Note: This column was printed in the June 27, 2012 edition of the Barrow Journal.
I’ve been trying to figure out how to write more on this topic ever since my fellow blogger, Renee Tougas of fimby.tougas.net, wrote the definitive e-book for busy moms who want to find time for their own creative pursuits. How do I schedule it into my life, she asked?
Another friend of mine commented that she doesn’t see how I have time to do it all. The truth is, I don’t do it all, and there are days that I feel like pulling my hair out. Still, having children has taught me more about time management skills than any high power job could ever do.
It’s ironic that I’m writing on this topic at an unusually busy time for me. With summer in full swing, I never guessed how many unexpected things could pop up at this time of year for young children. Besides my son’s mini-camps and a summer class, I’m happy to shuttle him around to play dates so that he can enjoy this beautiful weather.
I also have a magazine article I’m trying to finish and get in the mail, a photo shoot coming up, another set of photos I did for a friend that I’d like to finish, and of course I continue with my weekly column. Then there’s the magical laundry bin that fills up every time I empty it.
I work very hard at keeping perspective, and I also make sure that I don’t let my personal goals take my attention away from my kids. I keep mindful that this is a short time in my life, and someday I’ll wish I could step back into this moment when my children were young. But staying positive doesn’t take away the fact that I have to get things done.
It’s all about sorting priorities and making lists for me. Luckily I found a little app for my computer that lets me make several to-do lists. (I use To-Do Queue, but I know there are other good ones too.) I use some lists for brainstorming ideas on what to write about, and I use other lists for the real gotta-get-it-done stuff.
Keeping these lists separated is what makes my life easier. I’m never looking at a comprehensive, mile-long to-do list.
I make sure I get the important stuff done first. I usually reserve certain days of the week for certain tasks, such as my weekly column. Just as I mentioned last week in my “how to get the house clean” column, having specific days for specific tasks takes away the angst of “When will I get to this?” Thinking about everything at once is too overwhelming.
When the must-do stuff is done, I use my lists to remind me of what I want to work on next. Having this reminder open on my computer is important because it’s so easy to open up Twitter or Facebook and waste time.
But how do I get any of it done with young children who quite literally suck up every minute of the day? Most of it happens at night after they go to bed, and some of it gets done in the afternoons while they watch T.V. There are also nooks and crannies throughout the day when I manage to load laundry or write an e-mail while also sculpting clay creations with my sons.
While it would be ideal to have a few hours every week when I could retreat to a private office to get my work done, that will never happen. What helped me gain perspective on this is what a friend of mine told me once.
He teaches news writing at the university, and he told me that while his students are writing in class, he’ll put the radio on. He said he wants them to get used to distractions because in a busy newsroom, it’s not always quiet. When he told me this, I realized that getting work done despite distractions is something we can learn to do. It’s something we can train ourselves to do.
Distractions are always at hand for moms of young children. A subtitle for this era of our lives could be “Ten Years and One Million Interruptions.” So instead of waiting for the perfect time to get creative, learn to use the time you’ve got.
There’s also something I’d like to add that wasn’t in my column. It’s about keeping perspective as I mentioned briefly. I have many personal goals that I’d like to do, but I just can’t at this time. I only do what little I can, and I try to appreciate this moment with my children first and foremost. I’m pretty sure that being a stay-at-home, homeschooling mom is going to be the happiest time of my life. Why do I dream about doing something else when in reality, I have everything I want?
On the other hand, it’s good to have personal goals because one day these kiddos will grow up and leave my house. I’m glad I’m pursuing my hobbies and career goals even if it’s a little bit. I think it will lay a foundation for my life after kids, and from what I hear from “empty nesters,” it will be good to have a distraction at that time.
Remember that wonderful children’s story, The Tortoise and the Hare? Be the tortoise. Plod along and do what you can. After all, if you had all the time in the world, you might not use it wisely.
How do you make time for yourself?