What’s the biggest thing standing between you and a life lived well? Between you and your dreams? I bet most everyone reading this would have the same one-word answer. Time. We never feel like we have enough. Pursuing a dream, creating art, or carving out time for yourself; when you’re trapped in the day-to-day grind these things can seem impossible. Last year, I decided if I was going to move forward on my own dreams that I needed to find some ways to help me manage my time better. And because these practices helped me, I thought I’d share them with you too. So here are my methods for making the most of your time (so you can spend more time being creative).
We all want to make the most of our time. Life is good when we are able to enjoy the small moments in life. Like those times where we can relax on our deck, or snuggle up in bed next to a loved one. The extra moments in our day that make the rest of the day-to-day grind less grinding. But for us to feel like it’s ok to take those moments, we have to be able to set aside the feeling that we don’t have the time.
Start the day with a plan.
Starting your day with a morning routine that includes a planner of some sort makes ALL THE DIFFERENCE. Sure you can do this with a piece of paper, but I can’t stress enough how much of a life changer my planner has been for me.
Just ten minutes in the morning; and you can review your day ahead, set 3 top priorities for the day, create a primary goal for the day, AND create a plan of how and when in the day to get these done. You direct your day, it doesn’t just sweep you in any direction the current is flowing.
Some planners have a space to list a few things you’re grateful for, or something that makes your heart happy. Doing that will help you cultivate a feeling of gratefulness and positivity, and you can start the day with a feeling of purpose and intentionality.
The Best Self co. makes one that is perfect for me. And that right there is the number one tip I can give you when looking at planners. Find one that works with who you are. My husband HATES lists. A planner that requires it’s user to list the must-do’s, should-do’s, and want-to-do’s every day; may be perfect for someone like me (who LOVES lists). But will make someone else (like my husband), who hates to write lists, seriously consider self-harming. I love the idea of the super artsy adorable planners but truthfully, they’re too distracting. I found what works best for me is a simple list-based planner.
There are printables you can download that will give you the opportunity to try this for free, but again- I LOVE the one I have. Besides the daily planning section, it breaks time into a 3 mos. goal planning section, a monthly at-a-glance calendar, and a week by week purpose planning section. I’ve used two of these now and it’s kind of crazy to look back at my first one and realize how much my goals have changed in the last 6 months.
More Methods for Making the Most of Your Time.
Many people recommend time stacking, or blocking. The idea is that you will identify what’s most important for you to accomplish that day and then to actually pencil it in to your schedule. Then treat it like you would any other appointment in your day. I don’t always do that, but I totally should. Because when I do, I really feel like I’m moving forwards- not just on my “must-do’s” (like grocery shopping and car pool pick up), but on what I want to do too (like publish a blog post or hang out with a friend).
And make sure if it lands on your planner, it’s because it matters. Yoga is there because it helps my mental health, but I found that if I do yoga I don’t have problems with my back. It’s important for me.
It’s what time? Already?
I’ve always had a problem with time. I’ll look at a clock, and note the time. But then it will stay that time in my head, until I look at the clock again. It doesn’t flow for me. It’s not something fluid. So if I have a ton of time before ____ then I have that sense of extra time UNTIL I look at the time again and realize (oh crap) I’m going to be late. And then I’m stressed, upset, and on the phone apologizing.
I always have more or less time then I think I do.
I am surprised when it’s dinner time. Every. Single Day.
I also have a form of “time blindness” which is defined on the website, ADDitude, as “an inability to plan for and keep in mind future events that aren’t in the near-term.” It makes meal planning really hurt my head.
You may not have the problem with chronological progression that I do, but creative personalities also have to deal with the hyperfocus that’s often present when we’re in a state of creative flow. We’re solving creative problems, having a conversation with our work, and being super productive. To do this we’re engaging both sides of our brains and concentrating hard.
We’re also doing all kinds of mental gymnastics we’re not even aware of. Some creatives actively try to invoke this state because it is so highly productive. But, it’s easy to get lost in time here as well.
So problem- working creatively often causes us to lose our sense of time (or “track of time”), and when we resurface there are consequences. Like pizza for dinner. Again. And Real Life is kind of stuck on the whole “schedule” and “deadline” and “appointed time” sort of things.
Know what time it is.
