy and put some love into it.

Connecting

I admit that I have never been a fan of the Facebook. I’ve hopped in and out over the years, mostly to admin my business page (because it’s a marketing sin not to have one). Personally, I hate getting caught up in the politics and, currently, the depressing news of the day.

Recently, I’ve changed my outlook on Facebook. I’ve purposefully set out to get on there and just connect with people, new friends and old. Commenting positively or with jokes (a lot of my comments are engineered to make beverages squirt out your nose) is one thing I can do that also helps others. I’ll DM connections just to say hi and ask how they’re doing. I scroll right past the negative posts and don’t spend any time on them (or at least I try, I don’t always win at that game). 

For the most part, connecting on social media and through email has been super positive these days. Just knowing that other people are out there, waving at each other online helps.

What Billy Ocean Said

The world is never going to be the same. When the pandemic is over, we are all going to be living in a new society with new ways of working and living. That’s not all bad. We’ll come out the other side stronger and hopefully more connected to each other.

One of my favorite mood-lifting songs is, not surprisingly, from 1985. It’s got motivation, a danceable beat and the video has three celebs as backup singers with killer moves. I double dog dare you to not get a little boost in your outlook.

“I’m gonna put this dream in motion, never let nothing stand in my way.  When the going gets tough, the tough get going. I’m gonna get myself ‘cross the river, that’s the price I’m willing to pay.” – Billy Ocean, When the Going Gets Tough (the Tough Get Goin’)

The cool thing is, we don’t need to wait for a global pandemic to do any of this stuff. Any time we feel anxious or sad or just not feeling much at all, we have stuff we can try.

I wish you all the best during this time and after. If this post was helpful to you, please share it with friends. Also, come hang out with me on twitter.

Is it any wonder I’m not a criminal?

Is it any wonder I’m not in jail?

Is it any wonder I’ve got

Too much time on my hands?

– Styx

If only we all had the problem of too much time on our hands. Sitting around on barstools talkin’ like damn fools. Alas, few people can do that and still pay the bills.

So when you see all the beautiful people online talking about their side gigs and how they just bought their third yacht from their Google Ad revenue, it’s maddening.

Who has time to do something on the side when you’ve got a day job? Even when you’re off work, when exactly are you going to work on your thing? There’s dinner to make, pets to feed, maybe even kids to take care of, find toilet paper… so, when? After all that you just wanna slip into your comfies, open some wine and chill with your best friend Netflix.

I hear you. Many days end with me and my wife doing exactly that. Yet I still run a custom printing business and have more than a few side gigs. Hey, I don’t even have one yacht, so don’t look at me like that.

So how do I find the time?

Maybe you’ve read about this before and the advice inevitably comes down to something like “Make time.” Hmmm, pithy. Not exactly helpful.

Or maybe you saw yet another instagram meme shaming you about how you’re wasting time watching TV when you could be earning your yacht. Not helpful at all.

I’m not going to do that to you. Glib and pious don’t work here, I fired them from the band. What I am going to do is share some super cool tips that help me a lot. Do I always follow them to the letter? No, because I am human. I do my best, and you can, too.

Schedule It

One of the steps in my Start Me Up side gig starter is about scheduling time to work on your side gig. Yeah, I know. It sounds suspiciously like “Make time.” I wouldn’t do that to you. Here’s what I say in the program:

One of the most important things you can do is to set aside purposeful time for your thing. Like all the other steps you took to get here, it’s about making it clear to yourself and the world that you are actually doing something of importance.

If you try to multi-task this and work it into the chaos of your day, it will feel like fiddling around. Fiddling around doesn’t seem very important. Establishing a scheduled time does, and you will accomplish more if you take your time seriously.

There’s more, but essentially, you’re blocking out little time slots in your day where you only focus on your side gig. Even 15 minute chunks will get you moving ahead.

If you can spend 15 minutes on the toilet hiding from the kids and checking Facebook, you can do this.

Something you like to do

One of the things I’ve noticed that makes people feel like a side gig is going to be just more work is that they choose to do something that’s not a natural fit for them. They read about some online scheme like selling products on Amazon and they hate it. So they don’t do the work because it feels like a slog. Yay, more work. Sign me up.

