Your time is precious.
Sometimes my time feels so precious, and I have so many creative ideas, that time flies between blog posts as it has done lately. (Your overflowing inbox appreciates that though, I’m sure!)
This is why it’s so important to minimize the time you spend on things you don’t want to do, so you have more time available for your soul-filling joys.
This time-management challenge has been going on since the first artist, writer, inventor set foot on earth and then got either hungry or chilly. Dang, I have to stop to make lunch. Or drag out my wolf-skin parka. But I’m busy making stuff! I have to eat and sleep, but no, I’m not coming over to see your new baby brontosaurus.
So it’s true. We have to say no so we can say yes.
This week I read a brilliant article by Laura Pritchett, in the April 16th issue of the Colorado Sun. Here’s a quote:
“My other all-time favorite out-of-office reply came to me from the poet Camille Dungy, who quoted Charles Dickens on the subject. She pulled a few awesome lines from a “sorry, I can’t” type of response he wrote to a friend:
‘It is only half an hour’–’It is only an afternoon’–’It is only an evening,’ people say to me over and over again. But they don’t know that it is impossible to command one’s self sometimes to any stipulated and set disposal of five minutes — or that the mere consciousness of an engagement will sometime worry a whole day. These are the penalties paid for writing books. Who ever is devoted to an art must be content to deliver himself wholly up to it, and to find his recompense in it. I am grieved if you suspect me of not wanting to see you, but I can’t help it; I must go in my way whether or no.’
“I snorted in delight when I read this one too. And surely this is applicable to everyone, not just authors. An invitation for “a cup of coffee” will eat up a half day, and, indeed, change the course of our entire days, and although I love a cup of coffee with a friend as much as the next person, I’m also unwilling to parcel out my time when I just can’t.”
Honestly, I could highlight every word of her article. A classic on this subject of time management is Time Warrior by Steve Chandler. Highly recommended. The challenge for us all is to streamline the “must do’s” so we have more time for leisurely “wanna do’s.”
I am one of the slowest sketchers I know. It’s not that I don’t know how to draw or paint, or that I’m flooded with hesitancy. No, just the opposite.
I’m in love with gazing.
More than anything, I want to “draw what drew ya,” and that takes time. If I’m waiting for a bus and know I have 17 spare minutes, sure, I’ll pull out my sketchbook and enjoy the time. But by far my favorite way to sketch is to go somewhere that is visually pleasing, and just sit with no awareness of the passage of time. A few motionless minutes will pass, then I notice I’ve just done a double-take, spontaneously looking at something twice, smiling with curiosity. More often than not, that becomes my subject. I’m drawn to curious juxtapositions and large shapes that play well together. The object itself can be innocuous, but the composition feels compelling.
That’s precisely the sort of soul-enhancing experience that will elude me if my time is too jam-packed with schedules and chores and social obligations.
No matter how old you are, you don’t have long to live.
Remembering that fact will help you be mindful of how you decide to spend your time here on earth. If your creative outlet is drawing pictures with your grandchildren, or designing and planting a prize-winning garden, or inventing a watercolor kit that answers every wish you ever had (to be revealed in the next blog post!), then you simply must design your day around your creative priority. If you don’t, you will slowly develop a quiet despair and eventually start wondering what’s the point of this life after all. I’ve been there. It’s not a nice neighborhood.
There are 168 hours in a week. If you sleep a delicious 8 hours a night, that leaves 112. If you work 50 hours a week and commute 10 hours a week, that still leaves you 52 hours. That’s on average over seven hours a day that’s all yours to design. This may be your greatest work of art so far!
Sustenance: I usually spend a chunk of time once a week on food planning and prep. Veggies get chopped, soup gets made and some goes in the freezer, the week’s simple food plan gets taped to the refrigerator. No time wasted on Decision Fatigue later in the week.
Admin: Although I’m retired, I have a whole cluster of chores I call “Admin” that could easily steal my joy if I let them. It’s things like paying bills, managing the marketing/sales of my two books, Etsy site, and things like that. And finally, and by far the biggest challenge, Managing the Email Inbox. Ugh.
I can’t be cavalier and just ignore it. My inbox is where I hear from long-lost friends, get fan mail from new readers of “Look at That!,” and receive important alerts if my finances or identity have been compromised. All those things need timely action. But what about all that other email? Sisyphus comes to mind, sadly.
Here are the two top tips I’m using at the moment for Inbox Management:
A wind-up timer. I set the timer for 30 minutes most days to work on inbox-clearing or answering emails. Then when the bell goes off, I finish whatever email I’m in the middle of, and close that tab. Leave it. Move on to stretching or walking around a bit, reclaiming my space.
Unsubscribe Magic. This technique hit me like a blast of fresh air when I first discovered it. I open my inbox, then type the word “Unsubscribe” into the search bar. Voila, instantly you will see all those auto-generated emails that may have interested you at one point, but now, not so much. Then it’s a few easy steps:
1- I open a newsletter I no longer want, then follow the unsubscribe process.
2- Next, use the search bar again to locate all the newsletters from the source I just unsubscribed from.
3- I select all of those, hit delete, and Voila, success.
4- Finally, type “unsubscribe” in the search bar again and repeat.
Yes, it’s a slow process, but faster than weeding through them one by one. Note: I do this while listening to a favorite podcast because this inbox work is utterly mindless, and the podcast keeps me entertained.
Once you’re caught up, it’s easy to maintain. If you’re on a roll and having a great time slashing and burning through that inbox when the 30-minute timer rings, reset it for another 30 minutes and knock yourself out.
My trusty timer is a magic shield, guarding me from the evil monster called Overwhelm. With Timer’s gentle ticking, I can safely navigate through the tedium of tasks I dread.
After all these years, that timer bell still reminds me of my childhood, when that “bbbrrriiing” meant the made-from-scratch chocolate chip cookies had finished cooking. A sweet memory. Now the timer bell sounds like freedom, another sort of dessert, I suppose. It announces the freedom to move on and start refilling my soul in whatever way I please.
On page 63 of “Look at That!”I included a quote from William Henry Davies:
“A poor life this, if full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.”
I wish you many moments of carefree staring.
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And, as always, thanks for joining me in some time “aloft”!
“…the mere consciousness of an engagement will sometime worry a whole day.” That. Yesss.
Wonderful post Bobbie. I shall re-read again and again.
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Yup, I love me some Charlie Dickens… glad you liked it too, Judy!