Protect Your Precious Creativity Time

Saturday, March 09, 2019
Recently, I've been thinking about how to make some changes in my life to lead me where I want to be in my career and how I want to be as a parent--or really, looking at the big picture: what I want my entire life to look like. One of the things I feel on pretty much a daily basis is OVERWHELM. I feel like there's so much to do at my day job, with my editing business, as a parent, in my house, with my friends and boyfriend, and I want to do it all--well, okay, there are a few things I don't want to do like clean the toilet, but I have to--and I constantly go around complaining about how I'm overwhelmed. My ever-growing to-do and idea lists never seem to shrink.

The one thing that I can do, and that I've done successfully two days out of five this past week, is protect my work time. If I don't want to be crazy, stressed out, tired mom, then I need to work while my daughter is at school and after-school care. Sure, this is also a great time to go out to lunch, to get grocery shopping done, to chat with friends, to take phone calls from my parents, etc etc. But I started to notice that on those days when I had scheduled some "non-work" tasks, I was usually crabby and more stressed out; I even felt bad about myself and my failure to accomplish my goals.

I would sit around in the evening and ask myself: what is wrong with me? Will I ever make progress? How come I can't finish anything? Does everybody else work this long? But if I really looked at my day and all the time I spent doing things other than working, the answer was pretty clear.

I wasn't staying focused. I'm easily distracted by bright, shiny objects. I"m not working when I should be, and this is the reason why sometimes I'm finishing projects at 4:30 am in the morning or after the deadline, not reaching my goals, and feeling stuck.

This week I said ENOUGH. I wrote a list of my priorities on a piece of white paper and used a blue Sharpie marker (man, I love those things) and stuck that list in my underwear drawer. Why there? Well, I'll look at it every day when I get new underwear out (or at least I should! I try not to have typical "work-from-home" hygiene habits, wink, wink), but the priority list's not hanging out for the world to see--I don't want anyone arguing with me about my priorities--that is private.

Now, before I say yes to something, I'm thinking: Is this a priority OR does this get in the way of  a priority? (I have only been doing this for 2 days, so I'm no expert yet.) Before I answer a message during work hours or schedule an appointment, I ask myself if it fits with this change I'm making in my life. If the answer is yes, then I do it. If the answer is no, then I'm saying no--I'm protecting my work time. I am saying yes to my priorities.

It's an absolute myth that we can do it all and do it well. Yes, we can do it all if we do it half-way and look like a stressed-out, exhausted version of ourselves.

Whatever your creativity time is--whether it's two hours in the morning, four hours at night, or all day, protect that time. And then, know when you need a break--because that's important, too. But that's another blog post for another day, or you can watch The Shining and see how all work and no play worked out for Jack Nicholson's character.

Protect your precious creativity time like a toddler protecting her favorite stuffed animal from the grubby hands of other toddlers! How do you do it?

Margo L. Dill is a single mom, writer, editor, and teacher, living in St. Louis, MO. Her day job is as an editorial assistant for Farm Journal, and her other jobs are working her own business, Editor 911, and helping out at WOW! as much as she can! If you want to take a class with Margo, check that out here. To learn more about her, go to her website here


Sioux Roslawski said...

Margo--I wish I knew. I like shiny things way too much (television shows... knitting). I do know when I'm writing alongside my students, I do a great job of deflecting their questions and ignoring the behavior I need to (most of the time) because I'm trying to model how important writing is to me.

Your comment about the Sharpie made me chuckle. Every time someone pulls one out, I warn them: "You'd better keep an eye on it. Otherwise, it might just disappear into my purse."

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