Make a plan: craft time

It’s easy to blow off creative time. The kids need stuff, there are errands to run, work to do, fires to put out. I get it – believe me I do because crafting IS MY JOB and yet it still happens to me and is a daily battle. If you give me a day where I don’t have to leave the house for ANY reason and everyone is healthy I can create at least 12 but I believe 23 is my record # of craft projects in a single day over about 16 hours. Obviously, that is an ideal situation for creativity because you get me rolling and watch out!!

There is just one catch. Food wasn’t prepared. The house isn’t cleaned. Kids are 100% ignored. I’ve not even made time to shower. So while that’s obviously my “optimal” situation for creating it’s the WORST for every and anything else. Those kinds of days tend to happen 2-3 days per year at most under extreme deadline/mandatory creating pressure situations.

We all have 24 hours each day- no more no less – and we each have free will and decide how we use (or don’t use) those hours. But it can be hard to “switch gears” – I know! Here are things I’ve been doing that help me.

  1. Have 1 project out “on the table” so when I walk by or have a few minutes (as few as 5) I can work a bit. Pocket pages, scrapbook layouts, coloring stamps… there are a lot of things I can do with a few minutes if I have thought out and have something there waiting.
  2. Put it on the schedule! Even if just two hours one evening  adding “craft time” and blocking it out for yourself.
  3. Creativity is a muscle. Just like exercise of any kind – doing something creative each day (or most days) helps keeps ideas flowing and when you DO find those blocks of time, helps you be ready to jump right in instead of staring at paper and going “ummmm…”
  4. Get a little critical. Look at how you spend your time and if/when/what you choose to do vs be creative and if there are things you could maybe do without. I gave up my beloved candy crush
  5. Let go of what you think it ought to look like. This has been a big one for me – I used to think “creativity time is sitting down and making a project” and the thing is – that was hurting me. I couldn’t always do that or I might have time for a bit of play in my art journal or stamping a new stamp or part of a scrapbook page… and that wasn’t ok with me. Why not? I finally asked myself. It is ALL GOOD, and doing small pieces and parts is always better than nothing at all!

There isn’t one way to go about things, and it’s cool to get in a habit such as creatively wrapping gifts for Christmas for weeks or making Valentines all during January… phases are so very common in creating and that’s ok too! Currently I have a 6×8 album out and ready should I be inspired to add stories and photos and stickers. I am also ignoring the massive Disney project from last year I want to take on. That’s ok too.

We can’t “do it all” all of the time.

One thing I commonly say in my classes is to pick ONE thing you want to do, and work on that first. Unless you are working on projects that require extensive dry time or waiting between layers of work it usually does work better to throw yourself into a project. Not feeling it? Hating it? Find something else.

Now it’s your turn: I’d love to hear what you do to make time for creativity, how you carve out little or big chunks, or how you hope to add more creative time to your daily life. There are so many ways to do it – and I can tell you my summer strategy is wildly different than winter and is very different than even 3 years ago. Change is good!

54 thoughts on “Make a plan: craft time”

  1. I get the most crafting done when it is scheduled with my crafty friends. Otherwise, I might put it on the schedule, but end up doing daily chores.
    Also, I feel guilty creating because it isn’t my job and the only payoff is personal.

  2. Definitely keeping one project out for me to work on for even just a minute as I walk by my craft table works for me. I also have to clean up my work area after each project, or I can’t deal with the next project, I have to start with a clean table or I can’t get in the mood to start something new.

  3. When not working I find first thing in the morning is best for me. Most days I will sit at the desk while dinner is being made and after dinner when we’re done and just relaxing. I look at what’s there, if it needs to be finished or a new idea hits. And then once a month we have a crop!

