Sunday, June 1, 2014

A year of working less

Today is a bit of a memorable day. Well, for me anyway. It marks my first year anniversary of working less!

You may remember how last year I decided to cut down the hours of my day job so I could spend more time on doing the stuff I love. Stuff like art, but also reading, writing, photography, walking and just plain being me. I wrote extensively about that decision here, if you want to know more about how it all came about.

It's amazing how fast the time goes, because that post seems like yesterday, but apparently an entire year has somehow passed and I thought it might be nice to do a little update as to how things are working out. So that's what today's post is about. For those of you who don't care about all these specific goings on I have added some studio pictures of art supplies, so there's at least something pretty to look at, haha.


It's funny, when I look back on that post a year ago, that the things I focused on mostly turn out to be the things that have mattered the least. By that I mean that I expected the loss of income would be really hard and challenging. Turns out...it's not! Yes, I've had to let go of some things, but actually I don't feel like my life has changed all that much in that respect.

It seems that as long as you can afford the basic things like food and shelter and such and have the opportunity to do (more of) the things you love, then the rest doesn't really matter all that much. Yes, I had to get used to things, but it was quite easy really. And to my surprise less money can still go a long way. I actually can afford to get myself a little something from time to time, just not every time.


I have even backed up on some of my decisions from a year ago. Sometimes I had no choice in this. For instance I wanted to throw out both cable tv and digital tv, but my cable tv subscription could not be seperated from my cable internet. It is possible to get the internet over an existing phone line (ADSL), which would indeed be cheaper, but that is a lot slower connection, so I decided against that. However I have cancelled digital tv and disconnected the tv from the cable, so I'm not watching tv anymore. That was really weird at first, because it was such an automatic thing to do, but you do get used to it. I do still watch movies and series on dvd, but I refuse to look at stuff that is more a commercial than an actual program and mostly the stuff on the networks is just...well... shit really.

Another thing I decided against was throwing out my credit card. I used to use it all the time, but now only if I have no other choice and sometimes when you order things online you have no other option but to use a credit card, especially when you order abroad. However in the past year I have used it exactly twice and both times it was like 20 euro's. A big difference with before. I went into this working less thing debt free and I want to stay that way.


A funny thing happened at the beginning of this year. Because of changes in the law the amount of money taken from my wages for pension and such went down, meaning I now make almost a 100 more a month than I did until december. This was really weird, like a little gift from the universe. Of course laws can change again, but for now I'm really happy with this little extra.

I started what I call a 'Fun Fund'. It's both a seperate bank account and a piggy bank in which I save bigger coins and extra's and things like money from recycling and such. You'd be surprised how quickly that can ad up. It's not like it gives me thousands of euros but it does allow me a couple of hundred  a year that make it possible for me to sometimes splurge on something and to pay for my annual visit to Kreadoe!

All in all the less money thing was more a practical adjustment than anything else and this surprised me. In a good way of course!


But of course this whole working less thing was never done for the money, it was done for the time. And that's where the real challenges were, especially in the first half year.

You'd think that having more time would just be a simple luxury that would be easy to get used to, but I was confronted with a lot of inner conflict because of it. Mostly because I already had this obsessive urge to spend my time well. Now I had lots more of it and sacrificed some things for that, of course I had to make it extra worth while. This was a major trap that I was stuck in for months on end.

In theory it's really easy to think that free time will free up yourself, but I found the opposite to be true. It made me even more anal about how I spent my time. Everything had to be worth while and productive. I set up schedules and time managed till I was blue in the face and to make a long story short, I drove myself up the wall and lost  some of the joy of doing the things I love (not all, but some). I wrote extensively about this at the end of the year. You can find that post here.

As I stated in that post I started living more and more from pride and ego than from joy. I lost perspective a little. It helps at times like that, that I write a lot and encounter myself that way and that's why I could write that post and change direction. Reflection is esssential I think if you want to see if you like where your life is going. I didn't at that time and I'm glad I 'stepped in' before I drove myself slightly crazy. ;-)


In my new year's post I decided to try a different approach and go more for the joy of things than for the obsession with trying to fill my time 'right', whatever that means. You can read about that here.  And I must say that even though I'm still struggling sometimes it has been a revelation!

I think this whole more time thing stands or falls with giving yourself permission to just be. To just experiment a little and enjoy yourself for enjoyments sake. This may seem obvious, but when you're such a big control freak and as result oriented as me the practice of this can be quite challenging.

One thing that is helping me is that more and more I seem to do art that takes a lot of time, that requires patience. I'm currently for instance working on doodles that I colour in (will show them in a later post). The process, even though it is simple in itself, takes an incredible amount of time. The same goes for all the patterns I'm making and for the handstitching on journal covers that I've started.

