Finding Time for Important Things

Finding Time for Important Things

My flamenco shoes have been sitting in the wardrobe for years… A random thought triggered by an online add made me realize that my shoes had been stuck in various wardrobes for good 10 years now. My bellydancing scarf might not have accrued such an impressive number, but it isn’t far behind, and the fan veils I wished to learn to use… I never took them with me from Ireland. And that’s only dancing I’ve been neglecting. If I had a closer look at my art supplies, the list would become even longer, though at least I make use of it once every few months.

Such is the the fate of the creative types who always find more things to do or try.

And there’s never enough time for everything

I regularly see creative people saying they don’t have time for everything. Day job, family, and social life seem to be leaving very little for personal space and all the things they want to do.

I can sympathize, though with years came my understanding that time is a resource like any other and it’s limited. Ever since then, I revisited all the things I want to do, and not only cut my list, but also prioritized it.

Of course, doing every single thing I want to do would be possible, but I’d be spreading myself thin, and in the end did all of those things too rarely to ever get anywhere with them, and I wanted something more than a moment of that instant gratification. I wanted growth and progress. It meant I needed to focus.

 

It also meant saying goodbye to things I like to do

My social life was the first to go. Sure, I’d still meet with my close friends for a coffee, but those once-a-few-months outings could barely have impact on my everyday routine. Sure, back when I had a day job, I’d go out on Fridays for a drink with my coworkers, but when 9 pm hit, I’d be saying my goodbyes. “I have to write,” I’d say and even though they asked me to stay, they understood.

Nowadays, I don’t have any social life anymore and I hardly miss it. Once I moved over to the US, I didn’t look for new friends as it meant adding social obligations. Instead, I find a lot of joy in keeping in touch with my friends overseas, and it provides me with all the social interaction I need.
Since I also stuck to my decision of not starting a family—a conscious choice based on my life plans, it cleared most of the time-consuming activities related to it. With my husband being of the same mindset, we can enjoy our hobbies, many of which overlap in one way or another.

Dancing was another thing I dropped without too much regret. Sure, I enjoyed it, but I never aspired to become an even semi-professional dancer, and I wasn’t willing to put more time into it than the weekly class: no practicing at home, no extra workshops. On top of that, when I calculated the commute time, likely 1-2 hours depending on traffic (and most classes are in the afternoons and evenings, so falling within the rush hour brackets) for the round trip, it became clear I don’t love dancing enough to invest that time. I could use those 3-4 hours much better.

I didn’t abandon art or video games, two of my important hobbies, but it became very clear where they go on my priorities list.

Prioritizing

It seemed logical that things most important to me would get the biggest chunk of my time.

Work might not have been the “most important thing”, but it always came first as one can’t indulge into creativity when unpaid bills loom over one’s shoulder. Sometimes my day job consumed more than just my time, eating away my energy reserve and motivation or adding unexpected stress. I always considered this part of life, along with health issues or other unexpected events to deal with. Unless they could be ignored, like some unimportant drama, they always got the priority pass from me. Recently, I read Sara Letorneau’s blog post about Honoring Your Reality When You’re a Blogger, and her insights apply to life in general and any passion.

Once work and general life things were out of the way, I had other things to put in order. It quickly became clear that outside of those necessities, writing is the most important thing to me, and I treated it accordingly. This helped me a lot, because even when I wasn’t writing, my mind would be around it. At the same time, I wasn’t drowning myself in the “I should be writing” guilt: I was planning on what to write later or simply scheduling my next writing session for later. This way, writing didn’t become yet another thing on the I-should-do-it list. If I wasn’t already writing, it was always on the I-will-do-it list.

When everything else became secondary to those two priorities, I had enough time daily to take care of work and life necessities, to write, and to indulge in other things I enjoy.

Other things I want to do

I’ve touched on that in another post, but I constantly work to be more efficient with my time. I quickly discovered that binge-watching a movie or a series on Netflix pairs up perfectly with doing artwork. This way I could provide my mind both the relaxation it needed and hopefully some story inspiration while having something done and feeling productive. At the same time, as much as I feel the itch to visit the art supplies stores, I rarely go shopping. And when I do, I often conclude I had enough supplies, I give up on trying out new things or techniques, and simply replace only those things I use somewhat regularly.

I don’t game as much anymore, and most of my gaming time falls during my workout, unless I’m reading. But when I feel like I need a break or simply want to enjoy a game, I can easily devote more time to it. As much as writing is my priority, I also recognize the much-needed value of time off, and gaming is also a part my inspiration process, so it helps me to get over creative slumps.

Reading is still all over the place for me, but it’s an addiction in its most literal meaning, so when I start, I usually won’t stop until I’m done. Limiting myself to reading during my workout helps to manage the time, but clearly doesn’t give me as much of it as I’d like. And because of that, on some days, I throw all my plans away, ignore my priorities, and indulge in some binge-reading. Besides, it’s all research, inspiration, and studying the writing craft—at least that’s what I like to tell myself.

Finding happiness in conscious choices

It’s hard to plan one’s life since there are so many unforeseen things. If someone asked me 20 years ago, I wouldn’t have even considered moving out of Poland. Ten years ago? I was thinking I would be staying in Ireland for good.

Yet, by making conscious decisions, I can control a lot of my time and my life. I might miss dancing a bit, but whenever I remind myself that way I have more time to do what I truly enjoy, I don’t feel sad anymore about my flamenco shoes gathering the proverbial dust.

I know people who in pursuit in happiness do more and more things, trying out new activities and hobbies. I’m sure they can be exciting and fulfilling, but I found my happiness in decisions to do less—but with more heart and focus. And when it becomes a conscious choice, there’s no feeling on missing out that plagues many of the unhappy people I’ve met.
I’m happy that I have time for that most important thing in my life.

What about you? What is that one thing that you would prioritize? Do you give it enough time of your time?

7 thoughts on “Finding Time for Important Things

    1. I think it’s one of the difficult lessons, because us creatives always want to do more than we have time for. But I hope you’ll find your balance. 🙂

  1. I have read this at an uncannily apt moment in my life… You won’t yet have got the spot – but I’ve recently announced that I’m resigning my post as Creative Writing tutor at Northbrook College. I’ve been forced to prioritise and like you – when it came to the crunch, the writing matters a great deal more than other things. A great article, Joanna, that I’ve found a real comfort – thank you!

    1. Wow… I’m sure this decision must have been super-tough for you. Whenever you wrote about it, your posts radiated with your love for teaching, so I can only imagine the struggle to make that choice.
      I hope, though, that in the hindsight, you’ll turn out happy about that decision, and I’m glad you’ve found some comfort here.

      1. Yes… I do love it – but I really want to give my writing priority. And there’s other stuff stacking up that also gobbles up tracts of time and headspace, so I really have to step down and free up the teaching time.

        1. I totally understand. One of the most important things I learned (and see some people struggling to learn) is that you can’t to “everything” in your life (unless you just “try everything”), and sooner or later you either give up things or end up unhappy never being able to finish anything or become adept at it.

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