  4. One thing that has worked for me to accomplish crafty projects is to keep a series of lists in my planner. Usually at the beginning of the year, I make a “master” list of all the projects I’d like to complete/start/try in the year. (of course, this list is flexible and changes throughout the year)… Each month, I look at what I’ve done the previous month and at the master list, and I choose a few things on which to focus. Each week, I look at my monthly hopes/goals and choose some items to help move those goals along…and each day, I look at my weekly goals to see what I can accomplish to further them.
    These projects are at the forefront of my mind and when I’m not able to be physically working on them, I am thinking about them. I also am blessed to have an incredible craft room (dare I say studio?!) where I can leave out projects that are in progress, which is so very helpful.

    It also helps me to keep a list of completed projects– so that I realize what I have actually accomplished! I think that those of us with busy brains sometimes have a tendency to always be thinking about what still needs to be/could be done, rather than taking a moment every now and then to celebrate what we already have done!

    I’m sure I could go on-and-on about this, but I will stop rambling for now!

  5. I am luckier than most when it comes to crafting, as an empty nester I don’t have a job or kids under foot anymore. Just a Whiny dog and a husband who is very independent. But I do get overwhelmed. It has always been so important to me to get things off my desk.. Just get them done, sometimes I have too many crafting opportunities and I don’t know where to start. I keep a TODO notebook on my desk and jot everything down as I think of it, then check them off as I Finish them.

  6. Also an empty nester but I seem to be less creative . I have too much on my desk and jump from project to project. I should be a bit more organized about my projects!

  7. I work on one project at a time. I usually work on a card table but stamp on the dining room table because it is more stable. All other work is done at the card table works for my family and me .

  8. I love this post. I definitely go through phases and know how true it is that when crafting regularly, it is easier to complete projects. But sometimes, after a long period of creativity, I just want a complete break. It is then I struggle to get back into it. It is usually some challenge that will pull me back in again.

  9. I think the pressure of having to complete multiple projects can lead to paralysis. I love that you said you’re ignoring the Disney album, for now. You’ll get to it and it’ll be fine.

    As Natalie said, you can keep a running list of all the projects you’d like to make. Some of them you’ll get to and some will drop off when they don’t feel important anymore. You also can create a bin where you keep all the unfinished projects so you can choose what you feel like working on at any particular time. Just give yourself permission to let go of any guilt about not finishing the other things (and don’t start anything new!).

  10. I am lucky to have my children out of the house, so as an empty nester, I have a bedroom turned craft room to get away to and craft. Still, I find I have to map out time between other chores, meals and such. I use my craft room or kitchen table for my painting projects, but I have a table in my dining room that I have set up with card making supplies. This is what I have the most passion for, so I try to have a card project ready at all times. I also receive my StampinUp Paper Pumpkin kits and my Simon Says Stamp monthly card kits that I can grab when I need Help with inspiration.

  11. I always seem to be working under pressure… when I need a birthday card to be in the mail, or a swap card or ATC is due. I would love to be more organized so that I have things done more timely! It seems like that’s always my intention but not my reality!


  13. That’s been key for me as well. Having just one or two things out and not “all the things”. Good luck balancing! You’re so right it does matter for our mind and health to take care of us.

  14. It is a skill I constantly work on- worth it since under pressure adds stress for me. Good luck!

  15. This is why I try to have some rarely used creative project types so I am never “full stop” on creativity. Including felt animals, seasonal decor, baking… things I rarely do but can use for a mix it up/avoid burnout deal.

  16. lots on the desk may be just what is holding you back creatively. Overwhelming!

  17. This is great- love that you have a completed list too so that you can show yourself how great you’ve done.

  18. Reading books, watching TV, exercise, following social media… I can think of dozens of ways people enjoy life that simply adds to their own experience. Hobbies and joys in life are a good thing!! Makes us happier people. I have my things I do just for me and just because as well. ❤️

  19. My most recent creative output was temporary in nature — cutting leaves from my fern in the yard to be the greenery in floral bouquets for a special family party and die cutting flowers from dictionary paper to adhere to the top of small mason jars to make little “lanterns” for the same event. Our summer routine is so different from the school year, partially because we really don’t get a lot of warm sunny weather where I live! So if my daughter is in the pool, I’m in the yard and probably reading and relaxing instead of creating. I’m really getting in the mood to do some scrapbooking, though, and am hopeful that I can carve out some time soon. I think this week I’ll try to putter around in my as-yet-completely-empty July traveler’s notebook and try to get some photo editing done.

