Making Every Second Count

My Day Sheets
I spent a good chunk of my days, during my dayjob, dreaming of all the things I would do if I got the chance to stay at home for an unlimited amount of time. I prayed for that day when I could bid the daily grind goodbye and start hitting all the household projects, books and spiritual practices I neglected due to insane work hours, long commutes and stress. I vowed to get in shape, write more and become more artistic. And after spending 5 long years at a job that made me feel depleted at a company I liked, I finally got my chance last month. I quit.

And now, I have all the time in the world to focus on those vows and projects. Except, I find myself waffling on all those things I dreamt of filling my days with. Instead I find all these other little things to do. I did great on that first Monday I did not have to wake up at 5 a.m. and commute into work. I got the laundry in order, exercised, organized some items in my Studio and read half of a new book. It’s just somewhere between the second day and now where I lost motivation. For example, instead of reading books, I spend time online chatting to friends and family. Instead of writing my D*I*Y Planner articles earlier and stockpiling them up over time so I can have Doug read over them, I find ways to wait until the day before they are due. I feel overwhelmed and not sure how I got here. What happened to my carefully thought out new life? Where’d all my new projects go?

What happened was that I went from a structured day to a chaotic, structureless day where I could spend hours online or staring off into space. What needs to happen now is to wrangle all these hours I now have and give them boundaries and tasks. I needed to gain back a bit of discipline and structure going to a day job instilled in me over all these years. Wouldn’t you know it, the D*I*Y Calendar pages come in handy just for this purpose. With printouts of pages 4 and 10 of the Calendar pack, I’m now ready to design and implement my ideal work week where I spend more time working on the things that matter to me and improve myself and less on those things that promote procrastination. It’s time to make every second count. If you’re following along with me, go ahead and print out a sheet or two of the Day Keeper sheets, maybe a Weekly Planning sheet and grab your project/to-do list.

Before writing a single word, I think about what each day should bring me, what activities should I be doing and how does it make me feel. What activities and chores go on Monday? What appointments have to happen by Friday? With a clear picture in my head, I start wrangling back my time. Since Monday is the start of my work week, I begin with all the things that happen that day. The first thing I do, as anyone does, is wake up. So I write Wake up on the top slot (at 8 a.m., luckily this is also the first hour of Doug’s sheet. If you wake up earlier or later, you can print out a blank time slot sheet from the Calendar pack and use that.) Then I write down the next major important item on that day’s list. If I can fit it in the same hour as waking up, it gets positioned on that same 8 a.m slot. If it can’t, I find an appropriate slot for it on the sheet. Look at those To-Do list or Master Project lists for inspiration. If you can write down these projects somewhere on a daily sheet during the week. Make sure you write in time to work on “the master novel”, or your drawings, or your newest character for that RPG Game you got invited to. Too often during the day, you’ll find that you give up these good blocks of time over to other items that may or may not be what you want to do. So get these down on the sheets so you have time to enjoy them.

Now some of your hour slots may have more than one item on them and some may only have one thing or even an arrow on them. Since Monday’s the day I do laundry, I have many hours where I change laundry and then do other things, like write or read or organize room. So I try and fill in as many activities for these things as I can. In the afternoon, when I’m more prone to getting more things done, I stack all my writing and creative blocks here. Usually I want a good 2 to 3 hours of being artistic so I may draw a continuing arrow down until I get to the end of that block. My day ends at 6 p.m. because that is when my husband comes home and we eat dinner. Therefore, on the last slot, I write Dinner! to signify the end of my work day.

Doug’s forms have Actions boxes next to each hour. Now, as a stay-at-home artist, I may or may not have actions that need to be done. But I DO have reminders or grocery or errand lists. So instead of writing actions down on these slots, I write down reminders or make lists of errands or items I may need to get for that day or the next day. On Monday’s sheet, I make a note to start thinking about my D*I*Y Planner topic that day. (Sorry about being a bit of a slacker Doug... hopefully my new process and these Day Forms help me get articles to you for review sooner.) On Thursday, I note a reminder that Trash Day is tomorrow and that the trash needs to be physically moved out for collections. I may also note books or art supplies I need for my projects depending on what my current projects are.