When you choose something you love doing, that feeds your soul, you won’t have to force yourself to sit down and do the work. You’ll want to do it. And consequently, the money you earn from it will feel crazy good.

*disclaimer: I don’t really think that selling products on Amazon is a bad idea or a scam. It’s just not for everyone (it wasn’t for me). If that makes your heart sing, then go for it!

Stop Self-shaming

Okay, so this doesn’t magically add more time to your day, but it’s important. Listen, you already work hard. Don’t neglect your mental and physical health just for some extra cash. If you’re using your little carved-out chunks of time (like above), you’ll be fine. You can Netflix and chill without the guilt. Go ride bikes with your kids. Take that hike. Go to happy hour.

If you aren’t enjoying your life, what’s the extra cash going to be for, anyway?

These are just three quick tips to help you find time to work on your side gig. If you found them helpful, please share this post with friends.

If you want to dig deeper into creating your side gig, check out my free program on it . It walks you through step-by-step and it comes with a fillable PDF worksheet. Also, there are Rolling Stones references all over the place. Sign up 

Photo by Mikayla Mallek on Unsplash

This week hasn’t started out like we all thought it would. Things have been escalating pretty quickly and none of us were prepared for how this would play out.

Jenni and I are extremely fortunate in that we’re used to this routine. We already work from home and we homeschool our 12-year old. Yeah, we’re those people. No, we don’t bring prune and hemp bars to parties or hand out little end-of-the-world pamphlets at the bar, but admittedly we are outside the norm.

I know you’re dealing with a lot of shit right now that you’re not used to. Maybe you’re not exactly sure how this whole working from home thing is supposed to be done. Your company probably wasn’t prepared for that, either. Do you wear pants during video conferences? Do you still shower every day? Maybe you’re stuck somewhere between what’s the proper protocol and how much can you get away with?

I know, let’s throw kids home from school every day into the mix! Yay! It’s like a snow day that seems like it will never end. Schools weren’t really set up for this situation, either. So now all they want to do is play Minecraft and watch Frozen and you feel like crap because you really should be helping them get an education but you still aren’t even sure how to use Zoom or Slack for work.

And let’s not even mention that you bought everything you needed for the next 2 weeks except extra peanut butter and it’s the ONE THING that would make the day seem slightly more sane.

Deep breath. 

This sucks. You are not alone. You are going to get through this.

It may help you to know that as homeschoolers (technically “unschoolers” to pile on a little extra weirdness), we aren’t always getting it right, either. We do our best but we still have to wrestle the kid away from YouTube sometimes. He’s 12. He doesn’t always want to read the stuff we assign him or work on the project he started (ironically, he was working on a thing about the Black Plague. heh). Some days are tough. Some days are easy.

Forgive yourself.

This situation is nowhere close to normal, so don’t try so hard to make it that way. Let it be weird and unpredictable and not ideal.

Do your best to get through the day, figure out your own work routine. The kids are not going to miss out on Harvard because they spent a week at home without an established curriculum. Don’t try to replicate the experience of sitting in a chair and being attentive for 8 hours a day.

Forgive yourself.

Do what you can to stay healthy, stay sane and make sure the house doesn’t burn down. If you can do that over the next eight weeks, you’re doing an amazing job.

And hey. If you need to unload or ask a question or whatever, reach out. I’m @workathomedj on twitter, or you can send me an email: dj at workathomegeek dot com.

Photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash

My First Space, or: The 90s Were Rad

When I first decided that I wanted to create animated films, we lived in a tiny 1-bedroom apartment in central Phoenix. We had a toddler and a baby on the way. If there was a space in that apartment that didn’t have wipes and stuffed toys in it, I don’t know where it was. Maybe the tiny patio.

I don’t know if you know anything about making animated films, but a crucial part of the process involves the use of a flat surface, bare minimum. Also a chair, if you’re really serious. Being short on those things, I had to make do with our kitchen table and sometimes a coffee table and no chair. We also had a computer and a desk, but because this was the 90s, our computer monitor was the size of a VW Beetle. Not a lot of space left for drawing things.