  20. I do keep my pocket scrapbooking album out and fill it as I can. When I got my little photo printer for Christmas that was a game changer for me. I’m not an empty nester, but my kids are a little older now, and I’m a stay at home mom, but I have health issues, and can spend a ridiculous amount of time on my care. I’ve been trying to paint more, but then I fall behind on my pocket pages. Oh, well. I’m grateful to have some time to explore new things. Another obstacle is I don’t have a dedicated craft space, and I have stuff piled up on a small desk. Anyway, great post. Thanks for sharing, and for Camp Scrap, it’s been great. Michelle t

  21. i have a standing monthley appointment with my scrappy friends that is typically an all day thing. To be sure I’m prepared for those, i do a couple of creative things whenever I’ve got some margin. I make my own scrap kits when I’ve got a few minutes. it doesn’t take long to put them together and I find I use a lot of my older things that way. I often have a stack of pictures on my desk and an open word document on my laptop…i can sit, go through pics to put them into layout sets and type out my journaling in 5, 10, 15 minute bursts. (I got the idea from you to order a stack of photos once a month). When I have a bunch of journaling done, I just print it out on cardstock, cut it into strips and put both pics and journaling into bags. I also have a stack of printed out sketches. During “TV time” i grab my photo/journaling bags and stack of sketches and put a little sketch into each bag that I think will get me started when layout time comes. When my monthely scrappy time hits, I can just take a handful of my picture/journaling/sketch packets and some kits and off I go. When at home, i “play” more. I usually keep a set of plain old manilla tags on my work table…when i want to play, i grab one or two and break out some supplies and just mess around. Lately, i’ve been doing simple card-making while watching a show. I find I can pick a card sketch and bang out multiple card faces (usually four) of one sketch in about 10 minutes using my scrap pile. obviously, sketches are my go-to creative tool. they are great starting places for projects!

  22. I am also a lucky gal when it comes to my crafting. I am unemployed due to a back injury so as long as my back cooperates and my two boxers will allow me I can craft whenever I want.

  23. oh, how I adore this post. I tend to not schedule craft time. I keep telling myself I “should” do it first thing when I get up, kind of like the morning pages thing that so many people do, but it just never happens. I purchased a scanNcut over a year and half ago and have used it 8 or 10 times, it has sat in a corner and collected dust, yet I have a ton of stamped images and because I HATE fussy cutting they are not being used. Over the weekend I decided to put the ScanNCut in a place right next to the table where I do my stamping and yesterday and this morning, since it is right there, I have cut a bunch of stamped images and am all set to make a bunch of cards and inspired to fit that time into my schedule this week. Maybe finding time this week will get me into the habit of finding time every week to do some crafting instead of just watching other people craft on youtube. LOVE this post May. Thanks.

  24. What a great post. Lot’s of great ideas here.
    I am an empty nester, but this past year has been one of zero crafty mojo. Why?
    1. Health issues: Fibro, thyroid, and newly diagnosed diabetes.
    2. Hate working out which greatly contributes to being so tired from above issues.
    3. I am a HUGE procrastinator and love watching other people create which of course, can take up lots of my time.
    4. TOO much stuff!

    1. We had new carpeting put in my little craft room. This forced me to take everything out and to get rid of stuff.
    2. Finding stash that I really love and had forgotten about!
    3. Finding a class that really inspires me. Thank you May because your first two lessons of Picture This have managed to do that!

    I think I need to accept the fact that I work SO slowly and that that is OK. I also learned that I really don’t get inspired when I am overwhelmed with stuff.

