In my newlsetter this week I talked about managing time and making time for the things that I want to do. For me, that almost always involves "making". There's so much that I want to do every day that I am much more cognizant of how I spend my time than how I spend my money. I think about it constantly and am always looking for better ways to do (or eliminate) chores so that I'll have more time for the fun things. I also think about how to allocate my time so that I can participate in all of the hobbies that I have. I know that I'd be better off with fewer hobbies but that's probably not going to happen.
I get a lot of comments about how much I get done so I thought I'd waste some space talking about it. I don't think I am any sort of wizard about time management and I don't think I have anything specific to offer but I'll talk about it anyway. But if you don't want to read all of the following blather let me just sum up what it says.
It's all about setting and keeping priorities.
I figure I can spend time sewing or cleaning, quilting or shopping, dyeing or organizing stuff. I choose sewing, quilting and dyeing almost every single time. But if you are interested in more detail then read on.
First, there are life decisions and situations that impact time. None of these were made with any consideration for time management. I'm just mentioning them because there are situations about my life that naturally put me a little ahead of the curve when it comes to time for my passions. These aren't meant to be judgements of other people's life choices. But I think that these 4 coincidental things have been very infuential in directing the way I spend my time. I only mention them to help you think about your own life decisions and how they shape for decades to come.
- I didn't have children. I knew at a young age that I didn't have any maternal instincts and that I would be a less-than-stellar parent. There's no need to comment on it, It's just my situation and it was the right decision for me. If you have children/grandchildren, of course, there goes a lot of your time but there's no better use of time than for family.
- I married someone who cooks. I used to love to bake but as I developed allergies to dairy and eggs and eventually wheat, baking became no fun. I've never liked cooking dinner. Fortunately, Chris' Mom was a great cook and she taught him a lot. He likes cooking and that saves me a TON of time. He also does the grocery shopping. You should see how pathetic I look in a grocery store. I always have to ask for help finding things.
- Because of my allergies, I cannot use household cleaning products so we have had a cleaning service since we got married. It will be the last thing I give up. But if I ever have to do it myself I have learned a valuable lesson: that just about anything can wait 2 weeks to be cleaned. If I were cleaning my own house I'd do it on a schedule and wouldn't think about it in between scheduled cleaning.
- Also because of my allergies, we don't travel a lot so I am home almost every week of the year and that gives me more time for what I want to do. I traveled plenty for work and saw lots of places. Now I can only travel where I can bring and prepare all of my own food and that's a lot of trouble.
Next, there are philosophical decisions that you make about your life that may not seem to be related to time at all but they really are.
- I married a frugal person and he changed my own opinion and habits about money. This one is BIG. Chris completely changed my financial habits and we haven't had any debt beyond mortgage debt since we got married. He can't sleep if there's any debt. The mortgage drove him mad until we finally paid it off....early. We have always lived below our means and because of that I was able to retire at 50. There's no better way to buy time than by saving enough to retire as early as possible. Having your personal finances in order goes a long way to giving you more of the time you want to do what you want to be doing. Again, that's not always possible but most of us can live on less than we currently live on and every penny we save buys us time later.
- Aside from creative supplies, we avoid buying a lot of stuff. We keep our cars until they die and generally wear things out before replacing them. Aside from the cost think about how much time you spend shopping for things? When I bought my current car I probably spent 40 - 60 hours just researching and shopping for the car. I can quilt a very involved quilt in 40 hours. Then there's the time spent dealing with the old car and all of the stuff you have to do to register and insure the new car. I bought that car 10 years ago and haven't had to deal with any of that since. Stuff requires time to manage it.
- I have dedicated creative spaces. That's a big one. I'm lucky, I have a lot of space but it's not necessary. Some space is necessary. It could even be nothing more than a sewing basket. The important thing is to have projects set up so you can work on them for as little as 10 minutes at a time. I often sit down and sew just a few blocks together. I almost always have something on the longarm, something at the sewing machine, a travel project and a hand-work project all ready to work on whenever I have a few minutes.
