Jan 232016
 

If you had told me, back in August when I started a full-time job, that my life would turn upside down, I wouldn’t have believed you.

“I’ll have time to blog,” I told myself. “After all, I’ve been working at home the equivalent of full-time—writing, crafting and volunteering.”

What I hadn’t counted on was how tired I would be at the end of the day, and how few hours would be left before bedtime for household tasks, socializing with my husband, and running my Etsy business.

My number one goal this year is to try to get back into some semblance of a blogging schedule, which means old strategies need to be reviewed, and new strategies may be in order. Time management is a topic I have discussed previously in these posts:

I must admit, however, that things look different when you’re on someone else’s clock for the better part of the day. After giving this some thought, here are three strategies that I think will work for anyone who wants to blog while working full-time away from home.

Image courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Find your focus

When you have limited time to write, knowing ahead of time what your focus will be is invaluable. In her article, Tips for Creating Catchy Headlines, Lauren Hooker of Elle & Company suggests you direct your attention to the title of your post.

It’s helpful to have a goal in mind as you’re writing your post. Creating your headline first helps you set that goal and maintain your focus; it gives you a reference point and a purpose to work toward.”

If you’re stumped for ideas about a title for your post, Lauren includes a handy list of title-starters that will solve that issue:

  • How to (Desired Result)
  • (Number) Reasons __________
  • What Every __________ Should Know About __________
  • Why __________ is __________
  • (Number) Ways to Avoid __________
  • My (Adjective) Way for __________
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Save the leftovers

You’ve probably heard it said previously that people today want their information quickly in short bursts, which leads to a recommendation that you keep your blog posts short, with short being defined many different ways. On the other hand, according to Shelly Pringle in Blogging Best Practices: The Ideal Length for the Perfect Blog Post, “After a lot of research I eventually found the answer: longer content tends to rank higher in search engine results pages, attract more inbound links, get more social shares and convert better.” But in terms of the time you have to write versus the length of your blog post, it probably serves your purposes well to say what you have to say, and if you have a lot more to discuss about your topic, save it for another day and another post. Find another point of view, an angle you haven’t covered, or a connection to something else, and spin that into another post. You can even promise your readers a follow-up post in the near future, giving them something to anticipate. Your posts, especially if you have limited time to write, don’t need to be encyclopedic in length, breadth and depth.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Throw out the “buts”

When you lead a busy life, it’s altogether too easy to tell yourself you would write more, but you simply don’t have enough time. Very few people have the luxury of large chunks of time that they can devote to writing. In her book, Writer with a Day Job, Áine Greaney says that the word “but” signals what we cannot do. In other words, it’s negative thinking. She says you should instead challenge yourself with but’s opposite, the word “can.”

“Okay,” she writes, “what can you do? Can you write for 10 minutes every morning?”

I decided to accept Áine’s challenge by taking my laptop to work several days of the week to write this post. I usually have 10 to 20 minutes left after I eat lunch, and discovered you can write an amazing number of words if you allow yourself to focus on nothing but your writing, even if you only have a few minutes each day.

For the typical nine-to-fiver, Áine suggests you set objectives for yourself that are achievable, measurable, and clearly stated. For example, you might promise yourself that you will write a single blog post each week during your lunch hour. Even if you’re only writing for a few minutes each day, your post is getting longer and you’ll eventually finish it.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Blogging is tough to fit into your schedule even if you don’t work full-time at another job. Your life may simply be filled with many other demands. “The key,” according to How to find time to write while you work, “is letting go of the idea of a perfect, unblemished block of time for your writing and looking for new strategies that will give you 30 to 60 extra minutes per day.”

If you work full-time away from home, how do you fit blogging into your schedule?

© 2016 Judy Nolan. All rights reserved.

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May 292015
 

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 FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of jesadaphorn at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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 FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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 FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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 FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of smarnad at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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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