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Shelley Bassett

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How to make time for creative projects


February 15, 2019

How do you make time for creative projects while also balancing work, family and personal commitments? I've got a few ideas to help.

It can be really hard to make time for creative projects. Be it a side hustle, new skill, or simply just an emotional outlet, being a little creative is good for the soul. But finding the time to pursue these interests can sometimes feel like a task in itself.

Recently, I’ve found myself struggling to balance this blog and my artistic inclinations with a full time job. But a few small changes have already made a big impact.

Make, don’t find, time

This point is first because it is simply the most important. If you’re waiting to find time, the perfect moment, or the right place; give up now. It’s not going to happen. There’s always going to be something else on TV, another email to answer or more household chores to be done. If you start waiting until you have time, you’ll be waiting forever.

Instead, make time. Actively carve out part of your day or week as dedicated time to work on your projects. Choose a time that works best for you. It took me a while to discover that I could achieve more by getting up earlier than I could by trying to force myself to do more work after getting home from my day job.

Making time for creative projects is just that; an active decision to create something at a specified time.

Making time for creative projects with a schedule
Making time for creative projects with a schedule

Have a routine

I didn’t think routines were important until I decided to focus more deeply on this website. I quickly found that I wasn’t sleeping enough or was staying in bed too late. I was perpetually stressed, and every moment I wasn’t working on something I was anxious about it.

If this is you, try redefining your routine. I now aim to get up much earlier and work while having breakfast. Then, in the evening, I’m able to relax and not feel guilty for being restful.

Find support and accountability

This tip might take different forms depending on your life circumstances, but I’ve found the best way to make time for creative projects is to rely on my support network. Positive vibes from those close to us keeps the motivation going. And when needed, our loved ones may be able to step in and help with day-to-day chores, helping free up some much needed time.

Don’t be afraid to let friends and family members know that you need to make time for creative projects. Ask for help, or time alone. They want you to succeed and be happy too. Just remember, if they call on you, you must also be willing to return the favour.

A little landscape painting in gouache
A little landscape painting in gouache

Don’t bite off more than you can chew

When talking about making time for creative projects, it’s often easy to be swept into the fantasy that you can work solidly on what you planned for the entire duration you set aside. Sadly, this is almost never true.

No matter how big or small the project I’m trying to finish, I now only start sections I know I can realistically achieve in the time I’ve managed to carve out. This means that I don’t do web design in the mornings before work, because I will inevitably find an error and end up running late because I was focused on fixing it.

Painting is another outlet that brings me joy, but I don’t start a piece unless I have a few hours spare. It just takes too much time to set up and then clean up. Instead, I might use watercolour pencils, or even just work on sketching and compositions. Make the time you have work for you.

Take advantage of every spare moment

I’m still working on this one. I often find myself scrolling through social media, only to pause and think, “could I be doing something more productive with this time?”. Sometimes the answer is no, I needed a break. But sometimes the answer is yes.

We all waste time. It’s part of how our brains work. But it’s what we do when we catch ourselves being unproductive that’s important. Instead of sitting on the couch playing games on my phone while watching junk TV, I try to work in my sketchbook (while still watching the junk TV). I say try. I still play games on my phone a lot.

It’s not a perfect system. But every moment I can make time for creative projects is a victory. And the little moments quickly add up to achieving something quite remarkable.

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