One of the things that I often get asked is: "How do you find the time to do everything that you need to do - and still get to do things that you love to do?"
Quick answer: Shorten the gap between the 'need to do' things and the 'love to do' things!
In more concrete terms, here are some ideas:
1) Identify what you really, really love to do. Make a list. It doesn't matter if your list looks too long or too short. Don't deny what your heart desires. It really amazes me how many people can't name the things that they want to do - if money, time, or effort were no object. I have met folks who dream of winning the lottery or getting to retirement. But, when I ask them what they'd do if they end up with all the time and money in the world that they'd ever need, they can't seem to say what they'd be doing. So, I think it's really key to name those things that you've always wished and dreamt of doing.
If nothing comes to mind right now, go further back. Explore your childhood. Play the "When I grow up, I want to be..." Game. It's incredible what to discover your true hopes and dreams, when viewed through your younger self.
Just the other day, I was reading my old journal from about a decade ago. And, it just reminded what really matters to me. You see, some of the things that I've wanted to do back then no longer seem to matter much to me right now. Some dreams are so persistent, that I still long for them. And, I know that the latter type of hopes and dreams are ones that I should pay close attention to - and do something about.
2) Commit some time to doing something you love. Everyday. I know, I know... This seems to be the biggest hindrance for most people. If I got a dollar for every "If I had more time, I will..." sentiment I've read/heard... then I'd be a very rich woman. Truth is, we all could use more time. Goodness knows how much I try to squeeze out of every second! But, one thing I've learned over the years is: If I don't make the time to do something I love, I go mad. Seriously.
My husband knows this only too well. He knows that if I haven't painted/created/written (or done anything that's good for my soul), I start getting all weird and cranky. I become increasingly uneasy - and more difficult to live with. Even my work begins to suffer.
So, yeah, I do believe that making time for the things that you love to do is as important as eating, sleeping, breathing... Whether you notice it or not, it affects your total well being.
That's why I always encourage people to try and find that time. No matter how brief. 10 or 15 minutes a day may not seem much, but it's amazing what you can do if you make that conscious choice.
3) Make your tools accessible! Spread it all out. It really is difficult if you feel you need to have your own space for creating or doing the things you love. Often, this is just not possible. Also, there is that massive psychological barrier if you have to make that choice to sit down somewhere and "be creative" or something. I find that it's best just to leave a lot of stuff lying around the house (or your office). Not necessarily in a messy manner. Just keep a lot of your favourite tools available everywhere.
Leave a small container or box of 'goodies' (filled with stuff you like to use such as books, pens, notebooks, crayons, cameras, markers, knitting needles, yarn, etc) in various places. Have one in the car, on your bedside table, in the bathroom, in your purse, next to the telephone, on your dresser, in the lounge...
If a container or box is a bit much, just choose one or two things: a pen and notebook, a pencil and sketchbook, a favourite book or magazine...
Making things more accessible (as opposed to having take things out of their hiding places every time you need them) will just help in encouraging you to use them.
4) Work with a specific project in mind. One of the most difficult barriers to overcome when it comes to doing the things we love is the barrier of ambiguity. Often, we can say, "I'd love to paint." or "I'd love to start scrapbooking / jewelry making / (insert your interest of choice)." But, even when you find yourself with the time, the passion, and the materials - you might feel blocked, not knowing what exactly you need to do next.
In fact, this is something that I often encounter. Even in blogging, I still find myself sitting in front of my computer, wanting to blog - but instead, I end up all agitated and just surfing aimlessly, when I do not know exactly what I want to blog about.
The cure? Have a few project ideas ready! If you don't have a list yet, start one. If you don't want to work with lists, have some 'booster plans'. Booster plans involve basic steps to take just to get you going - like warm-up exercises.
For example, if you're longing to write, have some writing prompts ready. Go through them and work on the first prompt that catches your fancy. If you wish to cook, have some recipes to look at. Read through them and find inspiration - or just choose one at random and play. If you wish to paint or to sew or to do mosaics - get some idea books and peruse them every chance you get. Keep thinking of the ones that tickle your imagination the most and try it out.
Work with your project bit by bit. Don't allow yourself to be overwhelmed. Even if you're trying to make a mural of a beach scene - just do what you can given your time and energy constraints. If all you can paint in the day is a grain of sand - then celebrate that you're one grain closer than you were yesterday.
5) Allow yourself to experiment! Never mind mistakes. Don't worry about waste. You'll do better. Every time. And, even if you don't, it doesn't matter. The important thing is: You're doing something you love! Have fun.
By allowing yourself to do the things you love to do, you affirm yourself. You tell yourself that what you love to do is important. That you are important. And your life matters.
And, really, your boss, colleagues, friends, family and other loved ones will probably be grateful for it too. Especially if they end up with happier, healthier, more productive you.
Image source: yasin Ã¶ztÃ¼rk
Shai has been managing and blogging here at ShaiCoggins.com for 17 years. Here, she writes about creativity, productivity, and how to recharge for a better, happier lifestyle. She is the author of Today: Life Journal, Colour Bliss: Kaleidoscopes, and a little known children's book. A serial entrepreneur, Shai also currently runs Vervely.com, a boutique digital media agency offering online content, community, and conversion marketing services. Her blogging experience and digital work have been featured in various media, including being listed in Fast Company's "Most Influential Women in Technology" list. Originally from Manila, Shai lived in Singapore and the USA before moving to Australia with her British husband. They have two children, a pet bunny, and a rambunctious rescue Labrador.