Spring Cleaning by √oхέƒx™

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 :)

Photo credit: √oхέƒx™ Note: all book links are part of Amazon.com’s affiliate scheme. Because I need the money to buy Apple products.

15 Comments

  1. Thanks for pointing us to Leo’s article- it was great as is your post Milo! I didn’t get to finish what I was working for the Four for Feb, but I did make progress! yay! Time for some spring cleaning of my time. I’m trying to make room for 15 minutes every darn day for a certain set of exercises targeting a single area! I know I waste a lot of time so I should have plenty extra for this…
    Nicole recently posted..12 Reasons to Get Your Butt to Class TODAY!

  2. Any progress is not to be sniffed at Nicole, I hope you can find a few things to cut out so you can get your 15 minutes done :)

  3. I’m in the middle of mine, Milo. I’m giving up…

    wait for it…

    Sleep.

    Really – I’m going polyphasic. Right now I’m churning through ALL emails in my inbox (over 5000) to stay awake for another 20 minutes. The first couple of weeks is supposedly rough, but I’m bound and determined to make this work.

    I need more time.
    Bon “Idearella” Crowder recently posted..Confessions of a Calculator Addict

    • Bon, I have to admit I hadn’t considered sleep as one of the things to cut out, I have always seen it as fairly non-negotiable, as if I miss out on sleep it always catches up on me.

      However I have heard mention of polyphasic sleep patterns before and it seemingly does work for some people so I’d be very interested to hear how your experiment goes!

  4. I’ve inadvertently been trying a ‘minimise sleep’ lifestyle, mainly by continuing to get up for work at 5.45am every day as usual, but then trying to make the most of every minute when I’m home again. This has generally involved writing until around 11pm on the evenings I have to myself, and then trying to cram in a few pages or more of whatever I happen to be reading at the time. Sometimes this backfires, in the sense that I can end up staying up until 1am (the Jack Reacher novels have been doing that to me a lot!).

    It was just about proving possible to maintain this routine, but after four or five weeks my body has kind of crashed and I’ve struggled a bit this week. So I think I need to find a slightly better balance. For a while now, however, I’ve been quite pleased with the amount of nonsense I’ve cut out on the internet. This included deleting my Facebook account and not reading forums quite so much.

    One final thing – without wishing to sound like I live in squalor, I’ve managed to alter my way of thinking so that I don’t get *quite* so uptight about housework. Having a mild OCD has never helped, but I’m getting more used to turning a blind eye to a bit of dust. So when I sit at my computer, rather than thinking about what housework I feel I should be doing instead, I get on with a new blog entry. Just got to make sure I don’t go too far in the opposite direction and ignore things completely!
    Paul recently posted..A World Of Contrast

    • Hi Paul,

      Funny, I used to have to get up that early to start work at 7am, but these days I’m on flexi-time so getting out of bed at all is proving a bit of a challenge ;)

      However for the last couple of weeks I’ve been trying to get up around 5:30am so I can get some extra things done before work. On the days I’ve managed this has worked really well, but if I want to have any kind of social life it is v. difficult to stick to.

      I’ve found you need to schedule in some down-time before bed and make sure you get enough sleep or it does catch up on you (unless like Bon you can master polyphasic sleep patterns of course).

      • Ha ha, the ironic thing is that I actually get up that early BECAUSE of flexi-time! Much as I want to stay in bed, the rewards of finishing around lunchtime on a Friday are too great to ignore. Regular reading at bedtime has served well as the relaxant my mind usually needs, except on those few occasions where I’ve become so gripped by the story that thoughts of sleep have disappeared entirely…
        Paul recently posted..Not A Bard Place At All

        • Very sensible Paul, that’s what I need to do however I sometimes lack the motivation! Your latest post is very interesting in terms of fitting everything in by the way, I hope you find a way to fit your blog in that doesn’t lead to you burning out, definitely easier said than done..

  5. Oh yes this has really made me think ! I’m trying to fit in more exercise at the moment and doing all my creative things. At the moment the thing that is suffereing most badly is housework… luckily I don’t have OCD! I’m trying to batch work together so I’m more productive in bursts rather than multitasking … its sort of helping

    • Exercise and housework. Those are definitely the two things that I am most likely to miss out on, even though I try to prioritise exercise above all else I still have a natural tendency to avoid it..

      Batching can be handy. I’m doing it today with replying to comments and emails etc because it’s the first chance I’ve had. I usually try to reply as quickly as possible but sometimes it is easier just to do it all at once in a mad half hour of typing.

      Maybe the next challenge should be housework related? ;)

  6. Ah, life’s a constant juggle isn’t it. As I always say, it’s easier to juggle with fewer balls.
    Elizabeth Destouches recently posted..Getting back into my groove with a frog

    • Very good point, Elizabeth. I nearly wrote “I sometimes wish I only had one ball” but now that I think about it that just isn’t true!