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In the trenches of the gig economy

I see you.

The one struggling to fit everything into your schedule this week, while still trying to find things to fill next week. And the week after that. And hoping it all pulls together to make enough for this month's bills or whatever is left of last month's bills.

I get it.

And I hope you see me, too.

I've been here in the trenches of the gig economy for the better part of 20 years now. I was 24 the last time I only had one job. That's when I went back to school for the first time for graduate study. Since then, it's been two, three, sometimes four jobs that I've had to put together to make ends meet. It's hard, and it's exhausting. I haven't had a vacation that wasn't also a work trip in over 10 years. And I know I'm not alone. I know there are many, many of you out there slogging through it with me.

It's easy to get down about the whole thing, and complain about it, and then just give in to the depression of the whole thing. There are a bajillion articles about the unfairness and unending nature of it all over the internet from all types of industries. If nothing else, we know we're not alone! Rather than just commiserating about it, I'd like to give you some tips of the things that have worked for me as I've been navigating this reality in the arts world. And if this isn't you, please read on to get some ways that you can be supportive of your friends, kids, and colleagues who are in the gig economy.

1. I have to be a scheduling ninja

My schedule each week is basically a game of Tetris that has pieces of various sizes all trying to fit together. Some big blocks, like church work and outside teaching, are either immovable or are pretty consistent in where they fall in my week. When I'm filling out my schedule for the week, I stick those things in first, then fill in with bigger priorities next, followed by tasks. I will admit I'm still generally terrible at knowing how long things will take to complete, but I'm getting better at it. One thing I do is set a timer so that if I have an hour to dedicate to writing or practicing, I stick with that time and then move on to what's next. If I find that I'm in the zone or at a pace that will benefit me to keep going at the end of that time, if I've got the flexibility in my day I can adjust. I have to then move things around later to accommodate. It's like flipping those Tetris pieces around and moving them to a different part on the board to get it to fit just right.

2. Good quality food is essential for me

This one is a bit easier for me because I love to cook. It is both a way to eat good food at home rather than take out (and keeping my food expenses down in the process), but it's also a stress relief for me, most of the time. I am happier when I have good quality food in my fridge waiting for me after a rehearsal or in my lunch bag during a long day away. Sure, there are certainly days when I have to leave church after the morning service and grab something in the car on the way to my afternoon call, but if I can avoid that as much as possible, I'm just a happier panda.

3. I have to have things that bring me joy in my week

I'm a naturally happy person most of the time, but if my mind gets overloaded or I let myself get too run down, I can get super cranky and depressed. I've had to make time for things that keep my joy bucket filled up. For me, that's time with my dog and cat, cooking, reading, watching great escapist TV or movies (super hero movies are the best!), and afternoon tea or coffee. These things don't have to take up a lot of time, but they really can buoy my spirits and help me keep going.

4. Morning and evening routines

This past year I looked seriously at my morning and evening routines to adapt them to more suit my life now, and what I would like it to be. For example, I crave silence in the morning. You'd think that living alone as a single person I'd have silence all the time, but you might be surprised at just how noisy the world is. And I am so active in my kitchen that it's hard to keep it clean all the time. So I adapted my morning and evening routines to help me stay on top of those things. I'll write a blog post specifically about those later. The benefit, I have found, is that when my brain is tired and decisions are hard, these routines help me to just move to the next thing without having to decide what that is. They take the thinking out of it. And I'm reaping the good benefits of a centering silence in the mornings, a good start to the work day, and a happier kitchen in the evenings.

5. Working toward goals

I do have goals. Some of them are business-oriented, and some are personal or home-oriented. All of them require time and intention. I have a goal planner that I'm using that helps me identify, plan, and schedule the goals I'm setting for myself. Some of them are Big Hairy Audacious Goals, and if I want to achieve those BHAGs, I've got to dedicate quality time and focused attention to them. Even the smaller ones can both help make life more fun and smoother, but propel me toward success with the BHAGs.

6. Grace, grace, grace, grace, and more grace

I'm working hard. Things don't always go to plan. I often (daily!) get frustrated with myself, and sometimes I'm just plain down about things. I try to keep the essentials going when things start going to hell in a hand basket, and if I can at least keep those things afloat, the rest of the things will be easier to get going again when the whirlwind slows down again. I can't do it all, but I can do some things. I try to remember that I'm doing the best I can, and even if that feels like it's not enough, it is. It's enough. It's okay that things are growing slowly for me right now.

These are some of the things that keep me grounded during these years of gigging. What are things that work for you? I'd love to hear your thoughts. While we're down in the trenches together, we can help each other make it the best it can be. I'm pulling for you!

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