Fashion Magazine

Smarter Not Harder

By Wardrobeoxygen @wardrobe_oxygen

I didn't quit my job to blog full-time so I could become a millionaire. I did it to get my life back.

My husband and I had a child at the beginning of 2009. Between the two of us, I had the job with a better salary and better benefits so I continued to work full-time outside the home while my husband quit his job to be a stay at home parent. The first year I took conference calls while hooked up to an electric pump, Xerox paper on the glass door of my office for privacy. I raced home to be with my family and when the baby (and therefore Daddy) slept, I blogged.

In 2010 I decided that if my blog was going to take time away from my family, it had to be worth it financially. While working hard at my day job, getting promotions and increased responsibility, I also worked hard at my blog. In less than four years I was making as much from my blog as I was in my managerial role as a government contractor at a respected thinktank. By 2016 I was making more from the blog than my job. It was thrilling, and it was exhausting. As I've shared in the past, I felt as though I was living life in a Plexiglass box, separated from the world, my view getting cloudier and cloudier with scratches to the exterior. Something had to give, and I just couldn't not try making a career from what just a decade ago was a fun little hobby.

I quit at the beginning of November 2017, which gave me the holidays to recalibrate my life, find my new normal, and make 2018 goals. And the #1 goal was financial. My husband was still a stay at home parent, we were relying on my income to survive. I needed to make this work. I focused on ways to make more money. I read the books and took the courses. I pitched to brands and prayed to the SEO gods to get more traffic. I tried all the hacks and tricks I learned to grow on Instagram and do well on Pinterest. I made some bad decisions, but I was too scared of failing to say no to anything that may make me income.

And I did well. I didn't achieve my reach goal, but I did so well that I didn't go into debt, paid all our bills on time, and even put a little money into our IRAs and our child's college fund. When 2019 arrived, my goal was to make more than I did in 2018. I was older and wiser as a blogger, content creator, and influencer. I was going to CRUSH 2019's financial goals.

I didn't. If I didn't take my summer vacation and was paid by all the brands I worked with, I would have performed better, but 2019 ended making more than 2018, but not by much. However, I ended up far richer at the end of this past year than the year before because I remembered why I chose this job in the first place.

Time Rich in 2019

In 2019 I chaperoned overnight field trips for my daughter's Girl Scout troop and volunteered at her school. I put her to bed almost every night and helped her with her S.T.E.M. fair project, and for the first time participated in Career Day.

In 2019 I went to the gym almost every weekday morning and almost every weekend went on a hike or trike ride. I went to bed when I was tired, got in a few sessions of meditation, and took off when I was too sick to think properly. I washed my face before I went to bed every single day of 2019, filled two journals with thoughts, and read twice as many books as I did the year prior.

In 2019 I traveled. I took a jeep trip through the Coachella valley and swam in the Gulf of Mexico. I went to my first music festival in years and had a blast. I went on a two-week family road trip, visiting Philadelphia, New York, and Boston and ending it with a weeklong stay at a cabin in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont. I took off to New York again, this time with my sister and daughter to see our favorite band play one of the very few concerts they held that year.

In 2019 I got outside my comfort zone with a lot of exciting events that took some planning and time away from the home office. I spoke at the Rebelle Con in Richmond, Virginia about working in a creative field and was on a panel at cabi's mid-season conference in Pasadena, California discussing how to create community through social media. I was on the Today Show discussing fashion and motherhood and modeled current trends and was asked to be a guest for the DC stop on the Bad on Paper podcast live tour. I went to Los Angeles to do a photo and video shoot with cabi (details to come) and spoke to MBA students at both The University of Maryland and Howard University about being a full-time influencer.

In 2019 I fell even more in love with my husband. We went to yoga together, we took romantic getaways, and he got more involved with the business, looking for ways to help with the schedule and the direction of photography. We watched TV series together, went for hikes and trike rides together, took naps together, and remembered what we knew before the decade of busy-ness: that the more time we are together the better we are as a team.