I'm impatient by nature, want to fill my time with as much as possible and be extremely productive, but now I'm delving into these art forms that demand much more time than is comfortable for me. It's like practicing a muscle that I always tried to avoid using, the patience muscle. It helps me to value quality over quantity and to see the joy that lies in the process.


I've also loosened up a bit more about my journaling. Where over the past years my journal was a series of lovely lay outs (which I did enjoy doing very  much by the way), it now is becoming way more process oriented and much more direct. Not everything has to be thought out, the goal is to fill a book and to reflect my life, not to have everything perfect. This makes my journal a lot messier and sometimes less pretty, but I love looking at the mix of various things in one book without rhyme or reason. The Notebook is a good example of this kind of journaling. I expanded on it when I joined International Fake Journal Month in April. That really gave me new ideas and perspective.

I have allowed myself the luxury of not having to spend all day or a big part of it doing art, but to divide my time more between all the things I love. Things like walking and reading for instance. I have always read and walked, but I can do it so much more now and it's really helping me get calmer and more relaxed about everything.


Of course there are still plenty of times when I have to keep myself in check. My perfectionism and obsessive nature do not die that easily, but it's okay. I know where my priorities lie, I just have to keep reminding myself of them and  not fall into the trap of having to prove something and being too result oriented. I have to remember that art and the other things I love for me are more like a practice than an ambition or a goal. These are the things that keep me sane and happy just by doing them. They are an objective in themselves.

So slowly but steadily I'm learning to deal with having more time. It's odd that this can be a challenge, as it seems such an easy thing on the surface, but there you have it.


Of course I have to also say that these long weekends and short work weeks are absolutely wonderful. It feels so decadent to have all this time to myself. Despite the challenges it is an incredible luxury to have four days off each week. I cannot recommend it enough: if you have the wish and opportunity to do this and the costs are within reason (and really, you don't need that much), don't hold back. It's a change of life, it really is!

Wishing you all a wonderful and artsy Sunday.

20 comments:

  1. Thanks for the update! Can't believe a year has passed!

    I certainly empathise with your journey - I've had a similar one: at first, I thought I needed "more supplies" to create great art; then I got those. Then I thought I needed "more time", then I had more time and still couldn't create "great art" (whatever that is!) Now I am realising that lots of supplies and lots of time don't make great art happen - there is something else... I have a suspicion that it will simply involve just MAKING ART and getting better at it, as I go along... we will see!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. LOL! I'm afraid your suspicion may be correct. In the end it really is all about the doing and making a lot of crap as you go along, haha. ;-) Good luck to you in working things out.

      Delete
  2. Hello from France!
    I have absolutely no idea which other blogger sent me to your blog but I am very grateful to her. I spent time (lots of time) reading your post and looking at all the photos and really enjoyed it. I am a lover of Amsterdam but do not know the rest of the country, I am a sea, dunes and islands lover too so a big thank you for sharing about your vacations and walks in your country. I was quite interested too in your post about dealing with less money. Due to my son's studies at university I have less money to spend too but I have come to make with it, like you, and it has given me another approach to my life. And I also share with you the issue of free time management but haven't grown out of it yet, putting too much pressure on myself to make the most of it. I very often end doing nothing of it. But it is an issue I really want to overcome since I am four years away from retirement and I cannot bear the thought of not making the most of my free time when I leave my job. A big thank you for everything, for your inspiring words, photos and art, thanks too for Alabama Shanin; I also am a lover of sewing and out-of-the-ordinary clothes.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Welcome to my blog Muriel and thanks for your story. It's odd how even when life makes things easier for us we can make it harder on ourselves. I'm slowl learning that making the most of your time does not involve stuffing every minute with useful stuff to do, but with letting ourselves of the hook and just enjoy ourselves and the things we love a little (or a lot) with no strings attached. But it's easier said than done. Still learning. ;-)

      Delete
  3. (I can't believe it has been a year--where does the TIME go?!) What you went through/are going through is really resonating with me also, since I just lost my job. I'm happy and sad about it and FREAKED OUT about it because now I have ALL THIS TIME and I'm a bit of a control freak and results-oriented and I flail around if I don't have structure, yet when I make a schedule and impose structure I'm fairly miserable and I rebel against it anyway. I think you're so right about learning how to "just be". On my (long) list of things do with all my free time is meditate. Maybe (hopefully) that will help me some. I also loved what you said about the patience muscle.Thanks for sharing and always being an inspiration!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh dear, I think we may share the same brain! ;-) It does get better over time, but of course that requires patience. Sigh.... ;-)

