Monday, December 9, 2013

Making Space for (Fill in the Blank) in a Crowded Life

Today is my day off -- one of my two days off a week. 
            I make a living as a writing coach.  I coach in hour-and-a-half-long appointments and for the first few years of coaching I did two of those a day, five days a week, and fit writing in around the edges.  I kept sort of hoping that something would come along so I could work less and have more time to write – i.e., that I’d sell a book or find some other magical way of making money and not have to work as much.  Then about four months ago it came to me that I didn’t have to wait for a version of retirement to do what I wanted (i.e., have more time to write):  I could just look at my life as it is now and try to figure out a way to make time, harness time, change some things around, so I could fit in writing now instead of thinking I’d do it some time in the distant future. So that’s what I did.  I looked at my schedule and decided I could consolidate my coaching appointments into three days a week, and I now I have two days off in the middle of my week to focus on writing.
(I sort of hate the idea of out-and-out giving advice; I prefer to share my own experience about what did and didn’t work for me.  But it’s come to my attention that most bloggers do seem to cut to the chase/advice and I’ve heard that people like to read lists, or at least that the people who let you post your blog on their websites like lists, so here’s the beginning of mine):

Harnessing time bullet point number one:  If you think you have to wait till retirement or conditions improve to start doing something you want to do, think again.  Sit down, take a detailed look at how you’re spending your time now, and play with ways to change stuff around.  Do this until you find a painless way to fit in at least some of that thing, now.  Consider:  What’s expendable or flexible in what you’re doing now?  At first you might think the answer to that is nothing, there’s no leeway at all in your current life/schedule, but ignore that thought/feeling.)
Now that I have two days off to write in the middle of the week, I’m getting a lot more writing done, I’m a lot happier, and I’m even enjoying my coaching more because on the days when I’m doing it I feel less pressure to focus on writing too.  Now the main problem I have is the special problem of the day off, something I’ve wrestled with before.  (See The Special Challenge of the Day Off and Another Special Challenge of the Day Off.)
There are two main challenges on the days I’ve set aside for writing:
 1.  Using them for writing instead of filling them up with other stuff I can’t get to on the days when I’m coaching, then squeezing in a little writing around the edges, and
2.  Feeling like I should be writing more than I am (because after all I took the day off for it) and then feeling crabby, rushed, pressured, etc., because of that original should feeling.

Bullet point number two:  After you’ve figure out a way to make time (harness time) to do what you want to do, don’t give that time away if you can possibly help it.  Remember, there’s always time for everything, so there will be time to do what’s threatening to get in the way of your ________ (fill in the blank, for me it’s writing), some other time.  All you have to do is look at your calendar and find another time to ________ (fill in the blank, e.g., catch up with emailing, return some phone calls, take out the garbage and wash the kitchen floor because company is coming, make an appointment with the dog groomer and/or take the dog to the groomer because company is coming), and perhaps write those things down on your daily planner and communicate them to someone else. 

Bullet point number three:  Try to feel good about doing any amount of __________ that you do during the time you’ve set aside for it. Feel good about the very fact that you’ve found space in your life for (harnessed time you can use for)_______, and if for whatever reason you just couldn't use that time today, you can always use it another day.  Try to let go of all guilt, including guilt about not doing enough or any __________, guilt about not doing whatever you could or should be doing instead of ___________, and guilt about feeling guilty. 
                                                            -- Mary Allen