asking for trouble

How I Get Things Done

This post was originally shared on Patreon in 2019 but now I’m making it public with some updates. It was inspired by a blog post of the same name by Kaila, which is no longer online.

How I Get Things Done

These are probably mostly useful for people who are self-employed/work from home, but can still help if you have multiple things to juggle and/or trouble organising your free time.

1. Finding my most productive time of day

If you read my Day in the Life zine, you’ll see that I used to work all the time – weekends, holidays, late at night. When I got my own place, I slowly discovered I work best in the morning and completely changed my schedule to match. Now I set my alarm for 7am and get to work by 8/9am. It doesn’t give me more hours in the day, as I get less and less productive after lunch, but I’m more efficient – and have more downtime. I never work in the evening now, unless it’s something fun like drawing or crafts.

2. Sticking to a routine

I shared my current routine in that zine too. Even though my tasks each day can be very different, I stick to the same routine. Getting up, going to bed, meals etc. are all at similar times every day. Shipping days and errands are on the same days each week and other things on the same day each month etc. This really keeps me organised as I always know what I should be doing.

3. Reducing pressure on myself

Running a business (or actually 3 businesses!) means there’s always things piling up – orders, emails, to-do lists, opportunities, social media – and the constant requirement for new characters/blog posts/products/social media updates. It’s easy to get overwhelmed but I try to remember that none of this is life and death. I’m only one person so I set clear boundaries (e.g. shipping days twice a week, only replying to business emails between 9am-5pm) and I don’t beat myself up if fall behind sometimes. 

4. Lists and reminders

Since I have so many different tasks fighting for attention, I need lists and reminders to keep me on track. The main things I use are Google Calendar for all my blog posts and newsletters and a paper to-do list of tasks to complete. I wrote about this before. The Reminders app on my phone has also become incredibly helpful as my personal need to clear notifications means I do them ASAP! I have daily reminders for the SCK Instagram and Duolingo, and other weekly and monthly ones. Since I have a regular routine, I can set them to happen when I’m usually in the right place (e.g my German lesson at 1:30pm when I’ve probably just finished lunch and weekly SCK blog tasks on a Saturday morning when I’m usually at my laptop.

5. Thinking Time

I’ve found that my best ideas and solutions come to me naturally without any forcing so I make sure there’s plenty time for that to happen. It’s kind of like loading a lot of potential product ideas/characters/problems into my brain, adding a batch of random information from blog posts, books etc. and then waiting for everything to bubble around and push up an answer. This may be why I spend so much time alone and why I sleep easily without worries – I’m just giving my brain space to figure things out. Good times for brainwaves are walks, showers, train journeys, as soon as I wake up and generally just spacing out.

7. Saying HELL YES! or no

My mum’s attitude to life is that you should say yes to everything as it might be fun and if it’s not, at least you tried something new. When I settled into freelance life, I discovered the incredible joy of saying no and turning down clients and opportunities I could tell would be more trouble/expense than they were worth. Then I read somewhere that if you’re offered something and your reaction isn’t HELL YES! then you should say no, and I find this really helps me decide what to do with all the emails I get every day.

8. Outsourcing

My time and skills are my most valuable asset and I outsource tons of stuff that other people can do more quickly or affordably. This frees up my time to do the things that no-one else can do – and rest! Spending money on things you can do yourself is always difficult but once you figure out your hourly rate (start with your ideal annual salary that would cover all your expenses etc.) it’s an easy calculation. See also 10 Things I’ve Learned From Running My Own Business and My 10 Best Business Buys.

9. Reducing screen time

I do spend a lot of time online and using my phone but I try not to be scrolling mindlessly too often. I have Do Not Disturb set from 10pm-7am and don’t check my phone once I’m in bed, I have pretty much all notifications turned off and keep the sound off too. With social media, I try to keep my feeds quite small. I’m very picky about who I follow, turn off retweets for almost everyone on Twitter, mute hashtags if they take over my feed, mute accounts temporarily if someone starts a daily project I’m not interested in (please create side accounts for these!) and unfollow accounts that make me feel bad about myself. This means I can keep up with my feeds quite easily (and see everyone’s posts, despite the algorithm!) and quite often there is nothing new for me to look at so I have to find something else to do. 

10. Making my home a happy place

I think this has really taken a huge weight off my mind. Before my current flat, I was always surrounded by business stuff and never had enough storage space or room to display things without it looking like clutter, and it was a nightmare to keep it tidy and find things I needed. Now I have a separate studio to shut the door on and so much space and storage that there are empty surfaces! Even with a bigger space, it’s much easier to keep it clean and tidy. Having all my art on the walls and cute purchases on display really cheers me up and I have zero shame about my armchair full of plushies or Pusheen duvet cover as they always make me smile. I’m so glad I paused my life to figure out how to move to the seaside as it really was life changing. If you’re stuck with one room for now, Kaila recently reorganised her tiny Tokyo apartment and has some great tips for storage and hiding things away.

Hope this was helpful!


Hello! I’m Marceline Smith, the designer and owner of Asking For Trouble. I create illustrated stationery, accessories and gifts using my cute characters inspired by Japanese kawaii. This is my business and personal blog where I write about my creative doings, inspirations, travels, Japan trips and daily life. Read more »

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