If you are like me—or rather, my former self—you’re probably quite familiar with the phrase, “I’m just so busy”. It’s become the ultimate crutch, the perfect excuse to get out of inconvenient dinner plans and a reason to neglect your fitness routine. It’s even become your default answer to questions like, “How has your summer been?”—an otherwise perfect opportunity for you to share something interesting. But most profoundly, adopting the "I'm so busy" mantra is the one thing holding you back from finishing (or even starting) your personal creative projects.
Chase Jarvis, Artist and CEO of CreativeLive wrote in a blog post, “Busy isn’t success, it’s a lack of priority”. His post, and that line specifically, got me thinking about my own seemingly busy schedule and that perhaps, I in fact had the time I thought I hadn’t for creative projects as long as I made them a top-ranking priority. After some re-jiggering of my schedule, and quite a bit of trial and error, I found the following set of steps to be the most successful process in bringing creative projects to the forefront of my day-to-day.
1) Record your time and don’t leave anything out
I started by documenting, hour by hour, the way I spend my time in a typical week. Sure, I work 40 hours and get an average of 8 hours of sleep a night which, together, takes up 96 of the 168 hours in a week. But what was happening in those other 72 hours? To my shame, I found that I was surrendering that time to Netflix, shopping online, checking and BROWSING Instagram (who does that?), perusing Pinterest, yadda yadda. Don’t get me wrong, I was spending quality time with my husband, taking my dog on walks, cleaning, and making healthy meals (also known as “adulting”), but the rest of my time was being swallowed up by the nonsense.
2) Define and list your priorities
Next, I wrote down a list of my top priorities and bucketed them into the following three categories:
This helped me organize my thoughts and highlighted the areas that needed some balance.
My creative goals, for example finishing my illustrated greeting card series and photographing my designed wedding invitations, fell under the Self category—along with yoga twice a week, journaling once a day, etc. Updating my portfolio site was a task I listed under the Career column, and more frequent girls’ nights was mandatory under Relationships. Turns out that constantly scrolling Instagram, pinning DIYs for my hypothetical garden on Pinterest, and watching hours of Stranger Things on Netflix weren’t even close to making the priority cut (Although, ST is dope and may be budgeted back into my schedule).
3) Rewrite your week and adhere to it
I did this by creating a one-week schedule. First, I filled in the spaces that are absolutely mandatory and don’t vary from week to week like working and sleeping. then I started to allocate the more fluid priorities to the available time slots. Illustrating was now to be done on Wednesday and Thursday from 7-8 pm and photographing my projects would happen on Monday from 6-7 pm, when the lighting was still fantastic.
Looking at a map of my revitalized week helped me realize the amount of time I actually had to do the things I was neglecting for so long. It became obvious that putting off my creative projects because of time (or lack thereof) was no longer a viable excuse. I HAVE the time, I just need to use it correctly.
Sticking to a precise schedule may be nearly impossible. After all, we’re human and curve balls get thrown at us regularly, but getting a sense of what you really care about, and scheduling those things into your week is a sure way to live a life of intent and to get sh*t done.
For a pdf of the schedule template I used, click here.