  25. I have a million thing started at once…. I work nights from home and I have a little pair of snipping scissors nearby my desk. I have my laptop & laser printer nearby so I can print & snip or trim pics from magazines. Sometimes during a break I will gesso some pages but I have found the lighting isn’t good enough to do too much with colour at night.
    During the day it’s different, I love to add colour etc. but I find my craft area needs tidying way too often! In a perfect world ( which I am aiming for with retirement in the next few years) I will have masses of space to leave things set up to play with whenever I need too! Without all the work paraphernalia round there will be heaps of space!
    I wish I could have one thing on the go at a time but it’s just not in my nature!

  26. I tend to keep a project (or two) going at all times. I have a u-shaped desktop that has a cubby hole underneath my computer monitor that I use to slide a LO into whenever I’m not working on it. It allows me to keep it going if I only have a minute or two to work but to slide it out of the way if I need my desktop to grade papers or do lesson plans or whatever. I’ve done this for years.

  27. I was made redundant from my job a year ago and haven’t managed to find employment yet (my mum’s been going through breast cancer treatment this year so that’s been my focus – it’s great to have the time to dedicate to her). Youd think with not working that I would have a lot of craft projects completed! Not lol! But I have overhauled my craft space and set it up better which I love! Its hard to schedule craft time because you feel like there are other more constructive things you can be doing (when it’s not your job). Im fortunate that I can leave things out and work on them when I have the time. Love all your advice.

  28. Last year I had to pack up my craft space for a while and I took the opportunity to really think about the room set-up before I brought everything back ‘home’. I totally agree with your #1 and #2! I decided on a charity to donate items to and I kept them in mind when I was going through my items. Having a place already decided and knowing what they needed really helped me to add a lot more extra stuff to my donate boxes that I mightve held on to otherwise. Currently I’m using stuff from my stash and I love that.

  29. Great post, May, and lots of helpful tips in everyone’s comments! This year, i created a master list of projects and “scheduled” them throughout the year…then last month, I did a mid year review. I scaled back my plans to be much more realistic about what I can do in the limited time I have…I want to enjoy my crafting time, not feel like I’m always trying to meet a deadline, even if it is self-imposed!
    When I need a break from a big project or just want to have some fun, I put together page kits or create base pages. Its a great way to use up the last bits of a kit!

  30. The set up that works the best for me is when I can leave my project sitting out and work on it a little at a time each day. However the room where I craft is also a guestroom. That means I have to put everything away and re-arrange the room when The kids and grandkids come to visit . That can end up stalling me out or going to a different project when I open up my crafting table. I have way too many projects started and incomplete. Thanks to you, May, My goal is to stick with one thing until it is finished. I think that will be a lot more satisfying to me. I’ll let you know how that works out! ????

  31. I love how you carve out time to craft – I’ve learned quite a few lessons from you over the years. There really is no such thing as “I don’t have time” – it’s a matter of prioritising. For me, I have 15 minutes of creativity as one of my daily “to do” items.

  32. Thanks so much for your tips! I make it a point to create every day in the evening before bed and also set aside time in the weekends. It helps me relax and I make it a priority!

  33. I am home alone on fridays, so I try to keep that day sacred for my creating time. I am better off if i get it. my next week has me feeling better. deadlines help too, even if they are just a fun challenge.

  34. I usually craft when my mom is here, helping out with the kids, because otherwise it’s too hectic! Both of my little girls love to play with paper, stamps, and markers and will sometimes keep busy with their own project while I finish something up but I know better than to count on it!

  35. I try to avoid creative deadlines as much as possible because my motivation comes and goes. Sometimes I go on a week long tear, and other times I just can’t seem to get inspired. I like to keep all of my favorite supplies out and in view and that helps. Sometimes I just grab a stamp set that I haven’t used yet and force myself to start stamping. That Often starts the creative juices flowing!

  36. I always have something sitting on my craft desk so if I have a few minutes I can do something. I also put it on my “things to do” list each day & try to get at least 5 minutes in, just makes me a better/happier mom and wife if I do but it doesn’t always happen. I also try to “treat” myself to a crop day or night once every couple months with a girlfriend – we get crafty stuff done and catch up at the same time – so good for the soul!

