In a minute. I said this a lot this week to my four year old, and I’m not particularly happy about it. I reallllly want Just. One. Minute. To write a thought down. To breathe. To sketch something out. But sitting down tonight, at the end of the week, I’m thinking a lot about how cranky it makes him when I constantly answer his requests of playtime or help with a project with in a minute. I’ve thought a lot about how I can say this less in the upcoming week and be more present. Here’s what I’m working with, folks.
I’m at the beginning stages of writing a book, sorry, make that two books. Everything is outlined and I am at that bursting with flavor creative stage. I love this stage, and I have honestly been in it several times since having children. But, as some of you may know, having a burring desire to create and work on personal projects while taking care of small children is not only difficult, 95% of the time it’s downright impossible.
Over the years I’ve learned a few things that work to help things run smoothly while living with small children and a creative fiery monster in my gut. I’ve also learned a few things that do not work, sabotage my progress, and ruin my days pretty hardcore.
So here goes. Hopefully this can help some of you who are in the same boat.
Major don’t I’ve recently realized: Don’t spend your entire day trying to catch tiny bits of time confetti in which to get just a liiiiitle bit of work done on your project here and there. If you try to shove your work in this way throughout the day you will get interrupted. ALL DAY LONG. If you spend your whole day waiting for the next tiny snippet of time, you will end up being mentally somewhere else and not in the moment, your kids will be cranky from this and then later in the day or night when you finally do get that time to yourself you will be too burned out from chasing the illusive time snippets to get any creative work done. I also top that off with a little guilty cherry on top because I wasn’t being present for my kids during their time with me.
The alternative: Make an effort to carve a space out in the day where you can work on your project uninterrupted. This is of course not as easy as it sounds, but it can be done. So where to find that space?
Start from your Ideal and work backwards from that. I recently started listening to a podcast called “Sparktending” that talks about ways for moms to honor their need to create and to carve out creative space for themselves in their day. (its a great podcast, recommended by a fellow homeschooling mom, about 5-10 minutes long each, well worth the listen). One of my favorite ideas came in session 2, where she asks that listeners write down their ideal day-a day where you had to compromise for no one and nothing. Once this is written down,(and you have a good chuckle because the likes of this day happening in the next 10 years is slim to none) you can move backwards from that ideal day to a place of compromise. But starting at the Ideal is the important part. This is how I found my time. I work best early morning. I would technically have more time later in the day, but I would not be at my best then for writing. Instead I chose to try a shorter time in the very early AM. We’ll see how it goes, which leads me to my next point…
Stay Flexible. If at first you don’t succeed, stay flexible, keep hold of that goal, and try something else. Nothing has to be forever, arrangements do not have to be set in stone. Keep trying, keep making your time to work on your project a priority and IT WILL HAPPEN.
Don’t try to do it all in one day. This has always been one of my biggest blocks to completing a project. I go in HARD AND FAST. Must write whole book in one sitting!!! not that bad, but you catch my drift. I go in too hot and burn out. I recently read about the chain method for creative people who are trying to work on large creative projects while still maintaining all of their everyday duties. it goes like this. Get a large wall calendar that has the whole year on one page. Put it somewhere prominent. Get yourself a red sharpie. Everyday that you work on your project you get to put a satisfying red “X” through the day. After a week of consecutive work, you will have a chain on your calendar. Your only job is to not break the chain. It doesn’t matter if you work on your project for 5 minutes or 5 hours, you still get to put the “x” on that day. If you do this for a whole year your project will have moved along SIGNIFICANTLY.
Don’t let daily mundane tasks kill Your Soul. Do Own Your To-Do List Like a Boss. Here’s two ideas for tackling this. If you are a person who likes a traditional to-do list, try the 1,3,5 method. maybe you’ve heard of it, if not, here’s a summary. Each day on your to- do list schedule yourself to do 1 large task, 3 medium tasks, and 5 small tasks. I leave 1 medium and 2 smalls empty so I can fill them out last minute. This method keeps your to-dos realistic and helps you from compiling a to-do list that could only be completed by 10 people if it were to be done in one day. If you are bit anti-to do list, give this a try (this is literally called the anti-to-do list method). Each night before bed, write down three things you need to accomplish the next day on an index card. Throughout the next day, as you accomplish many, many things, write them on the back of the card. That night, before you make the index card for the next day, take a look at all of the things you accomplished on the back of your index card. WOW. Way more than three. Just as you suspected, you’re freakin’ awesome.
Do Try to Stay Present During the Day. I know we hear this a lot. Sometimes I just want to rip my own ears off when I hear it at times when I really just don’t feel like being present. But after this week I realized that drifting off and wishing I could be working on my project all day was no good for anyone. It frustrated me and it frustrated my son. What helped? Sunday afternoon when I finally got my head in the game, made a new plan for carving out my creative time, and got my head back into the present situation. Everyone was much happier, myself included. Once you commit to carving that set time out each day, no matter how long it is or when that time comes, the fact that you know it’s coming will help you to stay present during your day until your creative time comes. Side note: I do use voice notes on my phone and always have a notebook open and a pen ready to jot things like sudden inspiration or things I need to do during my carved out time slot. Once its recorded I can move on with what I was doing. I also ALWAYS have a notebook by my bed. Just drifting off to sleep= genius idea, without fail. Or a child waking up. Either one.
Don’t Settle. I’ll leave you for now with a little quote from one of my son’s favorite movies, The Little Engine That Could. It goes like this:
“If you think you can, you will. If you think you can’t you won’t. Either way, YOU’RE RIGHT.”
What can I say, my son has good taste.
I hope you find some of these ideas useful as you head into your week. Stay creative, stay committed, stay strong, and here’s to a productive and fun week, cheers xo.
If you have any favorite ways to carve out creative time please share them in the comments section 🙂
(And here’s the link to the Sparktending podcast if you’d like to take a listen)