To say things are chaotic here would be an understatement. Between kid schedules, working ahead (I will on the road for about 6 weeks this summer!), and trying to find my stride creatively and fitness wise – well it’s a crazy time.
And it is a wonderful time.
I have given myself full permission to simply follow sparks of inspiration. To test out ideas and just simply see what will happen if —. No excuses about being overwhelmed or busy, no nonsense about “not a good time”. Just doing… and seeing what happens.
Why would I embrace such a chaotic way of being and random following of ideas in life overall? There is a bigger plan and idea – and today I will attempt to explain the new method to my madness.
A few months back, tired of feeling bloated and behind ALL THE TIME I decided to shake things way up. I started a YouTube weekly series (now monthly) checking in from the studio, I made plans to try something new every week, and I just began. It was the first spark of an idea I had to regain creative and physical wellness.
What quickly became apparent to me is that my entire system was broken. I mean EVERYTHING. Overwhelming much? Oh yeah. I wanted to just quit because egads… that’s just too much! But then another spark came into my mind: what if I just rolled with whatever I felt like doing, whenever I felt like doing it? Only rule was I had to be actively doing something.
note that during this time – and even still now… I drink water 99% of the time, sleep 8-10 hours a night. Screens off no later than 9. My diet is veggies with some protein, nuts, and fruit. RARE appearances of grains, sugar, and ‘fun’ stuff. This was the hard and fast rule I kept to, as I know it works wonders.
Ok… so what does that mean “doing something”?
- organizing photos
- creating die cuts
- sorting embellishments into dishes
- doodling in my art journal
- writing blog posts
- taking photos
- making a t0-do list
- make a craft project
I wasn’t putting pressure on get anything specific done or what quality of exercise I had (take a 20 minute walk? FINE!) – I just wanted to see if I was trying to be “doing” more, what would I learn?
The results in part surprised me, in part was just stuff I’d forgotten and needed tuning up.
So what did I learn and what is working? Where am I headed? Let me share!
#1: Momentum beats everything else. I started this post by saying to follow the spark of inspiration, and I stand by that. Even now nearly 5 months in this is true. If I wake up and don’t know where to start, feel tired, am overwhelmed… I just pick ANYTHING and begin. Repeat… until I feel good and am ready to look at the (scary) list and tackle specific things.
#2: Work in Batches
One of the things I’ve journaled about and been tracking on myself is productivity. What I’ve found is that jumping around task to task wastes time, energy, and slows everything down sometimes even grinding to a halt! So instead of trying to do 40 things in one day, I work on one thing. A few examples:
- Editing and ordering 4-6 months worth of photos vs editing/loading photos weekly
- Writing 3-4 blog posts at once (first editing photos, then making each post)
- Working in a scrapbook for a few hours – just working in one, not hopping to different albums
- Creating cards for the next few months worth of birthdays and occasions – not waiting until they are needed
This extends and helps most tremendously in life in a general way! Here is how last Friday went:
- drop a daughter at school
- other daughter with me, sits in gym lounge as I take weekly Zumba class
- take daughter with me to her charter school, she goes in for testing. I sit in car and write up lists/check my progress/make phone calls
- we do errands along route home: grab dog food, return an item, drop off letters at post office, grocery store
- work in scrapbook (and she does homework) until time to pick up other daughter at school.
- play with dogs/chat. make weekend plans
This is 730-4pm, and as you can see I really just made the most of what could have easily been an “I didn’t have time for —-” kind of day. I was able to exercise, get creative, spend time with the girls, and knock out a batch of errands! I could have made phone calls to the vet or the hairdresser or the pet sitter separately – but by putting them back to back “this is when I make all the phone calls this week” I was able to better focus, get more done with that time, and avoid dreaded time wasted/potential lost feelings.
Now this does require some thinking ahead and planning! You have to see the opportunity and seize it! But luckily a lot of that can be done on the fly or as you go. “Oh hey I needed to…” – just add it right in if it fits! There is a saying that failing to plan = planning to fail – and I get that. While at times I revolt at structure and rules, there really is a place for some of it! Especially flexible guidelines and suggestions that help me be my best self. When I reframe my own view of some of these things, and when I see the results I get it’s fantastic!
So here is what I know about me…
I am easily distracted. I don’t know how I never realized this – but it is very easy to distract me if I’m doing something I don’t particularly want to do, or am not really motivated to handle. Right now typing this post that was supposed to go up two days ago (I’ve got a blog schedule now!) I want to peek at social media or text a friend or oooh I have a creative idea… NOPE. I have dedicated this morning to writing 4 blog posts, this is the third. I will stay here (phone is in another room) and finish before I can break or move on.
I feel better when I’ve done stuff, but I don’t always want to start. I realize this sounds… well, stupid. But I can be sitting scrolling through social media and KNOW I should get up go do something… but don’t. Again, this is where “just follow the spark” comes in. Just pick ANYTHING and begin. Once you’re rolling, then get pickier.
