Congratulations to everyone who completed the Four for Feb challenge (the downloadable PDF memorabilia thingy will be posted soon), and even if you didn’t quite make it but managed to do something creative during the month, it’s a great achievement. Why? Because NONE OF US HAVE ENOUGH TIME.
The demands on our time and attention only increase as we get older and our lives become more complex (unless you’re already retired or independently wealthy in which case congratulations!).
Most of us work full-time. Some of us do extra freelance or other creative work on top of that. Some people have children, some are in long-term relationships. Most have daily, weekly and monthly chores to get done. Some people have people to care for, or their own illnesses and other issues and problems to deal with.
And most of us like to have a bit of a social life and have fun every now and again to0. It’s important t0 get some downtime, to properly rest and relax. And we like to keep up with what’s going on in the world, through a variety of sources, the news, blogs, magazines, TV.
So for most of us, are lives are already full. We have packed our days to capacity with endless activities, and I for one find it overwhelming at times.
So the next challenge I’m suggesting is one where you sit down and actually work out how you can free up some space in your schedule.
Leo Babauta, one of the most successful bloggers on the planet, wrote a brilliant post about how you need to create time to make serious changes in your life. This is what I did for myself when I gave up writing about local music and recording my monthly podcasts, both of which I thoroughly enjoyed doing, because I knew they were not sustainable activities in the long run because neither earned me any money.
Does that mean I won’t do things for free that I enjoy in the future? Not at all. But by giving up those things I was able to get experience doing other things, and spend some time working out what I wanted to do next, and actually earn some money doing other freelance writing/web work. Last year I also missed out on blogging for a few months, and didn’t socialise very much, all because I was focused on trying to get work I enjoyed.
So you do need to prioritise and decide what’s most important to focus on. Seth Godin’s book The Dip is all about the difficult period in any project or activity when your enthusiasm wanes, difficulty levels increase and you need a lot of self-discipline just to continue. His point is that in some cases it’s extremely important to get through the dip to the other side, but in some cases it’s not worth it because they are dead-ends. You need to decide which of your activities is which, and stop the ones that are getting you nowhere.
But even then, you might struggle to find any free time, because you lack the basic awareness of how you’re behaving throughout the day. I know I can be in denial sometimes about my procrastination, but spending an hour reading blogs when I could be writing my own is probably not the best use of that one hour each day that I can keep free to myself. Laura Vanderkam’s book 168 Hours is all about this topic, and she suggests tracking how you’re spending your time. You can download a free time management spreadsheet from her site which will help you do this.
As we’ve seen from many of the Clear-Minded Creative Type interviews so far, a strict routine can be the best way to stick to get creative work done, whether it be managing your projects along with your caffeine intake like Hande Zapsu Watt, or getting up ridiculously early each morning like Thom Chambers. Here it’s impossible not to mention Leo Babauta again as his book The Power of Less talks about setting morning and evening routines which allow you to be creative, or get regular exercise, or even just to get some quiet time to yourself to read a book.
So the challenge for March/April is to “spring-clean your routine” and find at least one regular time-wasting activity that is no longer of value to you and no longer contributes to your goals to eliminate from your life.
In March I suggest you try and become aware of how you’re spending your time. Spring starts on 21st March so see if you can identify by then what you’re going to stop doing and make a plan for how you’re going to do it.
Then in April you can start to establish a new routine to allow you to achieve your creative goals. Imagine how freeing it will be to have that extra space in your life to achieve what you really want. I guarantee you will feel more clear-minded as a result