A Culture of Busy-ness

I haven't wanted to admit this, that in 2019 I was rich with quality time. I've seen how that has gone for other people in my field. I see the threads on Reddit and other message boards about "lazy" influencers who do nothing but go to Starbucks and Target and rake in the dough. I know other influencers felt this need to look like they were working hard as in 2019 it became popular for us to share our schedules and "day in the life" on Instagram Stories to prove we were earning our income. I received criticism in 2018 for leaving my day job; long-time readers felt I was no longer relatable.

Even though I was producing just as much content and at a much higher level of quality than before, I still felt I had to prove I was busy.

It's a societal expectation for us to be busy adults. Even in my early 20s I recall discussing my hectic schedule and lack of time and sleep with friends while chugging Miller Lites in a bar with a sticky floor and a '90s cover band on the stage. Especially as women, we pride ourselves on how much we can accomplish, how hard we work, that we're stellar multitaskers.

I can rub and scrub til this old house is shinin' like a dime
Feed the baby, grease the car, and powder my face at the same time
Get all dressed up, go out and swing 'til four A.M. and then
Lay down at five, jump up at six, and start all over again
'Cause I'm a woman! W-O-M-A-N, I'll say it again.
From "I'm a Woman," originally performed by Peggy Lee, 1963

I'd feel guilty when I finished my work for the day early, or planned things so well I could take a long weekend. Days that were light I'd steer clear from Instagram Stories so no one would know about the free time I had. I had to justify the income I was making, right? It seemed fine to share my financial successes but not my scheduling successes. We can admire hard work that results in financial success, but hard work that results in free time? Notsomuch.

Working Smarter, not Harder

The phrase, "work smarter not harder" was coined in the 1930s but seemed to become the phrase of middle management in the early 2010s. I think all of us had a supervisor at some time who barked this phrase to us. I had those supervisors, and I became one of those supervisors.

I'm not lazy. I don't think anyone, even my husband who picks up socks and coffee mugs after me would ever use that term to describe me. I've had a job since I was 12 years old and most of my adult life I've had at least two jobs simultaneously. How do I do it? I do it by working smarter, not harder. I sometimes feel what my mom feels and calls "Protestant guilt" and look for ways to fill in spare time with busy-ness. But if I've not only done my job but done it damn well, why should I put in more hours?

I've worked smarter not harder since I was a kid looking for ways to stay on honor roll but get more time to play outside or watch TV. I truly mastered it at my last job, one I had for a decade. The smarter I got at my job, the more time I had to blog. I'd create more systems. I'd collaborate more with my team and connect with colleagues in other departments. I'd research trends so I could keep our product relevant. I'd hire great people and teach them how to also work smarter not harder. And I learned how to do all of this and more from someone who was my manager for most of the time at my last job. He lived by the work smarter not harder ethos. He was a wise teacher, an inspiring coach and mentor, an expert negotiator, an award-winning project manager who rose up the ranks yet still had time to go fishing, dine at the best restaurants, travel, and have season tickets for his favorite sports teams.

If he could be a hero when I worked in Corporate America, why can't we give props to those who may not have a McMansion or a pair of Louboutins but instead at 7 pm on a weekday can take a bath and listen to Maggie Rogers while reading a book? Because when I was just out of college I wanted that badass apartment with that kitchen and that closet and that bathroom and that view. But now? Now, now the idea of a bath and a book and no responsibilities for the rest of the evening is heaven to me.

I may not be financially wealthy but I'm rich with what I desire.

Can we as women stop giving women shit for not working hard enough? Go ahead and give women shit for doing a shitty job, that's what we hold men to. Women work so hard, no matter our jobs, our lives, our priorities. We face more challenges on a daily basis than men in the same role do in a week, let alone a month. We deserve our rest, and we need our rest so we can fight when it's necessary. If we can figure out how to work smarter not harder why shouldn't we?

Money is important. Money is necessary. Money gives us easier lives... if we have the time to enjoy what money can provide to us. I quit my job with the goal to get my life back and in 2019 I achieved that goal.

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