How do you take time from your busy schedule to be creative? Whether you’re running from job to job, you have a day job that keeps you so busy you don’t dare take your lunch hour, or you have so many errands to run that you can’t even see straight, the bottom line is that you may feel you have neither time nor energy to spare for creativity. You walk into your sewing room and see the fabrics piled on a shelf a year ago for a project you know will take hours, but you simply can’t spare that length of time. It can be overwhelming to have so many tasks on your to-do list—so overwhelming, in fact, that you don’t know where to start. And then you don’t start at all, and you feel even more tired and discouraged.

Image courtesy of jesadaphorn at
Image courtesy of jesadaphorn at

For me, the challenge is not coming up with creative ideas, but finding time to explore all of them. So, what’s the solution for finding more time to be creative? Here are a few strategies to help you get back into the creative groove when you’re feeling overwhelmed by other, usually more mundane tasks. At the end of this post are some links to related posts, if you need additional suggestions. Obviously, I need help myself, since I have written about this topic more than once!

Arrange your most frequently used tools and supplies within arm’s reach. This allows you to be efficient and productive during whatever time you may have available, however short that may be. I don’t put away all of my tools after each work session, for example. Instead, I have a basket filled with my most frequently used tools. This is moved to my work space (usually the kitchen table).

Tool basket

Additionally, I use a compartmentalized Oreo cookie package insert for my books and a few supplies that are “in process.” This enables me to get right to work, without a lot of preparation, when inspiration strikes.

This "basket" is actually the plastic insert from a package of Oreo cookies. So many of the items we purchase can be re-purposed!
This “basket” is actually the plastic insert from a package of Oreo cookies. So many of the consumable items we purchase can be re-purposed!

Break down your project into parts, and pull a Nancy Zieman. What do I mean by this? On my bookshelf I have a series of how-to books written by sewing guru and video host Nancy Zieman, all of which suggest setting aside a short period each day to attack part of a project, instead of several hours. A couple of the titles include 10-20-30 Minutes to Sew and 10-20-30 Minutes to Sew for Your Home—both of which point out that when you spend 10, 20, or 30 minutes a day toward a specific goal, those minutes add up. “Like you,” says Nancy Zieman, “I struggle to find time to sew. Yet I find that even on busy days, I can free up 10, 20, or 30 minutes.” Before you know it, your project will be done, and you’ll be ready to begin another.

Nancy Zieman books

Set aside non-essential tasks for another day. Ask yourself if anyone besides you will notice the dust collecting on top of the bookshelf or the piano. Lots of laundry to do? Put if off for an afternoon or a day. In a pinch, you can wear a garment a second day so that you can work on a creative project instead. Better yet, delegate household tasks when you can; things don’t have to be perfect, and you don’t have to do it all yourself.

“You want to create art,” say Cherie Haas in An Easy Way to Make Art. “You want to express yourself and make beautiful things. It’s as important as any other aspect of your life, because it is who you are. There’s a lot of pressure on us to prioritize our lives, to put other people first, to keep our living space immaculate, to have perfect nails. But when you have a project to create, you’ll find that the household things can fill your day quicker than you can say ‘domestic.'”

Clothes hamper

Exchange favors, or get the kids involved. If you’re a stay-at-home parent who just can’t get personal time away from the kids, offer to trade child care responsibilities with a friend in the same situation. You can take her kids for an afternoon, and she can return the favor. If that’s not a possibility, or you’re simply uncomfortable with an exchange, get the kids involved in a simple art project while you create (something else) beside them. Who knows? Your creativity and theirs may rub off each other. And if you can afford it, hire a babysitter to keep your children occupied while you create.

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at
Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at

Work when everyone else is asleep. Set your alarm clock so you can rise 30 to 60 minutes before everyone else, and resist the temptation to do household work during that period. Or, stay up 30 to 60 minutes longer than everyone else. If your children nap, use that time to tackle your creative project: drawing, writing, needlework, or whatever your creative niche may be. Remember that you don’t have to complete the entire project, only make some progress toward your ultimate goal!

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at
Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at

Stop the electronic train. Turn off your mobile devices and power down your laptop. If you need your laptop for your creative project, stay away from e-mail, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and basically all social networks. In fact, limit the length of time each day or week that you spend on social networks; this is precious time that you can convert to creative minutes. Ask yourself if there is a television show you can live without to scrape up time to create.

Image courtesy of smarnad at
Image courtesy of smarnad at

Take the long view, and record your progress. To encourage yourself to follow the suggestions in this post, keep a record of what works. Keep a diary that acts as a creativity time clock—record the minutes and times of day you are working on a project, and what you have accomplished. Add up the minutes each month, and pat yourself on the back. Or, keep a journal of completed projects, filled with photos, such as the beautiful one below by Kalona Creativity. You’ll be amazed by how much you complete, when you tune out the distractions. Reward yourself at intervals by buying yourself a gift: an inspirational craft book, a new set of pastels, some specialty beads, or ribbon trims or threads in your favorite colors.

Journal by Kalona Creativity
Journal by Kalona Creativity

Need some other suggestions for carving out time for creativity? You may find these previous posts I wrote helpful:

Do you have other ideas for finding time to create? Share them in the comments below.

© 2015 Judy Nolan. All rights reserved.

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1 thought on “Too frazzled to create?”

  1. Great post, Judy. I already get up early and stay up late, and my housekeeping standards are embarrassingly. But I will try the 10-20-30 plan, and try to impose more reasonable limits on social media time.

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