I’ve heard a lot of frustration from writers and artists about time – how can a working, mom or dad, or anyone, find time for creative writing and art? Having just taken a course in time management from Springboard for the Arts, offered at my local library, I can say that a time audit will help you find that time.
Participants were asked to keep track of what they did for 24 hours in each of seven days. After each activity, we were asked to note if the time was Alpha, Beta, or Art time. Alpha is any time spent on art related activities and Art itself. Beta is time not spent on art or art related activities. There can be overlaps.
At the end of the week, it’s easy to see how much time is actually spent producing art. That may be only 20% of your time in a week. The time audit will document how your intentions to work are interrupted and will be useful in creating a space in each week that is devoted to your creative work. Following is a repeat of steps you can take to make creative time a priority:
Focus is the key to making time to do the work. You may need to focus first on all the reasons why you are dragged away from the work you start. Keep a sticky-note pad handy and make note of each time you’re interrupted.
- How many times were you interrupted by someone else?
- How many times were you interrupted by your phone?
- How many times were your thoughts interrupted by (fill in the blanks)
- What else?
By Wednesday, after taking notes on interruptions, it’s easy to see why we can never find a decent amount of time to grow as an artist or writer. Now it’s time to focus on solutions. Review your sticky-notes and write on each one a possible solution to the problem. Example: Phone interrupts. Turn off the phone during work time.
If you were on the job, you would not be allowed to entertain all the distractions you do allow when you are on your own time. Understanding how to set limits will be key to making the time you need to deeply focus on your creative work.
You have your notes in hand that illustrate how many distractions you allow. You’ve made notes on possible solutions. Now is the time to implement the solutions by setting limits.
Limit your workspace – keep distractions outside of your workspace, even if that means closing the door or wearing noise-cancelling headphones. Your workspace must become sacred space – yours – where important work is done and others are not allowed to intrude during work hours.
Limit your time – allow yourself enough time to get into deep focus and produce work, but don’t take so much time that everything else goes to the wayside and becomes an excuse for not getting back to work the next day. Make a schedule.
The most compelling distraction is the one that opens the gate for all others to flood in and overwhelm your best intentions. What is that one thing that overwhelms your artistic practice? Faith in yourself to do this work.
You’ve made the decision to explore your creative self. Don’t judge your successes and failures. Judge only these things:
- Adequate workspace
- Adequate work time without interruptions
- Whether or not you did anything with the workspace and time you created.
The lack of belief in the work and you as the creative spirit will undermine every effort you make or think you want to make.
This entire process is about YOU and no one else. Only you can make the time and make that time what you want.
Prompt for the week.
- Keep those sticky-notes handy so you can keep track of your interruptions and plan for solutions to distractions.
- Create a cheat-sheet using your distractions/solutions notes and post it above your work area where you can see it for quick reference.
- Make sure other members of your household who feel to interrupt, refer to the cheat-sheet before breaking your focus.
- Post your work day schedule for them to see.
Next week’s topic: Steps to publishing a story.
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