It's become commonplace to hear someone say "I'm so busy," or, "I just don't have any time." But the truth of the matter is, we all have time and plenty of it. We each wake up to a completely full new day each morning, we all start out with the exact same thing. We simply choose how to use it.
But this is easier said, isn't it? I mean, if it's so simple why is it that we often feel like time completely gets away from us as creatives? Why is it so difficult to find time to do all the things we want to do, and accomplish all the things we want to accomplish if we have plenty of time?
Let's get this out of the way: sometimes we are genuinely busy, I'm not belittling that at all, and that can actually be quite fulfilling and even fun. But to me, there are different kinds of busy. There's the type of busy I personally prefer to simply call "productive" and then there is this cluttered, chaotic feeling of general busyness - the kind where you feel like you are on a treadmill: constantly running, and yet getting nowhere, lacking time and energy to do even the things that you genuinely love.
If you can relate to that second descriptor, you are definitely not alone, I am right there with you. I too, often find myself wishing that there was just a bit more daylight, so that I could fit in yoga, practicing French, and listening to an audiobook while I meal prep. I deeply dislike the mainstream rush, and that terrible feeling of the days and weeks just slipping through your fingers. In fact it's led me to take another look at my lifestyle and how I go about my every day.
Let's keep this really simple and return to the idea we just talked about at the top of the page - yes, sometimes we are genuinely busy, but that usually isn't a constant, and if it is, it won't be sustainable for long. Most of the time what we're actually facing is a time management issue: we're not able to get the things done that we wanted to, or perhaps enjoy the activities and hobbies that we had hoped to enjoy, because we haven't struck on a balanced schedule - we may not even schedule at all.
If we all start out with the same amount of time in a day, that means we can use this time however we want to, and if we find that we're not able to actually do the things we had really desired to, we can change the way we are going about our day to day life.
Now, there are many ways to do this - from calendar blocking, to bullet journaling, the list goes on and on, but I'm only going to tackle one mode of time management today: managing the time in between.
Everything from learning a language to making coffee to walking my dog, these are all things that I enjoy doing in between the things that I need to get done each day; the things I do in between my creative workflow.
So often we look at our booked schedules and sigh about how busy we are, and how we have so little time to do things we genuinely enjoy, yet we're often only looking at the time that's blocked out for work. What about the time in between? What about that empty block of time first thing in the morning, or just after lunch? What about our free evenings, or our days off? What about the time we spend commuting?
Added up, all of these "empty" blocks of time make up a rather large portion of our days, weeks, months - lives! To overlook these precious parts of our schedules is to waste great opportunities to grow, learn, and enjoy a balanced lifestyle. Often, these in-between gaps in our schedules are filled unintentionally with things like watching videos on YouTube, scrolling through social media apps, etc.
While these resources in and of themselves aren't bad, it's become commonplace in western culture to squander time on social media to the point of it not only not serving us, but making a damaging impact on our lives. (Whole other post for a whole other time.) Some apps have even implemented trackers to help us gauge how much time we spend on social media, because according to studies the average American will spend nearly an hour a day on Facebook, an hour watching YouTube videos, and nearly an hour on Instagram. Of course these are averages and don't apply to everyone, but these are real numbers and real reports - and that equals out to around nearly 3 hours of our daily lives!
You can do a lot with three hours.
That extra time you need to learn a language, or start that new hobby? That space you wish you could create in your schedule for working out or spending time with family? Those couple of extra hours of sleep you wish you had - or that reading time you really crave?
Maybe if we became more aware - hyper aware - of what we are spending our time on and where, we would actually have more time than we realize. Maybe we would be astonished at just how much we could actually accomplish (including that hobby or project we've been wanting to start for ages) if we became intentional not only with the things that we have to do each day, but with the time in between.
So, where can we start - and how?
#1 Become hyperaware. When you find yourself going down an unnecessary time-consuming rabbithole, catch yourself.
#2 Make a very simple, straight forward list of a few things you would really love to spend time on, and then, when you catch yourself wasting those little bits of in between time, turn to this list. Pick one of the things listed and get started, even if you spend just a few minutes doing it. I've found this very helpful for learning French.
#3 Calendar block. My sister got me hooked on calender blocking - I was skeptical at first, but learning how to use this resource has been a massive help when it comes to alleviating that dizzying feeling of chaotic, anxiety and busyness. It's a wonderful way to be able to see everything you actually have to do, just how much time it will take, and how much time you have to do other things, laid out in a cohesive manner. Most of the time I find I'm surprised by how much free time I actually have to work with. (Side projects here I come!)
#4 Prioritize. Take a good look at the list you made, as well as your schedule and take a crack at prioritizing the most important things. Oftentimes I find that I've placed too much emphasis on something that could be set on a backburner for the time being with no damage done, giving me the freetime I was looking for to tackle something else.
#5 Don't be hard on yourself. Weeding distractions and unnecessary or even damaging time-sucks out of our lives takes time and practice. So try to find the fun in the process, embrace the trial and error, and laugh at yourself when you catch yourself going off on a bunny trail. No need for self-deprecating words. ;)
So there you have it: a few ways I am currently trying to get my own personal schedule more free, clear, and easy-breezy. :) Now it's your turn: are you a super scheduled guru, or are you an adventurer who flies by the seat of their pants? What's your favorite time-management tip? I look forward to hearing from you down in the comments.