time management for creatives

When there is a disruption in the current system, many artists and creative people find themselves discombobulated.  It takes a bit of time to surrender to the transition or new circumstances and regain footing.

One of the ways I manage these times is to reevaluate the structure of my days.
Is there anything that isn't working anymore?  What is working? Is my most effective time of day still the same? What is missing? Is there something I am withholding from myself?

If you find yourself in need of structure or reevaluation, I have a simple tool.

I have found it best to come up with three lists.
On one piece of paper, I make three columns.
From left to right, I list the headings "1 want to", "I should" and "required".

It is extremely important to spend as much time in the "want to" column as possible.  So many of us don't allow ourselves time to ruminate here.  DO THIS FIRST.

What I have found, is that the shoulds never seem to go away.  We constantly carry these around  And this pack becomes heavier and heavier.  Take this time to unpack that pack.  List EVERY should you carry around.  Fill the column.  Make a continuous column on another page if need be.

Once you have finished the first two columns to the best of your ability, stop, take a deep breath and congratulate yourself.  You've already taken a big step.  You've unloaded all of your wishes and the weight of obligation onto the page (which really frees up the mind and spirit).

If you want to continue with the third column, prepare yourself to be brutally honest.

I define "required" as "me or someone I live with will suffer emotionally or physically if this task is not completed." Assuming everyone in your household is healthy in mind, body and spirit, cooking, exercising or reading to the kids might fall under the category of "required".  Your day job is “required”.  Is housecleaning? No (unless you need to remove a dangerous obstacle inside your home).

Once you have gone through your shoulds, go through each item, deciding what honestly needs to be transferred over to the "required" column.  It is my strong opinion that there should only be five items here for one given day.  And mind you, your "required" list might change or shift daily.

Now, return to your first list of wants.  What are your top five priorities here?  If you don't know, use a priority grid (if you are unfamiliar with this tool, ask me, and I will send it along).

I highly recommend sticking with the top five priorities in the want list for a much longer period of time.  Our tendency is to just skim the surface with these and bounce quickly from one to the other.  Instead, choose to invest in five.  Give yourself three weeks without analyzing.  Tell yourself at the close of three weeks you can reevaluate and make adaptions.

And remember, to give yourself unstructured time.  Take it from one of my most inspirational creatives, May Sarton:

I always forget how important the empty days are, how important it may be sometimes not to expect to produce anything...The most valuable thing one can do for the psyche, occasionally, is to let it rest, wander, live in the changing light of a room.


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