Something that I get a lot from people in regards to my hobbies (particularly sewing) is questions around how the hell I manage to do it all. They come in the form of the following questions/statements:
- “Wow! You are so creative and have so many interests. How do you balance everything?”
- “It’s amazing that you can do all of that while working full-time.”
- “Well you’re just so busy busy busy aren’t you?”
And then there’s the rare but personal favorite: “I don’t understand how you have time for all of that. I can barely keep track of X,Y,Z.” Whenever anyone says this it’s usually in a passive aggressive manner, as if that person is more busy or whatever than I am. I know all of these questions/statements are well meaning, but sometimes it forces me to think about how I really DO manage everything.
Here’s my personal philosophy on hobbies or really anything in life: we make time for the things that matter to us. I recently read “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck” by Mark Manson and one of the major points he makes is that over time, we get better at figuring out the things we actually “give a f*ck” about and the things we don’t “give a f*ck” about. For me, that’s my health, family, hobbies, home, and career.
Life is made up of a bunch of choices. We choose what we put our energy into. Anything that takes space in our schedules, we choose to make space for. Even if it’s doing absolutely nothing. It takes a lot of learning personal boundaries and how to say “no” to things (and even people) that we choose not to spend our energy on.
In a few days, I will be starting a new full-time job after a few months of job searching since we moved to Spokane. I’ll be a Senior Financial Analyst at a paper company (no, not Dunder Mifflin). I had a full-time job before that and managed to accomplish a lot of making. I had more time for making than I expected! I can attribute that to prioritization and strategy. It took a few years to really figure out what worked and what didn’t. Now, I would like to share what’s been working for me, in hopes that you find these strategies useful too!
A quick disclaimer – I am not perfect at doing these things 100% of the time. Life happens and quite often our plans get derailed. This is especially true for me as I have a chronic mental health condition that strikes out of nowhere and my only priorities for a few days to even a week are eating, sleeping, showering, and getting myself together enough so that I can go to work. The important thing to keep in mind is that these strategies are there to help us move forward and get back on track.
1. Change How You Speak & Think About Your Schedule & Hobbies
To me, our words and thoughts are everything. What we think and say out loud manifest in one way or another. For example, instead of saying or thinking things like, “I’m too busy,” or, “I don’t have time for that,” change the wording to, “I made plans for X, Y, and Z already,” or “that’s not a priority at the moment.”
It’s a simple tweak and shift in mindset, but it really does make a difference. It takes you from feeling like a victim of your own schedule to taking control over the things you choose to do with your time and actually enjoy them.
2. Assign Priority to Activities, Then Do the Time Consuming or Difficult Activities Before Everything Else
Personally, the things that are non-negotiable for me when I come home from work are to immediately set myself up for success the next day (pick my outfit, pack my lunch, hang my car keys on their assigned hook), exercise 3-4 times per week, and to take care of my 1-2 assigned chores for the day. Once those things are done, I can participate in my hobbies and whatever else I choose to do with my time.
Assigning priority to tasks helps to make sure the important things don’t slip through the cracks. It also helps to prevent what I like to call “procrasti-making” which is procrastinating high priority life things because we just want to make make make. By doing the high priority things before everything else, we can then enjoy the rest of the day without having those priorities hanging over our head. This is actually a strategy as outlined by Brian Tracy in his book Eat That Frog. I literally tell myself, “EAT THAT FROG, then you can sew.” It makes the situation feel more empowering and the tasks less daunting because I have something to look forward to when they are complete.
3. Practice Block Scheduling & Make Room for Free Time
If you were to ever see my calendar, I actually schedule blocks of time as calendar events to do laundry, sew, exercise, self-care, etc. This helps to set boundaries on accomplishing what I want to that day. It also allows room for flexibility – if I don’t get around to something that day that’s not urgent, I re-schedule it for another day. It helps that I can drag events and appointments around in my Google calendar.
On the flipside, It’s also important to leave room for “white space” which is free time to do whatever you feel like doing at the time. We can’t schedule everything in our lives and we have to leave room for flexibility too!
4. Create Bite-Sized Tasks to Accomplish Projects
Sometimes on a given weekday I only have 15-30 minutes to do any sewing. So before I start a project, I make a list of every single task that I need to do in order to finish a garment. This could be as simple as something like ‘sew the left side seam’. If you are a paper-crafter it could be something like ‘glue a flower on card’. Simple. Bite Sized. Easy to Accomplish.
And guess what? Those little things add up to create something bigger! And because I clearly learn everything from books these days, I learned this strategy from the book The Slight Edge by Brian Tracy. Small tasks and daily disciplines turn into success!
5. Multi-task When and Where You Can
Something that is important to me is sitting down with my husband every night to catch up on our favorite shows. When I do this, I’m usually doing something mindless like hand-sewing, knitting, or cutting and taping a sewing pattern. He doesn’t mind that I do these things, as long as I don’t keep asking him to rewind because I missed something or explain what just happened (lol)! In fact, I find myself better absorbing what is going on in a movie or show because my hands are busy.
Find activities or pockets of time where you can multi-task. Heck, take your knitting/crochet/embroidery/card making project out in public. For example, the driver’s licensing office. I guarantee that you’ll be there for a while. Just don’t miss your number when you’re called – been there done that.
6. Don’t Be Too Hard on Yourself and Give Yourself Grace
Like I said in my disclaimer, life happens. Sometimes we get home from work or spending the day with our family and we are just way too damn tired to even do the things we typically enjoy doing. If it’s not happening that day, it’s totally acceptable to set it aside and do it another day. It’s not going anywhere and whatever it is will be waiting for you when you’re ready.
Whether you have a full-time job, part-time job, or you’re full-time at home with your kids, I hope these tips are helpful when it comes to making time for hobbies!
Also, if you have any strategies that you have found work well for you, PLEASE share! I’d love a nice long comment thread that everyone can use as a resource to find strategies that may work to make more time for the things that we enjoy.