There is a simple solution to this part of the problem as well. It’s helped me TONS. Here it is-
Use Alarms (gratuitously).
I have a fitness watch that I’ve set to remind me of moments throughout the day when I need to mark the time. It vibrates on my wrist until I tap it. Which effectively makes me stop what I’m doing and look at my watch.
You can set up several throughout the day that are customized for you. Maybe you want an alarm that reminds you to eat lunch, or when it’s time to pick the kids up from school. You could set an alarm to remind you to prep dinner, or to start winding down for bed.
Give yourself a break
We, as a culture, wear busy-ness like a badge all too often. If we can multi-task we’re feeling like we’re ahead of the game. Making phone calls while walking the track, checking our email while we’re making coffee, replying to emails before bed, and looking up recipes for dinner while our kid is at their music lesson. We’re pretty good at working in the margins. And I even advocate for using your margins to find time to create, in my article 3 Tips to Help You be Creative Every day. But like anything, you have to use the power for good.
Yesterday I read an article in The Atlantic, (while waiting to pick up my son) that proposed that work/life balance was a myth. Two things struck me as I read the article, one was that the author suggested that there are seasons in life. And sometimes the balance scales of our lives will tip hard to one side or the other and that’s ok.
That’s actually a concept I first heard in the Bible. In Ecclesiastes 3:1 we’re told that for everything there is a season. These are blocks of time where you may be running the kids to and from activities. Or where you’re alone, or with your husband, just doing life as the two of you. Be aware that seasons begin and end. They’re not forever. But they have to be somewhat sustainable for that block of time. In Psalm 90:12 it says, “Teach us to number our days carefully so that we may develop wisdom in our hearts.”
For them to be sustainable, you’ll have to make choices. And please don’t hate on yourself for making those choices. Don’t let them define you either. You are not a bad mom if your kids don’t get a fruit or veggie at every meal. You are not a failure if you can’t afford to go out with your friends. (Or you don’t have as nice or clean a house. Or clean clothes…) Life is full of seasons.
Balance the Scales.
The second thing that caught my eye in the article was along the lines of “sometimes the only break you’re going to get is the break you give yourself.” I have a friend who schedules a naptime for herself in the hour before her kids get off the bus. She gets made fun of all the time. But she’s learned she needs to let her body tap out for an hour so she can get through the rest of the day. She needs that nap.
What she’s doing, (as defined by some people that define stuff like this) is practicing energy management. I first heard about this in a podcast with Kat Cole, a CEO who said she makes sure that if she has something in her day that is going to sap her energy, she tries to prepare for it by balancing it with an activity that will boost her energy.
She pays in before she has to pay out.
Be realistic and then be ok with that reality.
It’s super important to be honest with yourself. If you can’t do something- don’t lie to yourself and think that you can. I’ve learned it’s best on a hard day to be honest, both to myself, and others, and say “I’m struggling today.” People get it. And by not trying to power through, I’m giving myself grace, and I’m making it much more likely that I can move forward later.
I get that it won’t always work. We can’t always do anything to change our reality, and the kids still have to get to school Mon-Fri. But maybe those are the days we don’t try to get all the things done. And maybe we’re ok with that.
But it’s equally important to realize that if you try, and fail to manage your time well, it isn’t the end of the world. No need to rage at yourself, or castigate yourself.
You screwed up. It happens, but next time, take what you learned and move forward forewarned. These blog posts ALWAYS take longer to put together than I think they will. It moves other things off my lists and often screws up my day. So I just move things to the next day’s page and next time, I block off more time to write.
Methods to Make the Most of Your Time so that…
I still have issues with time. Always will. Next on my want-to-do list for this blog is a post about Bible Art Journaling- using acrylic paint in your Bible. The video is ready to go because I stacked my video projects a few weeks ago. I have the time to create because I take the time every morning to figure out my must-do list and prioritize my day.
I have a sense of purpose, direction, and intentionality about how I use my time now. Just being conscious of the time, and using what resources I have available to stay aware is a game changer. What things have you found to help you manage and maximize your time? I’d love to know!
If you’d like the PDF of the Psalm 90 verse I have it available in my FREE Creative Resource Library. You can also download it as a .svg file and use it to create. You know… in the extra time, you’ll have now!