Yesterday, sewing designer Abby Glassenberg wrote about the self-imposed rules she follows in her business. I love rules. I mean, I hate rules. I love-hate rules.
I have a general problem with authority and a healthy inclination toward skepticism, so other peopleâ€™s rules usually make me raise an eyebrow.
(Iâ€™m not talking lawsÂ here, though after watching Breaking Bad [season four, OMG!] the other night, Greg and I did get to talking about what kind of crime weâ€™d choose to commit if we were to decide to become criminals. I said Iâ€™d choose civil disobedience, because the only way Iâ€™d feel comfortable breaking the law is if I believed that law was hurting people.)
I was raised with four firm rules that I continue to follow:
- No sugar breakfast cereals. (To this day, I consider Honey Nut Cheerios to be a special grown-up treat, and I rarely if ever have a bowl of them on their own.)
- No pop before noon. (When I was a kid New Yorker, we called it soda, natch. And I donâ€™t drink much pop anyway. This is an easy rule to follow.)
- Always wear your seatbelt. (I do this now, even in the backseat.)
- Donâ€™t skimp on footwear; spend more on great shoes.
As someone whoâ€™s generally averse to external constraints, these four rules provide a great framework for solid adult decision-making. I allow myself treats, but not for breakfast (with the absolutely required exception of traveling and the occasional unavoidable morning donut). Limit foods that arenâ€™t good for me (I struggle with this in areas unrelated to pop). When itâ€™s straightforward to take a safety precaution (a warrantedÂ safety precaution), take it. Spend more money on fewer quality products.
Like Abby, I work from home, and like her, I must get fully dressed every work day. Sure, sometimes I fail on this and donâ€™t get into the shower till 1pm, but I donâ€™t actually enjoy that. Being dressed by 9am feels good. When Iâ€™m clean and dressed I feel capable and ready to get shit done.
Here are other business rules Iâ€™ve given myself:
- Meet your deadlines unless you absolutely canâ€™t, and if you canâ€™t, give as much notice as possible to your client or your editor. (You might wonder why I set such an obvious rule. Iâ€™ve learned over the years that missed deadlines are a publishing-industry assumption. But just because some people blow past their deadlines without comment doesnâ€™t mean I have to. Also, when Iâ€™m the one settingÂ deadlines, I always pad them. Always. Things come up, they always do.)
- Get paid, unless you donâ€™t care about getting paid to do a particular job. (Iâ€™m going to write an entire post on this getting paid thing very soon.)
- Say no to opportunities that donâ€™t excite, entertain, satisfy or otherwise gratify your need to do meaningful, engaging work.
- Follow your gut, always. Say yes to opportunities when your gut says to, even if they donâ€™t seem to make sense. Say no when your gut says to, even if youâ€™d get rich.
- Remember what makes you tick. This might not apply to everyone, but I cobble my work together. I do some freelance editing and writing. I write books. I speak. I teach. With so many different typesÂ of work floating around inside my calendar and my to-do list, I need to always keep in mind that I need all the work I do to be in line with my higher-level goals. Examples of my fairly long list of higher-level goals: Have fun, work with good people, work to contribute something good to the world, be creative, be yourself.
Structure is my enemy, but a few well-conceived constraints liberate me.
What kinds of rules do you follow in life and/or in business?
Oh, and donâ€™t think Iâ€™ve forgotten itâ€™s Halloween. Happy Halloween! Hereâ€™s a picture of my kid in the costume Greg made him. He wanted to be a city bus thatâ€™s not in service. (I love that Translink really has their buses say â€œSorryâ€ when they arenâ€™t in service.) Heâ€™s dressed as a pumpkin at daycare today, but this bus will be going trick-or-treating tonight!