      Delete
  4. I'm glad to hear your update. I'm very interested in reading about time management, money, balancing life and making the most of your free time. I plan to do something similar once I've been working long enough to have a higher salary (so more towards the end of my career). I'm glad you found a way to make it work.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I found that for me the answer is to stop managing my time so much and just do one thing at a time and enjoy it. It's hard for me, because I'm always thinking of all the other things I could be doing, so I need a lot of practice in just staying in the moment. I'm slowly getting better at this. Slooooowly. ;-)

      Delete
  5. oh Caatje - what a lovely, empowering and inspiring post! Thank you so much! I'm also a bit over obsessive about "doing things right" in the most efficient way, or "right away"... and I need to continue to work on this. Thank you for sharing your journey and sending me your example and strength.

    In my case, I'm actually dealing with this problem with having less time and more work, but funnily enough, it is the exact same problem. I need to accept that the pace of my process is ok, and that I don't need to hurry anywhere, I have to have faith that at my own pace I will be where I need to be, do what I need to do, and that I can treat myself kindly in the process.

    Blessings! And thanks also for the always amazing photos, in this post and from your delightful walks, that send peace and wonder into my life on a regular basis... :-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Aw Judith, thanks for your sweet words.
      A little bit at a time over and over again can go a long way and really make you productive. It's really believing that which is the challenge. That's why for me working on things that I cannot just finish within a few hours or less is really good practice. Good luck with your own challenges.

      Delete
  6. Can't believe I've been reading you for a year?!?!? I agree with and have the same struggles as you and the other commenters. I've been working toward retiring for several years. Someone told me it takes 2 years and I keep that in mind when I get frantic about whether I'm using my time right. I'm finally getting a rhythm but I'm still having trouble with results versus process. I'm learning how to make my own projects and deadlines and going beyond working for the money and how it will build my resume. As a lifelong freelancer, not having to think of my resume any longer was both intriguing and sad. But now I have my photography resume to build! It's just not tied to the need for money, which was always the motivator. Will be interested in reading future posts about this subject.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. For me it's important to learn that things will work themselves out. By that I mean: not planning everything and trying to make lists of projects I have to finish or deadlines withing which I have to finish them. Instead the way for me is to just show up and do some work. By doing that things will get made. It's really not necessary for me to control every little thing into infinity. I can just do the work and let the result take care of itself. It's hard to really believe that, but by doing it I'm slowly proving it to myself. ;-)

      Delete
  7. You continue to inspire me, Caatje. I've loved following your journey.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Happy Anniversary Caatje. And what a fabulous year it's been for you. You are living the sort of life many of us dream about but believe to be impossible to achieve. I'm at least 5 years from early retirement and yearn for it every day, As an avid collector of books and craft supplies it's hard to imagine having to restrict myself from indulging in my need to acquire more and more of everything once I do retire. Though glorious results can be achieved with minimal craft supplies it's true what about books? What can you do about books? They keep writing 'em! And libraries are no help ... they make you given 'em back!!! Totally unreasonable if you ask me. But I digress ... I look forward to following your journey for the next year and making notes for my own future downsizing. Not to mention the art inspiration and the beautiful photos and your cat and .... I'm digressing again, aren't I? Cheers!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. LOL! Thanks for making me laugh. Those bloody book makers! I do still buy them though, I'm just a bit more selective. Mostly I buy the artsy colourful kind and leave the novels for my e-reader. I get a lot of those for free from friends thank heavens. ;-)

      Delete
  9. Happy Anniversary! I adore your long reflective posts. I read every word and then I read it again. You are such a treasure and inspiration. Thank you for each and every post.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Well now, I'm almost blushing over here! Thank you!

      Delete
  10. I enjoyed reading this post, Caatje, and getting another peek at how your mind works. :-) I can identify a lot with things that you have said here, as I tend to be perfectionist, goal oriented, and strict about always using my time productively. Being away from trying to produce, produce, produce with my blog in mind has been moving my mind towards some of your same conclusions...about quality over quantity, and exploring projects that slow me down and take me more time to complete. It was good to hear how you put it into words!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The thing I'm slowly learning is that 'produce produce' does not make me happy at all. It makes me cranky. ;-) So it's good to try a different approach and find that it really works.

      Delete

I appreciate each and every comment. They make me really happy. I don't like spammers though and that's why the word verification is turned on. I know it's a pain, but I hope you understand.

I try to respond to all comments by directly replying in the comment section, but please understand that sometimes this may take some time. Know that I read them all and that they make my day.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...