Shop Talk Tuesday: Balancing It All


Petal Pattern by Marcia Copeland

Hello! We’ve decided to devote Tuesdays to “shop talk” – the topics that matter to us as designers, entrepreneurs and business owners.  To kick off this new series, I’m going to start with a topic that is near and dear to me and A Fresh Bunch – balancing it all.

A Fresh Bunch grew out of my own attempt to balance what I enjoyed and was good at professionally with my personal life (a husband who is also an entrepreneur, three boys ages 14 to 7, and two dogs).  After starting A Fresh Bunch, it became clear that there were a lot of other designers who shared my struggle to find a balance.  Many A Fresh Bunch members, myself included, had started companies that produced products featuring our designs, mainly as a way to see our work and creativity come to life.  Very few of us started our companies because of a deep love of shipping, accounting, customer service, sales or marketing, but that’s what most of us were spending time doing, or directing others to do, and we were left with very little energy or time for our real passion – design.

On top of this, many of us are spouses and/or parents, and when you’re spending your day doing things that don’t light your fire, you invariably don’t have a lot of fire left for anything or anyone else.  It is really easy to look around the internet and see all these people who seem to be balancing all these things with a smile on their faces, and even easier to wonder what the heck is wrong with you that you are not managing to do the same.  I spent years thinking this was a nut for me to crack, that if I just found the right approach to my business, all of these things that were sapping my energy would somehow become easier.  Um, wrong.

Of course with any business or job there will be tasks that are not so fun, but, if you are spending your time on more “yuck” than “yay”, it is totally not a matter of figuring out how to balance everything, it’s a matter of figuring out how to simplify and focus on what you love and what you’re good at.  ESPECIALLY if you own your own business and you’re feeling like you can’t balance it all, step back for a minute and think about whether your business is more “yay” or more “yuck”.  If it’s more “yuck”, well, did you not start your own business so you could be in charge of yourself and do what you loveYes, yes, yes!  This means you have the power to retool and refocus on the “yay” things, and you do not have to approach your business in the same way that others are, so what are you waiting for?!?

In my case, the yay was design, marketing and connecting with other designers, and the yuck was the administrative stuff.  The answer for me was to shut down my stationery company, and launch A Fresh Bunch to help myself and other designers focus on just design through licensing.  Design? Check.  Marketing? Check.  Connecting with other designers? Check.  Once I made the decision, it was like going from long hair to short – I kept thinking, “what took me so long to do this?”.   The new focus immediately made it easier to balance the professional and the personal because I was no longer ending each day tired from all the professional yuck.

Download this handy yay_vs_yuck list and fill it out.  List all the things you love in the “yay” column and all the things you don’t love in the “yuck” column.  Your focus should become clear, and you can start simplifying by retooling to remove as many things in the “yuck” column as possible.  Think of this exercise as a little spring cleaning, without the rubber gloves and the Windex, and let us know how you fare in striking a better balance by simplifying and focusing on the yay!

XO –


Next week:  some tools and apps for managing the yay stuff