Friday, June 29, 2012

Stealing Time

I work best when I have a large chunk of uninterrupted time to focus on a project.  In fact, in that case, I'm unstoppable.  I don't multi-task well, and I've known that for a while, so I try to focus on one thing at a time until a good stopping point comes along.

This is difficult in a workplace with a LOT of meetings.  Most of my focused work happens earlier in the morning before everyone shows up, or late afternoon after the myriad meetings.   Sometimes I need to take time in the evening to really focus when it's quiet and empty.

But, as parents know, huge chunks of uninterrupted time on weekends for personal projects is hard to come by.  Especially with a baby or toddler who can't yet get out of bed on their own, fix their own meals, or even dress themselves.  Nevermind being able to go to the bathroom alone or trusting her to sit and read a book or play alone for hours at a stretch.

Lately I've been CONSUMED (obsessed?) with crafty projects.  I have four things I'm working on (actively) right now:  Project Life, my first mini scrapbook album made from scratch, a birthday gift for my mom (secret!), and an album kit from ScrapScriptions.  I switch off between them depending on my mood, what the next step is and *how much time I have*.

Which is often not enough by a long shot.  I could sit and work for 5-6 hours easily, when I am inspired.  But I *never* have that much free time at a stretch.  When T is at preschool, I'm at work.  Occasionally we'll drop her off at my parents' place for a morning or afternoon (woot) but not for the whole day, because *we* want to hang out with her, and her schedule is surprisingly full for a toddler.

After tilting at this immutable parenting windmill for 2.5 years, I am finally starting to figure it out.  For now, while I have small children, I just won't have those whole days to dedicate to my craft or  my other leisure pursuits.  I can't sit around waiting for the "perfect day" or that big uninterrupted chunk of time because it will NEVER come.

So I've resorted to "stealing time" when I can.  As soon as she goes down for a nap, I head to the craft room.  No idly checking email or Facebook, which can stretch from 2 minutes into an hour easily.  No quick loads of laundry or dishes, unless I'm intentionally doing that particular task right then.  (I like to save my toddler-free time for more exciting things than house chores.)

After she goes to bed (thankfully at 7pm), it's the same story.  I pick a project and get to work and then I can put in at least 3 hours before I need to sleep. 

Remarkably, my obsession about these projects has even carried over to the morning and I am NOT a morning person.  TJ typically takes most of the morning toddler duty, so if I get up just a bit before she does, I can get in 30 minutes to an hour of crafty goodness, and even squeeze in a tiny bit of treadmill walking, all before getting ready for work.  I was also inspired to try this by Laura Vanderkam's awesome new e-book, What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast.

I've also thought about how to break down the projects, so while T is playing by herself or doing her own art project, I can bring something upstairs and work on it next to her.  This way I'm making progress with the time available rather than waiting for that perfect time to materialize.

And to that point, here I am at the doctor's office, 45 minutes into my 2 hour glucose tolerance test, finishing up a blog post.  I've already checked my work and personal emails, and will also be able to squeeze in some Morning Pages.  Woot!

How do you steal time to do the things you want to do?


  1. They do get better at entertaining themselves. Otherwise we wouldn't be having a second!

    1. ooh, can't wait. i guess that'll be about 5 years from now after #2 is old enough to entertain herself.

    2. I know! Sometimes I wonder what we've gotten ourselves into. But it will be worth it.
      And I'm told when you have more than one, they sometimes entertain each other.

    3. Yes, they do entertain each other. Mine are 4.5 and 2.5 and they're really good at it.

    4. I'm hoping they do EVENTUALLY entertain each other. Right now, they just "bother" each other and I'm spending all day "saving" the 2.5 year old from the 8 month old that just wants to play with him (if I don't jump in, 8 month old gets whacked on the head)

  2. I find that my little ones entertain themselves best when I am doing non-crafty things or not on the computer. Therefore, I can do laundry, sweep, cook a little while they read and play but I have to save the scrapbooking for naptime and bedtime. I do try to actively limit my computer/phone time, otherwise it will suck up all my free time. It is remarkable how similar we are on this issue!

  3. ps- I use the regular Sil software, did not spring for the designer version. Though, maybe I should? I love the look of print and cut, though, not all digi designs are suitable for it. YOu have to play around with the settings.

    1. Thanks! I'm still trying to figure out/calibrate where on the mat the Sil will cut. I had the wrong setting for a while so had to leave huge margins to make sure it was right. I'm hoping that issue has gone away now :)

      I used print and cut for my daughter's birthday invites, and that was really easy.

  4. My older two can play together and entertain themselves for a long time. I sometimes ponder, if I hadn't gone and had a third kid, what I'd be doing with all my free time right now. But seriously, I've found that when I have something I really *want* to do, I miraculously find time to do it. When I get really absorbed in a book, I somehow find 8+ hours on a weekend to read. But if you asked me if I had time to read, I'd probably deny it. (Glad you liked the ebook, btw)

  5. I love reading and I think I steal time for this by doing it at work. I'm reading your blog right now when I should be working! Obviously most of this is done at my lunch hour but I do sneak in reading breaks on less busy work days. I probably should read Laura's before breakfast book because I can always use time management tips.


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