The weekly form is your “cover page” or weekly overview. List major projects that you’re working on that week or any scheduled appointments you have. Use this sheet to show you where or what you’re spending the most time on. For example, if you’re doing too much of house chores and not enough marketing of your latest web site, you may want to adjust your schedule for the next week in giving yourself more time to work on your web site and any marketing.

It’s my ultimate desire that blocking out the hours in my days, as outlined above, will help me gain more control of the time I have now that I am out of a structured dayjob. Will I be able to follow each day as I’ve planned it? Probably not. But it does structure my day just enough to allow me to slip and slide some items around as things crop up. Eventually, when I’m ready to go back out into the job market I want to look back on the time I’ve had to stay home and smile. I want to know that I spent my time wisely by accomplishing and improving myself rather than sitting around.

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it takes more discipline

I went from having an out of home studio, to working from home to save costs and have a chance to see my husband between our long work days. I didn't take long before I found my work time being eaten away with housework, and unable to focus when I sat down to work in my studio because there were so many other tasks waiting around the home. Without an official time or day off, or time officially devoted to things like exercise, I couldn't work in a relaxed focus state and was living in a constant state of guilt.

Then I took control. It took me four years to make the time to read Julie Morganstein's time management books, but I did so out of sheer frustration. In the end, blocking time proved to be a life saver. I drew up a schedule which balanced the priorities in my life and refused to feel guilty about not doing anything other that what was scheduled. I coloured the blocks in, and put my the schedule up on the wall behind my painting chair. I was a free woman. The laundry could wait if it had to. I also made one day a week (Saturday) my offical day off. No more painting for 32 hours and needing 2 days to recover. I started treating my body with respect and patience, and getting more done in the long run. Time out for excercise and yoga was time I would get paid back in energy and the ability to concentrate. I was able to start seeing the world with fresh eyes again...

Of course this has all changed with a baby. He is my planner. My dedicated studio has lately become a table where I can watch him with one eye, and I've had to get used to working in little fits and bursts. No more 14 or even 5 hour painting sessions. At least for a while. I find the structure has its benefits, and having someone to provide for makes it easier to wake up at dawn (on a good day) to focus on my work while he's sleeping. If I feel like hitting the alarm I just think of his beautiful face. I may only have half an hour to work on something so I tend to use a kitchen timer these days to limit time online, and help me to focus on my painting without clock watching.

p.s. There is now a 24 hour day keeper in the calender kit. I asked Doug to make one. It may seem a bit extreme, but I figured between working moms, interns and students with 2 or 3 jobs and deadlines there must be a lot of people out there without enough hours in the day to get things done. I hope it helps!


balancing is hard sometimes

yeah, i totally understand. ususally i find that i bounce from housewerk to art back to housework. keeps me moving and allows me to feel accomplished in both areas. the only other bit i need to figure time in, is for my spiritual practice. which i think i can do in the early am.

honestly, i think the 24 hour one would work for me better. However, i fit most of my writing and art in while the hubby is at his office. when he comes home, it's our time where we watch movies or play games. i also plan on taking saturday and sundays off, at least from housework. because everyone needs 2 days off. or they should!

thanks for commenting.

It has taken me a year and I'm still working on it

I closed a brick/mortar store last Jan. with the idea that I'd finish the novel, make the banners, clean the house, and sell a few books online. A year's gone by almost, my online sales are frankly bad, the house is better but not good, and the book is stalled.

One big contributing factor is that I'm sharing my husband's office. His check is what's paying the bills, so the resources are set up for his work, and I have to adapt to whatever his professional needs are. It has made it rather difficult. The room that is supposed to house my office is full of old store stock which would not fit into the storage units (actually, so is the livingroom and part of the kitchen and our bedroom). I'm overwhelmed, been overwhelmed, and keep chipping away at it, but still have a huge amount to get through/do.

It's nice to know that I'm not the only one in this situation!