“No dessert until you finish your dinner.”
“You can watch a show once you finish your homework.”
“20 minutes playing on the computer is enough for tonight.”
I find myself repeating these rules, and a dozen more, to my three children day after day. As I say them I hear the echo of my own parents
saying something similar to me 30 years ago.
Why do we say these things? What purpose do they serve for children, and why do we stand by them now as adults running our own households?
The rules are just made up, you know. They’re a fiction. It’s entirely possible, for example, to eat a healthy, well-balanced meal after eating a slice of pie. It’s also possible to watch an episode of Phineas and Ferb and then do a great job on your math worksheet and still be in bed on
And yet, we insist.
We want our children to internalize the rules for living a self-controlled life. Sometimes we even yell at them about it, then throw up our hands in frustration when they resist. It’s that important to us.
I think what we’re really saying is, “It’s important to make up rules for yourself and then abide by them. Rules will help you work harder and make good decisions. Right now I’m making up rules for you, but when you’re out on your own, you should make them up for yourself and then you should follow them. They’ll make you a better person.”
The Self-Imposed Rules of Adulthood
You’re an adult now and I’ll bet you’ve got a whole set of made up rules that you follow every day to help you function better. Here are a
few of mine:
- I have to wash all the breakfast dishes and put them away
before the kids leave for school.
- The minute I get home from preschool drop off I have to
immediately go run 3 miles. No excuses and no exceptions.
- I can eat chocolate every day, but only a little bit and
only after lunch.
These rules help me to reign in things I find hard to naturally control, or that I resist focusing on. These rules are me saying to myself, “Don’t be lazy. Don’t be a slob. Get your work done.” Without them I would have a sink full of dirty dishes right now. I would have sat still all day today, and eaten a whole package of Oreos in front of the computer at 11 am.
Sometimes we go too far, of course, both with our kids and with ourselves. We need to examine our rules from time to time, make adjustments to them, throw some out and add in new ones. But the key is that we have them and we follow them and they keep us mostly in line.
Self-Imposed Rules Can Help You Run a Better Business
When you work from home, managing your own creative business, it’s easy to slack off. You’re on your own without a boss looking over your shoulder, or even a co-worker with a work ethic that’s making you look bad.
What you need is a set of rules. You’ll have to make them up, of course, and enforce them, too. But you’ll be surprised how effective a simple set of rules can be. Turn every day into a productive day by following a set of self-imposed rules for managing your business.
Here are a few of my business rules:
- I must be showered and dressed, with make-up on and hair done,
and seated at my studio desk by 10:15 am every weekday. This means I don’t stop
to talk to my neighbor for half an hour after my run and I can’t suddenly
decide to paint my nails on a Tuesday morning. Why not? Because I’ll be late to
- I have to finish the weekly bookkeeping for my business
every Friday morning before I can sew. It’s a tedious task that’s vital to the
success of my business and nobody else is going to do it for me. When I finish,
I can work on something fun.
- I publish a post on my blog every Monday, Wednesday, and
Friday. This blog is the hub of my business and it needs to be continually
active. Just like a newspaper reporter who works on deadline, I have to get my
posts up on time.
- My studio needs to be clean before I can start a new
project. Fabrics have to be sorted and put back in their bins, needles back in
the needlebook, scraps swept into the scrap bin. Among the many hats I wear, I’m
the janitor and if the room is messy I failed to do my job.
Now granted, nobody is perfect. Just like it’s okay to eat dessert first from time to time, it’s okay to skip a Friday blog post. You aren’t going to get fired, or grounded. But imposing a set of rules on yourself, and following them as closely as possible, will make you more productive and leave you with more time and energy to do what you love and make your creative business succeed.
What are your rules? What new rule could you invent to make the best use of your creative time?