Thursday, August 23, 2012

The Tortoise and the Hare

Earlier in the week Sarah & I both wrote about the challenges of self-employment and working from home.  I agree with Sarah that a lot of running your own business is a spoil of riches.  There is good and bad about being the big boss lady!  It's been years since I have been employed by someone other than me and I still remember just how good it felt to get that check every two weeks, rain or shine.  Looking back now it seems almost magical!  Wait, I show up for work and you pay me?  NO matter what?  CRAZY!!

By far one of the biggest challenges we hear about from readers is time management.  Especially if you have just transitioned and quit your day job.  The transition as Sarah said can be really tough.  One of the things that has helped me greatly as a self-employed maven has been to understand and honor my learning style.  I know it sounds totally life coachy.  Just hang in there with me for a minute.

You know the old fable about the tortoise and the hare?  The hare is bragging about his speed, the tortoise challenges the hare to a race.  The tortoise wins because, slow and steady wins the race.  Well, it's bullshit!  Yeah that's right, total bullshit.  Slow and steady wins the race, but so does fast and speedy.  The pace of the tortoise is something we were taught in school right?  Do a little homework each night, take your time, spread out your studying.  Blah!!!  This is one of the reasons I hated school.  Slow and steady is not my learning style at all.  It took until I was far into adulthood and counseling college students about their own learning styles that I finally allowed myself to work like the hare.

So what does all this mean? It's not saving everything until the last minute, rushing through to deadlines and getting sloppy.  Not all all. Let me break it down for you.  Today I'll get you in touch with your inner hare.  If you are a tortoise, stop by tomorrow and I'll spell out the best way to honor your slow and steady pace and stay on track.

There is nothing wrong with pulling an all nighter.  Whoa!  Yeah, I'm just going to go against all the advice you ever got in college.  We are adults.  Adults can honor their learning style.  Now I'm not suggesting that you leave an entire client presentation to the night before, what I am suggesting is that you honor the way in which you respond to stress.  For some of us, an event needs to be closer for us to respond.  Our stress level needs to reach a certain rate of alarm for us to get our thoughts together, put pen to paper and get started.  Do you procrastinate until a project due date is looming? Do you think more clearly when you know you have a week to finish something rather than a month?  When you look at your calendar are things that are scheduled for a month or two months out even on your radar? If all of the above is true, you are a hare.  So be a hare!

Source: via Lisa on Pinterest

Here's how...

Schedule your due dates backwards.

Look at when a project is due and count backwards from there.  I like to give myself two dates of focus.  The first is usually about 3 weeks out.  I write in my calendar a reminder that such and such is due this day.  I do not focus my conscious energy on it, but putting it out there gets me thinking about it.  If I need to order supplies, take photos, etc., I do it now.

The second point of reference is usually between 14-7 days depending upon how long I think I need.  I ALWAYS add two additional days to my due date.  With creative endeavors I like to give myself enough time for disaster to happen.  Computer meltdown, supply shortage, general wardrobe malfunction, what have you.  If something is due the 10th, I assume it is due the 8th.

Intensity is good for the hare.

There is nothing wrong with working very intensely on something over a shorter period of time instead of working in little bits over a longer period of time.  Really there isn't.  If I were forced to work like the tortoise, I would never get anything done.  A little bit at a time does not get my mind and body ready to respond.  Things need to be more immediate for me.  That's just the life of the hare.  For a short time after my daughter was born, I was forced to work like a tortoise.  I honestly thought that would be the way it would need to be forever.  A little bit at a time.  I was not too comfortable with it.  Not at all. But, I discovered that even with having to do something in small bits and pieces over a longer time period, I could still organize my time like a hare.  I scheduled out my due dates.  Counted backwards and instead of working on a few projects at once, I just worked on one at a time as the due dates allowed.  Not perfect, but better!

Don't fight the feeling.

One of the biggest challenges of honoring your learning style as a hare is you are going against all that you were taught.  Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know slow and steady.  Well the hare wins races too!  Needing a deadline to be closer in order for you to respond is not procrastinating and it doesn't mean you are lazy, sloppy, disorganized, or a poor student.  Would any of you accuse me of not getting shit done?  I didn't think so!  You know that firefighter who runs into a burning building?  The tightrope walker, sky diver, hostage negotiator, the President of the United States? They are hares too.  We are lucky.  Very lucky.  Our ability, and yes it is an ability and not a hindrance, enables us to tolerate higher levels of stress than the average person. We are cool under pressure and calm in the face of chaos.  How awesome?!  The trick is to understand where our tipping point is and how to plan for it.

Plan for it.

So now you know you are a hare.  This doesn't mean you just get to wait until the last minute and throw caution to the wind.  You need to plan, silly.  Get out your calendar, look at your due dates, prioritize and plan accordingly.  If you work better in 10 hour blocks, block out 10 hours of concentrated time.  Have a project that you think will take 50 hours to complete?  Plan for 53, block out 5 days of 10 hour stretches.  Night owl, that's cool, plan accordingly.  Morning bird like me, great, plan accordingly.  There can be order in this chaos.  I promise.

That was a lot to digest.  For me it's old news I've been doing it for a while now.  Maybe this is the first time you got in touch with your inner hare.  If so congrats!  Comment with your questions below and email me your more in depth ones.  As a fellow hare, I'm here to help you realize you can win the race too!

Stay tuned tomorrow for a plan for all you tortoises.




  1. Love it! I felt a little like I was reading about myself. Summer vacation is great, but I get so much less done because I have so much more time. Sounds completely backwards but it is the truth. I work best under pressure for sure.

    1. Yes! You totally do! I'm glad you joined the hare revolution. Although some of us do it out of necessity ;) Love you girl!

  2. Oh - thank you, Lisa. I'm definitely a hare, and *definitely* need more planning!

    1. You go tit Maral! Embrace it and try planning differently. I'm proof that us hares can win!! xoxo

  3. Caution and measure win you treasure. Caution and measure win you riches. Which one do you agree with? They mean the same thing, but the enduring adage is wrong. No Risk, no gain!