I have to keep good (paper) lists. The paper lists do a few things for me. First of all, my brain runs really fast and pretty wild at times. Which means if I have a thought… it might not circle back for weeks or months. NEED TO WRITE IT DOWN! Example? Nephew’s birthday was almost two months ago. Totally forgot to send a gift because it never got written down on the master DO THIS list. My bad – and I’ve fixed it by a) putting it on the list and b) adding to Monday’s errands list to purchase and mail a gift.
Dangle the carrot. Delayed gratification will get you everywhere. I can — once I —. Sometimes it’s “go lay in bed and watch TV ALL EVENING”… sometimes it’s “shop for —“. But all fun things can only happen once I’ve done my work. I read once that self discipline and delayed gratification are keys to success, and I’m starting to really get that. It helps me focus, it gives me a treat to work for, and it helps me really feel like I’ve earned whatever good thing I get.
I’ve got time. We are all busy, and we all have the same 24 hours in the day. I had fallen into the “no time” trap – such a bad place to be. What I do with my time, or how I prioritize and set my time is entirely on me- on each of us! I prioritize sleep, my family, and right now setting up better habits to be a more productive “I’ve got more time” me. Nobody has more or less time- we simply each get to prioritize what we do with it!
I am already good at some things. So when I got stuck in a plateau I was really annoyed because all of the suggestions were things I ALREADY DO. I limit social media, I don’t drink soda or eat fast food. I have outstanding sleep habits… and it hit me. I’m good at some stuff, and dang it I’ve been working on some of my goals for a decade! Meaning, I’ve really made progress and if we condense my progress into a montage of a decade… it’s dang impressive.
So yeah, the daily grind guys? It’s not sexy or particularly fun. My doctor last week looked shocked when I told him my diet and exercise was boring. Well… it is! I’d rather eat cake and binge Netfix obviously! Or read a really good book Or go play in my art journal. Or… ah but here’s the catch. When I only indulge then I feel absolutely terrible about myself, my mood tanks, and I don’t wanna start anything productive because “what’s the point”?!
There is a very important balance between having fun and treating ourselves, and working hard and being productive. It is important to me because I feel I am a better person, and I know I am a lot happier when I am treating myself to healthy good habits, and creating time blocks for my hobbies and interests too.
Do I know all yet? No, not yet. Not ever! But I’m excited with the general direction my productivity and habits. I’m thrilled to say I’ve lost 20lbs in 2018. That I’ve started + finished 3 scrapbooks. That I’m FEELING more like the best version of me than I have in a very long time. I understand that balance and good habits are ever changing – and I’m feeling more committed than ever to always just be my best self each day. Whatever that may be.
I hope no matter where you’re at with your own physical, mental, or creative health that today’s post sparked a new idea for you, or helped you in some way. Some said I was nuts at the start of the year with my “just follow whatever spark/idea” approach – but it’s worked so much better than I could have ever hoped!
Speaking of following spark… I mentioned before I’m going to be gone a lot this summer. One reason? Family’s first trip to Europe! I am going to be taking a group along with me (virtually) through my scrapbooking and memory keeping process. Want to join in?
This class is going to be EPIC in scope. The pre-class content (being loaded right now!) is just one small part. From handouts to help you organize your own scrapbook to following my process as I create my album (or three – let’s see!) – the pacing is going to be slow set so that you can follow along and work alongside me without feeling left behind or in a rush. I am SO excited for this – and through Friday the pre-sale price (half off!!!) is good- no code needed. Find out more and join me here.
5 thoughts on “Grab onto that spark!”
Well done, May. Momentum is a great thing, starting is the hardest part of doing. What you’ve discovered about habits is that they sort of take over (that’s why they’re “habits”). IT’s easy to let things slide when you’re self-employed, you figure you’ll just catch up later. But there is no later, because there’s always something else to do. Making use of small pockets of time and batching tasks really does change the way you work. One of the things I suggest is reframing “I don’t have time to —” to asking “WHat is the best use of my time right now?” THat will help you prioritize. Yeah, it’s a grind, but keep at it! YOu’re worth it!
Oh, and I adore that clipboard with the vintage pattern. Did you make it?
I want the Eiffel tower scissors. where can I find them?
Just love this post May … you are so real and so inspiring! This year I’ve been trying to do certain things every day and so I made a list and then I colour in a little square on a monthly calendar for each thing I do. My best days are when I have 9 little squares on colour on each day of the month – if nothing else, I’ve at least stuck to the goals I set for myself.
I recently bookmarked this blog for inspiration, and girl, you’ve delivered! I definitely needed to read this. I’ve been feeling overwhelmed with all of my goals and tasks for the summer, and this post spoke truth and motivation to me! Thank you, and best of luck to you on your goals (and enjoy your vacation)!
I don’t think I ever had as much creativity, energy, and zest for living as you do. I am always in awe of you. Great post-some stuff I can incorporate into my laid back lifestyle to hopefully make me more productive.
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