I had to make something work. The only option was to just not do it and since I couldn’t imagine myself working as a bank receptionist into my 30s, I made a space for myself. Thankfully, Jenni was supportive and knew that I needed it. So even though my working surface shifted around, I had a little file box dedicated to my drawings and ideas. My animation studio was housed in a little magenta accordion file thing. I still have it somewhere.

Getting that file box and making it mine was a little thing, but it made me feel like I was really going after my dream. After a few years of hard work using any available flat surface and my file box, I got a couple films into festivals, did some freelance gigs and eventually got hired at Nickelodeon.

Start With Your Space

When you’re starting a side hustle or business (freelancing is a business), it’s tempting to think that you first need a business plan, or maybe some capital, or like all really real businesses, a Costco membership. You don’t. Those things are for later. You can get stuck in those steps because they’re big steps. 

The first thing you start with is your space.

Tell it to Your Brain

When you start by creating your own space, you’re basically telling your brain that yes, you really are doing this and no, we can’t get a Costco account yet, no matter how much you would love a 10-quart jar of pickles.

Maybe you tell yourself that you’re going to start your thing every hour of every day. That’s great, but the problem is that your brain doesn’t believe you. Your brain yawns and says, “Mmm, pickles.”

When you plant your stake in the ground, when you carve out your own space for your thing, your brain wakes up a little and says, “Oh, you were serious about this! Well, that pickle jar is really too heavy anyway.”

No Desk, No Problem

Maybe you have the wherewithal to dedicate an entire room to your thing. That’s awesome and you should take advantage of it. Get rid of those funny beer cans you kept from college and make it your space.

If you don’t have an entire room, it’s totally okay. You can still do this. Hey, I had an accordion folder, and those things have come a long way since the 90s. Okay, actually they haven’t changed at all but if that’s what you’ve got, you can make it work.

You might have to share a room with a sewing machine or a yoga mat and that’s fine, too. The important thing is that you claim your territory. Whatever it is that you choose, it must be dedicated to your business. Tell your brain you’re really doing this.

Sacred Ground

Now that you’ve claimed your space, it’s time to burn some sage in small, concentric circles to get rid of the bad jou-jou. Just kidding, although if that’s your thing, go for it.

You don’t have to do a ceremony or host a ribbon-cutting (although that could be fun), this space is now officially yours.  

It’s a good idea to tell the people around you that it’s off-limits for other activities. Establish rules right up front so there’s no confusion. This also tells the other brains in your home that you’re really doing this thing. You will likely get more respect and support, and possibly even help carrying that 10-quart jar of pickles when it’s time.

Photo by elizabeth lies on Unsplash

Today was kind of a weird day for me. It’s Monday, and usually coming off of a weekend (wait, what’s that?) I am all kinds of productive. For me, Mondays are my git-er-done days. I don’t really know why. I drink just as much coffee on those other days that don’t start with M.

But some days I’m just not feeling it and today is one of those days. I don’t know why, maybe my chakra is misaligned with the snow moon in my seventh house of cards. No real reason I can point to. But there it is.

I still got the work done. I had client work that I couldn’t just ignore, because there are other humans counting on me. Of course I had to do that work. But my moving-forward stuff, my hustling, my passive income-building activities are just kind of floating around my head like drunken bees singing, “I don’t wanna work, I just wanna bang on me drum all day…” I didn’t even want to write this post, but it’s on my calendar so if I don’t, I’ll probably have nightmares about notification badges pounding on my front door. Wouldn’t be the first time.

One of the things that people don’t realize about starting a freelance career is that it’s not all watching YouTube makeup tutorials in your underwear and sipping expensive teas from Mawlamyine. If you get kinda lazy on the 9-to-5, you can usually get by without anyone noticing – sometimes for a few days, even. But when you freelance, any time you spend being lazy is time lost bringing in new clients or marketing. Then you have to make it up later, and no, you don’t get overtime because it’s a national holiday, like Super Bowl Sunday or the Oscars. No soup for you!

So yeah, I’ll do the stuff. Maybe today won’t be one of those Shining Glorious Mondays where I accomplish ALL OF THE THINGS and still have time to invent a better method for stirring natural peanut butter. But at least I’ll know that I am moving forward, one step at a time. There will be another day where I can channel a carpenter ant on an endorphin high. Today is more… sloth on espresso.

Looking at you, Tuesday.