Now let's get to the little day-to-day decisions that add up to a lot of time. Your situation is unique to you and everything I mentioned so far may have no application to you. Here are 10 tips might give you some food for thought:
- In the same vein as big purchases, we don't buy a lot of stuff. Even little stuff has to be managed and that takes time. I used to have a big shoe collection. Every time a new pair of shoes came in the house I had to find a place to store them and, often, go through the existing shoes to find shoes to get rid of. Not only does that take time, but the original shopping trip and the trip to Goodwill takes time too. Now I have less than 15 pairs of shoes and they are almost all black. That makes life easy. I'm the same way about clothes. I just don't have a lot of them, none of them require dry cleaning and that makes managing them is easy.
- When I get overwhelmed with stuff, whether personal items, household items or creative items, I take the time to go through it and reorganize. I can't be creative in the midst of too much clutter. I also don't like seeing overstuffed closets and shelves. If I don't use it I get rid of it and I do these types of clean-outs a couple of times a year. It's a great exercise and it really reinforces objective #1 about buying. Constantly moving stuff around to find other stuff takes a lot of time. Clear the stuff out so it's out of your way and you have the space and time to do what you prefer. Over time I have reduced our stuff and don't have to do the big cleanouts very often anymore.
- I work in increments. I have found that when I try to spend a whole day doing my computer work I get bored with it and start doing distracting things like roaming the web. I work on the computer for about an hour and then I might sew for an hour and then spend 20 minutes doing some house chore. Maybe it's because that's how I worked in the corporate world and it's ingrained in me but segregating my day into bits works great. That's how I came up with the idea to quilt on the longarm for an hour a day. If I don't like what I'm quilting I can tolerate it for an hour and make progress but I don't pressure myself to focus on it full time because that just breeds distractions.
- I listen to music or audiobooks while I sew to help keep my focus. How does that help? It keeps me focused. If I'm listening to a good book I can sew for hours and hours without distracting myself with something else.
- Keep lists. I have a to do list but I also keep paper nearby so when I think of something that needs to be done I write it down. I don't stop sewing to go do the thing and get sidetracked on something else and the next thing I know it's an hour later and I've sewn 1 block. I just write down my though and add it to my to do list or do it on a break. Keeping thoughts on paper frees your brain to focus on what you want to focus on and that means less mistakes!
- Manage internet time. I can talk about this better than I actually do it. The computer is really distracting for me. After I got a tablet I started saving my blog reading time for the morning and I do it while I am on the exercise bike. Recently I decided to stop posting on Sunday to keep myself off the internet. It's working so far but we'll just have to see how that goes long term.
- When the TV is on I am doing something. It might be hand work or scanning my blog reader or answering email. It's my nature. I can't help it but I can't just sit and watch TV. I have to be doing something. It's the reason that I don't go to movies. I simply can't sit still that long.
- Buy in bulk and shop on line. For things that we use on a regular basis I try to buy in bulk. I'm not the master of this that Judy is, but, when it makes sense for us we do it. Chris buys our meats and groceries once a month. Anything else he picks up at the grocery store next to his workout place. I also got an Amazon Prime membership and I order a LOT of things over the web. Just yesterday we used the last 2 halogen bulbs for our kitchen. Instead of going shopping I got on Amazon and found a great deal on 10 more bulbs and ordered them. Time spent: 5 minutes compared to an hour to go to Lowes.
- Do chores on a schedule. I do laundry once a week. Period. I make sure we have enough clothes to last at least a week so there's no need for emergency washing. It's a lot more efficient and I don't think about it in between. I try to do this with all of my chores. I allocate an hour for yard work and do as much as I can and the rest can wait until the next day. Get the extraneous stuff out of your head and you will have more energy to devote to the fun stuff.
- Figure out the best time of day for different activites. I sew best at night. Computer work is best in the morning. I exercise as soon as I get up. It took a long time to figure all of these things out but it was worth it because it makes me more productive overall.
- Bonus! This last one is to use the word "no". It's OK to tell people that you can't do something. Your time is valuable. Don't give it away lightly.
Still not enough? Here's one of the best articles that I found on the web with tips for time management.
Now it's your turn. Please share what you do to make time for your art or any other time management tips that you have. As I said, I'm obsessive about it and am always looking for better ways to manage my time and I look forward to reading your tips!