I remember a time before I had kids, when I had a full-time career as a graphic designer, I sold jewelry (and other crafts) in my Etsy store, I participated in ATC (artist trading cards) exchanges, and I was in the middle of fixing up a house with my boyfriend (who is now my husband). I would talk about my hobbies with my bosses (it was a department of three, myself, one of the company owners, and the art director, and we three shared an office) - they were both moms and would say how they’re never able to find the time these days, and “you’ll see, just wait til you have kids of your own.” I was determined to prove them wrong, and still am.
Granted, it would be much more difficult if I still had a 9-5 career and commute, but for the short period of time while I was a working mom, I still found the time. And just because I’m home with the kids, it doesn’t mean that I have long chunks of time to devote to my work. Here are five steps that helped me continue following my dreams - these work for any situation, parent or not, working or at home.
Take an inventory of the way you spend your time now. Make a time log. Carry a clipboard, notebook, whatever around with you for a few days (a typical week is good, but even a few days here and there like a workday and a weekend is also effective) and jot down what you are doing and the time spent doing it. Don’t cheat - you’re the only one reading it anyway. How much time do you spend browsing facebook? Watching youtube videos? How much time is devoted to directly interacting with your kids/family? Going out to clubs/bars? Watching TV/movies? Housekeeping? Exercise? Prayer/meditation? Reading? Studying? Your hobbies? Playing video games? No judgement here, just the facts. When you’re done logging, add up the time for each category.
Prioritize your time. Go through your log and highlight the things that are most important to you. Create a time budget. You likely have anywhere from 16-18 hours of wake time per day. (If more, please aim to get more sleep, it’s important.) You don’t need to completely eliminate any of those things, but you can increase and decrease the time allotted for each activity. Not spending enough time with your kids? Try to increase it a bit. Spending way too much time browsing facebook and youtube? Reduce it. Then figure out where your dreams and goals fit in. For me, I’ve nearly cut out all my TV time - unless I can find a way to be productive while watching a show (such as needle felting, jotting things down in my bullet journal, sewing, crocheting) I tend to leave it for the other members of the household. If you’re a parent, I guarantee you have some time to yourself either before the kids are up, after they go to bed, or if they’re older, while they’re doing their homework or other activities.
Simplify your life, especially if excess clutter is stressing you out. If you’re a parent and you find you’re constantly picking up toys, reduce the number of toys the kids have access to at a time. If you are constantly tripping over clutter, I highly recommend Konmari. You will find that the less stuff you have, the less time you need to spend cleaning it all up, and the more time you have to devote to more important things on your list.
Use a planner. This isn’t just to jot down your important meetings and appointments. Use it to hold yourself accountable to the tasks that are most important to you. I currently use two planners at the same time - my Happy Planner with a calendar for a better overview of my family’s schedules, appointments, and my most important tasks, and my bullet journal for a more detailed list of tasks, a monthly tracker, my notes, ideas, aspirations, quotes, memories, etc.
Treat it like it’s your job. As with anything, the more time you put into it, the more you’ll get out of it. Do one of your goals include passive income? You need to put the time into creating material that you can monetize. Is your dream to be an artist? Start calling yourself one and do the work. If I am in the middle of working on something (be it my art, design, freelancing, etc.) I let the members of my family know I am working. I’m not just working on a hobby, I am doing my job.
Bonus step: Multitask! After all is said and done, this is probably the one that has helped me the most. If you still really need that time to relax and lounge in front of the TV, bring your art, your planner, or even your social media time into the mix. Watch your show while you figure out what you need to do the next day. Chat with your friends while you’re writing your blog post (as a bonus, you can ask them for feedback on what you’re writing). Listen to audiobooks or podcasts while driving or cleaning house. Have the laundry going all day as you get other things done. And if you have children, get them involved, especially if you’re an aspiring artist. You don’t really need those gadgets that promise to raise their IQ scores - all they need is a sketchbook and some art tools. So if you’re working with your paints, give them paper and their own paint set. Working with polymer clay? Break out the play-doh. Making jewelry? Give them some beads and string to make their own. If you’re a woodworker working on a project, give them a wood block, a hammer and some nails (after going over some safety rules). Love to bake? Read the ingredient list out loud to them, teach them how to crack an egg, measure ingredients, and mix. Not to mention, this also counts towards spending time with your kids and is an excellent bonding experience. Maybe someday they will share your interests and follow in your footsteps, and you’ve just laid a strong foundation for a future friendship with your child long after they’re grown and out of the house.
Hopefully, if you follow these steps, you will find that you had the time all along. What are some ways that help you make time for your art?