I often talk to artists and writers about the biggest frustrations in their creative lives. One of the themes that almost always emerges is a lack of time. Despite having access to devices and technology that are supposed to save time, most people feel busier than ever.
But the good news is there are things we can do about it. I recently spoke with St. Louis author and resident Kent Sanders about this very topic. He shared a lot of great insights and things to try if you feel like you "don't have enough time." Here are some highlights of our conversation.
Okay, so what do you recommend for someone who says they just don't have enough time?
The great news is there are lots of ways to make better use of your time and be more productive. (A great place to start is the to first see where your time is going.
The best way to get an accurate picture of your time use is by keeping a time log.
Tell me, what is a time log?
A time log gives you the big picture of your time use–a picture you can’t get in the day-to-day business of life. We tend to go about our days unaware of how we really spend our time. How often have you taken just a “few minutes” to check email, only to look at the clock and discover that two hours have gone by and you still haven't finished with your email?
A very common temptation many people seem to battle is getting on social media for “just a few minutes.” Whenever I do that, I’ll look and see that an hour has gone by.
When you keep a time log, you can immediately see where your time is going. If you’re like me, you will probably be surprised that you’re spending a lot of time on tasks that aren’t very productive. We all assume we’re being productive, but when you record it, it’s there in black and white.
How do you keep a time log?
You can keep a time log with pen and paper, or use an app on your computer or phone. Personally, I prefer pen and paper because it’s more tactile. There are online applications you can try too. I personally recommend keeping track of your time in 15-minute increments for two weeks. I know that sounds like a hassle, but trust me, it’s worth the effort because you’ll clearly see where your time is going.
Why two weeks instead of one? Because any given week can be an anomaly. When you track your time for two weeks, you’re more likely to get a better overall picture of an average week.
After you have tracked your time for one week, go through the sheet and divide up your time into categories that are helpful for you. When I did this exercise a few months ago, I used four categories: work (my job), business (for my side business), church, and personal. Then list how much time you have spent in each category. Repeat this exercise for the second week.
Okay, that's great. What next?
Then start to take notes when you see patterns emerge. As a direct result of tracking my time, I resigned from the a new side venture I was doing within a few weeks. This freed up a huge chunk of time each week that I could now devote to writing or other more productive pursuits. I also adjusted my sleep habits and started to go to bed a little earlier.
Time is a limited resource, and we must use it wisely. But to do that, we must first see where it is going. Keeping a time log will help you get an accurate picture of your time usage, and will spur you to make helpful changes. The end result? You will be better equipped to make more time for your art.
Thanks so much to Kent for sharing his insights.
Have you ever used a time log? If so, what did you learn about yourself?