  37. You hit all the things I do in your blogpost. i have the best success if I leave things out on my office table and break things down into little projects (stamp dates on a batch of cards), print off photos, etc. I also have gotten in the habit of considering one day a week (Tuesday for me) a potential scrap day. So now i don’t feel quilty if i do some scrapping on that day.

  38. I am lucky to have a room I can retreat to and do my stuff. Since being retired I try to spend some time in my room everyday. There are days when errands, doctors or health gets in the way. I know without my crafting time, I would be much harder to live with-lol.

  39. very cool- I have been lacking in making lists – I have a weekly board I use- but this might be a long range thing I can use one of those ‘travel’ books for…. thanks for the idea.

  40. I think my “bin” would be overflowing and yet another issue… I’ve got to figure out what to do about cleaning up and not mixing up due to layering of projects on my table…. I’ve got my stuff organized, I just can’t keep my workspace cleaned up 🙁

  41. I’ve had this same challenge- the clutter because I’ve started another project on top of one unfinished and then add the clutter from not cleaning up from one that is finished (sigh). I really need to exercise. I’m doing a diet change due to health issues and that only seems to compound it as change, until your body adjusts can make you tired or sad… always seems to be something. BUT- I am determined to fix that…

  42. what a great idea about making page kits- to include sketch. I tend to get really distracted tho when the TV is on….

  43. I have found that doing at least an annual “PURGE” is a good thing- I am well overdue- I think I skipped last year and that is what is adding to my problem with too much on my craft table.

    I’m also challenged with health issues. It’s a battle some days, but I keep pushing

  44. I have a date to craft with a few friends once a week on Wednesdays. We bring our lunch and what we are working on, we eat lunch then scrap for 3-4 hours, while keeping up with what everyone is doing. I also prep for those days late in the evening when the family has gone to bed and I can think about what I want to work on. A lot of the time I do my journalling at those times, too.

  45. I tend to craft the most in the summer. As a teacher that makes sense, but at the same time I’m getting the classroom ready for the next school year. (a never ending battle!) I schedule myself several crops a year that are weekend in nature, (April, September, November) and plan on adding the Scrapbook Expo to it next summer. I tend to get lots of scrapbook pages done during that time. During the summer i tend to do a lot more “fun” stuff, classes with you, May, and altered items such as alterations boxes from Tim Holtz, Kaiser Craft beyond the page. I try to carve out some time each week, even if it is a card or using swap items to make a quick scrapbook page just so I can keep my sanity in an ever increasingly busy world!

  46. I have decided having projects open on my desk, where I can just work for short periods of time, might work best for me right now. I have lots on my list of things to do but as others have said, that gets overwhelming. I’m also trying the pocket pages for my calendar books, as I have 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017 to get done.

  47. Im an empty nester. We have a ranch but I’m an inside person, not an outside person. So when hubby goes to the ranch, those cows need lots of attention, then that is my craft time. Im usually happy to see him when he returns. We both get to do what we love.

  48. I’ve never had success with working on even just a scrapbook page in small increments of time as I seem to need to tackle projects in one continuous go, but those random few minutes here and there are perfect for just a bit of play on a tag or in an art journal so I’m trying to make better use of them that way. My biggest stumbling block when i do have time is deciding what, exactly, to do next. I’m still trying to come up with a method that works for me, for choosing the next project.

  49. So exactly how long have you been studying my life and my crafting story? I just the other day had an awesome day of finally getting a project “all the way done” and , yup, no laundry, dinner wound up being take in, kids were on their own (not always a good thing), etc. But you are absolutely right! I am in the process of finally really getting dedicated space in my humble home where i can leave stuff “in the middle” and that will definitely help. Thanky ou for all the suggestions! Your faithful pupil! Hugs!

  50. I’m an “out-of-sight-out-of-mind” kind of person so I have to leave things out where I can see them – lots of creative mess that sometimes gets out of control. I start too many projects and don’t quite finish them. I know that I have to focus myself on ONE thing at a time but it’s not easy for me so Thanks for more inspiration!

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