Busy-ness (not to be confused with the Business) is - if everyone is to be believed - the Number 1 Cause of Nothing-Ever-Happening. That’s right, simply being busy.
“But Michael, everyone I know is busy. I mean, I know I’m busy. All the time!”
I hear you and I understand what you’re saying, but I’m going to let in you on a secret that I was given which has truly changed the way I think about time and productivity. You ready?
The Limit Does Not Exist
That’s right, Cady, there isn’t actually a limitation on your time called “being busy.”
“But how can that be?”
One of the best pieces of wisdom I have ever received was this:
“Wait wait wait. You’re telling me that my job, my obligations, my bills, my family, my friends and all of that don’t count???”
Not at all! I would certainly never say that our life obligations do not count. The facts of life are that we have 24 hours in a day to do everything that we need to do - much of which is purely for survival - and hopefully catch some sleep somewhere in there. But I will tell you that there is flexibility in your schedule, whether you believe it now or not.
I mean this in two ways:
Create time - As artists we feel a need to make things, create things, and work in our chosen fields. And if we don’t get the chance, we feel starved and depressed and disconnected from the world. Therefore, we need time to create.
Create time - And here’s the big one. Although we cannot magically add more hours to the day, we can choose how we spend them. There is built-in flexibility to the day that you can actively manipulate to give yourself more time to create.
I’ll begin with a personal story:
It was 2014 and I was going to turn over a new leaf of creativity. The time had come! I felt I wasn’t doing enough writing, which is what I loved to do most throughout the year. I was about to appear onstage professionally that coming summer for the first time in a couple years, which was incredibly exciting, and I had all of this pent up artistic energy that I was dying to release in the meantime. Therefore, it was time to do more writing!
But I just couldn’t find the time.
So, like any 25 year-old, I was complaining of this dilemma to a friend of mine who cut me off, stared at me, and said:
“Schedule it. Just schedule it.”
Immediately my brain went off with defenses - mostly because I pride myself on being an excellent scheduler, so therefore this seemed impossible. I can’t because:
The only time I have is mornings/early afternoons before work
But that’s the time I use to rejuvenate
Plus when else am I going to read the news and catch up on the world?
And I’ve got a nice social media routine going on
And I just started getting back to working out, I wouldn’t want to mess that up
Plus I’m just so tired in the mornings from working late
And that means getting out of bed earlier
And I’m terrible at getting out of bed
Especially when it’s cold and right now it’s winter
So this couldn’t possibly work.
Uh huh. Yup. Sound familiar? Or something similar?
But there it was - I had actually laid it all out for myself. Instead of prioritizing a block of writing during my week or a little bit of writing every day, I was instead giving priority to: More Sleep, Social Media, Reading hours of News, Working Out daily, and Resting My Brain.
And all of these things actually provide flexibility.
Sleep - 8 hours was plenty for me (usually), so this could be cut back.
Social Media - If you turn it off after looking at the “essentials,” it’s no longer a distraction.
News - Headline news from a few sources in our breaking-news-world is enough. It wasn’t really doing anyone favors for me to dig around the depths of the media - I don’t have enough followers for that and shouldn’t kid myself.
Working Out - I do home workouts (gyms are way too expensive for me), so this really isn’t a problem. Just an excuse.
Resting My Brain - Isn’t that exactly what after-work Netflix is for? Yep. And I do that already.
So, I came up with a plan. ***Disclaimer: this works well for me, but everyone is different!***
I realized that I could easily schedule 2 hours/day, 5 days/week without sacrificing anything necessary. Did it mean cutting back on some things I enjoyed doing? Absolutely. But my productivity shot through the roof! Not only did I begin writing more, I also started applying to more jobs, submitting my shows more frequently, researching more about the industry, learning about myself as an artist, and moving my career forward.
I still had my weekends. I still had plenty of social time. I still watched Netflix and worked out and read the news. And I no longer felt guilty about not doing artistic work during my non-scheduled hours!
Priorities were the key.
So, What About You?
Firstly, I want to be perfectly clear about this, I am aware of my privilege.
I would like to acknowledge that I am a white, cisgender male from an actively supportive middle-class family who has a good job in the arts and no dependents or extenuating circumstances. I am lucky beyond lucky. Not everyone has what I have, and therefore I have a great deal of flexibility to make 10 hours/week happen.
But what about 30 minutes/day, 2 days/week? Is that possible? Or even 15 minutes once per week? Can you re-prioritize one thing to make sure you are practicing your craft even just a little more than you are today?
I hope you can, because this world needs more of your art. Whatever you create, we need more of it. And if this post helped you along the way to your next project, my heart will be gladdened. You and your art are worth it.