I know what it's like.
Every day you say to yourself: tomorrow I am going to set up the corner of the verandah with my easel; or, next week, when this busy period at work is finished, I'll start writing daily; or, this weekend, I'm definitely heading out to take some photos in the park.
But it just does NOT happen.
'I just can't seem to find the time!'
'Time just gets away from me!'
'If I only had another couple of hours a day!'
Sound familiar? It does to me! There is no doubt that most of us can list real and legitimate reasons for why we are time poor.
But let’s be honest, really honest.
We all fall prey to one or more of the following 8 activities, don’t we? Let’s take a closer look at what I think are our biggest time sucks:
1. WORK – Ok, most of us have to do this. And true, work comes with certain time restraints that are just not negotiable. Add to that children or managing a small business, or having a leadership role, and demands on your time are high, no doubt.
But just examine closely this area of your life and see if you are doing more than you need to? Do you answer emails when you know that they can wait until you are back in the office or at the end of the weekend? Are you doing work that you ought to be delegating? Are you so immersed in the world of work that you no longer feel connected to other aspects of your life?
It’s not just about workaholism, which is a ’thing’; it’s about giving work more priority than you need to. Are you?
2. TV / NETFLIX … or any other entertainment or gaming: this is my favourite time suck! I am so guilty of Netflix bingeing. I know exactly what it’s like, and I love losing myself in a great Nordic crime thriller or watching episode after episode of Orange is the New Black… or whatever catches my attention. What about you? How much of your time is poured into entertainment and passively watching someone else’s creative output? Would missing an episode of My Kitchen Rules be that detrimental to your week? Can you do one day without Wordscapes?
3. ALCOHOL/DRUGS… has ‘taking the edge off your day’ become something that extends for the whole evening… every evening? Is it the first thing you do when you get home from work?
If you are self-medicating for existing issues (we all have them there is no shame in taking a look at them) maybe it’s time to get some professional help. I’m not against a bit of mind-altered time but we all know when we are over indulging, right?
4. OVER-EXERCISING – I love exercising and it is part of my self-care and wellbeing, so I am very conscious of how important it is to make time for it and that sometimes this is also hard to prioritise.
That’s not what I am talking about here.
Over-exercising is when you cross the line between a healthy, life-enhancing habit and damaging, obsessive behaviours. If you are reading this and something has come up for you because you know you do this, that is what I mean!
5. OVER READING – like exercising, such an enjoyable, benign and rewarding activity. Learning new facts, experiencing new fictitious characters and situations, expanding your mind. But when we are trying to create something new, we need time and space to think and engage our imagination. Are you escaping into someone else’s creation and imagination to avoid facing yours? Are you filling your head with so much information that you have no space for thinking something of your own?
6. SOCIAL MEDIA – who is not a culprit here? For the last 3 years, since I have started using social media for marketing, promotion and sales, I have been spending a disproportionally large amount of time staring at the phone or tablet screen. Because it’s a work activity I have to do, I’ve tried to turn it into a platform for some self-expression and creativity. But what a time suck! Isn’t it? I know you know what I a mean! How might you reduce the time you spend here?
7. FRIENDS – what is life without friends? If you are lucky to have good friends, awesome, rejoice! Spending time with friends is important. It’s also equally important to spend time alone, by yourself. If you don’t have a good balance of ‘friend time’ and ‘ME time’, take a look at what you are, perhaps, avoiding. Their latest news will still be there next time you catch up, and maybe you’ll be sharing with them about your latest project.
8. NEEDY PEOPLE – how wonderful does it feel to be doing good for someone else? And good for you! I’m not saying you have to turn into a selfish, uncaring person. But are you putting other people ahead of yourself, all the time? You might want to look at that.
It is important to support and help people we know are having a hard time, the way people have helped us. But you know where I’m going with this. I’m talking about the people who take, take and take some more. People whose life is always drama and emotional rollercoasters, the ones Julia Cameron calls ‘crazy-makers’ and who might never get enough of you even if you spent all day with them.
Caveat: there is nothing inherently WRONG with any of the above behaviours - I am simply pointing out areas where I have been able to carve extra hours for myself in order to pursue my creativity.
Here are some suggestions to stay on track:
set some boundaries:
for yourself… get some RIGHT NOW! e.g. No email or text responses after 9 pm. No laptop in the bedroom. No work reading material in bed. Netflix only 5 times a week.
for others… tell people what you’re up to. Don’t always pick up the phone. Tell people who care about you (without making it sound like you are going to join a cult) what you are up to. Let them know that you have set aside some time to make stuff. They might follow suit!
self-awareness: ultimately, a great goal - a reflective, journalling practice has helped me to understand my behaviours and deal with them more effectively. Knowing ourselves better is key to knowing what motivates us and what gets in our way.
time yourself: I have started doing this regularly. I set the timer on my phone and let myself indulge in a game or a magazine article, and when the timer is done, I go back to what I was doing.
alcohol free evenings: go on, you can do it!
If you have any suggestions or have ways of managing your time that you’d like to share, feel free to post below!