If I was given a quarter every time I wished for a magic wand to bibbidi bobbidi boo a problem away, both of us could retire, rich and fabulous. From calendars that have a life of their own, to toddlers who won’t nap, to dinner that rejects our silent pleas to magically appear on the table, if life doesn’t run smoothly, it hinders our creativity and focus. While everyone has their own ways to be productive, stepping back and creating a plan to manage all aspects of our life is an easy way to unleash our creativity.
Our brains can only juggle so many thoughts at a time. After my brain injury, my almost photographic memory vanished. As someone who could remember every calendar appointment six-months on either side of today, in the space of moments, I didn’t know what day it was. Productivity and creativity changed radically for me.
Many, many months after the accident, when I wasn’t sleeping fourteen-plus hours a day, I tried to complete ordinary tasks the way I always had. I ended up frustrated. My to do list wouldn’t budge. I lost precious time before I finally accepted I would never be the pre-accident version of me again.
I came to embrace little things add up – both the nuisances and good habits. Small steps forward everyday add up to big accomplishments after several months. I’ve also learned to quadruple the time I think a project will take, then add another twelve hours, or days, depending on the scale.
Some people think I’m Wonder Women. No. I get tired and busy and let routines slide like everyone else. After major changes over the last two decades, I usually catch my pattern before things get too crazy, but the struggle is real. When I realize I’m up to my eyeballs in laundry or clutter without a morsel in the house to eat, I take a day and dig out. I’ve got a system to get things back under control.
My system might help you make the time to jump start your writing dreams. Take a peek.
Food. Clothing. Shelter. Rest. Before we can move forward with our dreams, we need to have the everyday tasks managed and handled. It generates too much guilt when we dive into our dreams while leaving the basics undone. To start, let’s focus on what’s important: food, clothing, shelter, and rest.
I could wax poetic for days about the importance of feeling comfortable at home. Suffice it to say, most people prefer a clean, clutter-free environment. Simple steps help get us one.
When I'm buried and need to reset, the first thing I do is toss in a load of laundry. If there are dishes to be done, they get handled. Then I clean out the fridge and make a rough week’s menu and grocery list. You can’t focus if you’re hungry, or the howling hordes are dancing at your feet because they are hungry. It also helps to have your favorite outfit freshly laundered and waiting to wear when you tackle tomorrow. (What we wear really does affect our productivity.)
Next, I swap the laundry, change bed sheets, and grab some paper to make lists of things that remain. I also make sure no pressing paperwork is due. After several quick lists are finished, I sweep the kitchen floor, quickly scrub the high traffic areas, and get a kiddo to vacuum the rest of the house. There is something invigorating about clean floors.
A quick wipe of the bathroom sink and swish of the toilet make a huge difference too. Then I pick a horizontal surface that will benefit most by attention and take fifteen minutes to purge it. When all that’s done, I always feel better. Finally, I head out for a quick grocery shop. I try to alternate physical and mental tasks to give my mind a chance to rest.
If you’re like me, things get out of hand when you’re busy. And when you’re busy, you keep going in spite of being tired. Try for an early bedtime or a twenty-minute nap for the next day or so. Rest makes all the difference. On the other hand, rest can also be meditation and taking a moment for yourself. Sometimes centering ourselves through prayer or a quiet moment rejuvenates us in ways we never expected.
You can’t add writing to your schedule if you don’t remove something. We only have so many hours each day. If we fill our time doing things we’re only half-committed to, or worse, doing them because someone else thinks we should, we won’t have time for the things we love and want to do. To pursue your writing dreams, you need to take a hard and honest look at your schedule.
The most important things in life need a place on your calendar: significant other, family, friends, education, work, rest and relaxation, time to manage personal matters, and recreation. If we don’t make time for them, they drift away, and some are lost forever. If you don’t schedule your dreams, you won’t have time for them either.
Now is the time to evaluation your volunteer obligations or hobbies that no longer inspire you. The places you invest your time may be good causes, but you need to consider if they are best. Any time you substitute an acceptable situation for the one you really, really want, everyone loses.
It might be hard to say no to fundraisers or church ministries, but if those opportunities won’t make your family better or bring you closer, the best answer is no. Giving up a couple activities now, so you can say yes to something later, is worth it.
Create a simple plan with realistic steps. Without a plan, we will never be able to achieve our dreams. Without goals, our dreams are only wishes. Without practical steps, we can’t reach our goals. And without day-to-day tasks accomplished, we will struggle to achieve the success we desire. The easiest way I’ve found to make any of it happen is to create repeating routines and set manageable goals at appropriate times.
Once we clear our schedule, it’s time to add what matters. There are certain mundane tasks that need to be done each day. The old children’s rhyme “Wash on Mondays, Iron on Tuesday, Bake on Wednesday…” had a lot going for it. While it’s unlikely to work for many modern women, the underlying principle is still a solid idea: make a time for everything that needs to be done and every relationship you want in your life. I take the spirit of the rhyme and routinely schedule tasks into a repeating cycle that assures I don’t miss anything important.
Managing our everyday lives is so important as we seek to move towards our writing dreams. While some women are inspired by chaos, the rest of us need order. Plan accordingly.
When our brains become familiar with the patterns of our routine, it frees creativity. We no longer need to use creative energy to remind ourselves to remember something that should have already been done. The rhythm of daily life becomes a haven for inspiration. I don’t know about you, but I can use more of that in my life.
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