How to Make Time for the Creative Work You Love
One of the best episodes of the original Twilight Zone series is “Time Enough at Last.” Burgess Meredith plays Henry Bemis, a man who is obsessed with reading. One day at his job as a bank teller, he goes to the bank vault to read during lunch. Suddenly there is a violent explosion that knocks him out. He later wakes up to find that an atomic bomb has destroyed the world. Being in the bank vault saved his life, and he is the only person left on earth.
He wanders the ruined city in despair and comes to the town library, where he finds all the books still intact. He suddenly realizes that he has all the time in the world to read, and no one to bother him. In one of the greatest plot twists in television, he reaches down for the first book and drops his glasses, shattering the lenses.
Henry Bemis had all the time in the world, but lost the one tool he needed to make use of it.
You and I have the opposite problem. We have all the creative tools we could ever want but not enough time. But when we begin to implement the three strategies I’ll share here, we can begin to recapture more time to do the creative work we love.
1. Eliminate distractions
When you try to make good use of your time, you will face of multitude of distractions that threaten to derail your progress. It’s important to eliminate as many of these as possible so you can focus while you are working.
When you’re working on a computer, some of the biggest sources of distraction are notifications from social media, email, and other apps. You can shut these off in your settings. Very few of these messages need an instant response. (Plus, if you always respond to social media notifications instantly, it gives the impression that you don’t do anything except play around on social media.)
I will often turn my phone on silent and place it face down on my desk so I literally don’t see or hear anything. Sometimes you have to take drastic measures!
If you do a lot of your work on computer and have trouble staying focused, use the Stay Focused extension (available for Chrome), which blocks access to websites for specified periods of time.
2. Take advantage of “spare” moments.
If you take a look at how you spend the minutes in your days, you will probably find that you have lots of “spare” moments. Spare moments are small chunks of time between other events. Five minutes here, or ten or fifteen minutes there, can be very useful if we use them purposefully.
Here are some examples of spare moments:
- Waiting at your doctor’s office.
- Waiting to pick up your child from school.
- Waiting for someone to arrive at lunch.
- Waiting for your spouse to finish shopping.
- Waiting in line at the grocery store.
These spare moments can be a potential gold mine for being productive and working on your art. Although you may not be at your computer, in the recording studio, or at your easel, you can definitely take advantage of these moments.
Here are a few ways:
- Read a great book. You should always have a book with you, whether it’s a print, audio, or e-book. (Here’s a list of 15 essential books for artists.) I’m also a big advocate of speed reading. Check out this video for several great tips.
- Listen to a podcast that will enhance your creative life. (Here’s are the top ten podcasts for artists.)
- Think about topics, outlines, or other content ideas for blog posts or podcasts.
- Send up a few quick prayers.
If you don’t control your schedule, someone else will. Be intentional about your use of time, especially the spare moments here and there that we so easily waste.
3. Limit frivolous diversions
I don’t want to give the impression that I believe you should be working all the time. I enjoy movies, video games, surfing the web, and lots of other diversions. (I still love to break out my original Nintendo system and play Super Mario Bros. once in a while. What can I say? I’m a child of the 80’s.)
I do believe, however, that you should limit how much time you spend on these diversions. It’s easy to lose a couple of hours watching viral videos on Youtube or playing games on your phone. Set a limit on how much time you will spend doing things that don’t give you a return of some kind.
You need to give your mind a break from work. However, don’t give it too much of a break.
These are only three of the strategies listed in my free e-book How to Make Time for Your Art: 21 Ways to Be Productive & Make Every Day Count. You can get a copy of the book for free when you subscribe to my newsletter.
Photo courtesy Gratisography