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Posts Tagged ‘scheduling’

How long is your to do list?

Image courtesy of nkzs.

How long is your to-do list? I found out today that mine is 5 double sided single spaced pages- and still growing. The reason I know this, is because I came across some well-meaning advice. “Overwhelmed or stressed out? Write everything down that you have to get done, then cross things off as you get them done.”

Sounds good, right? As much as I love a feeling of empowerment, and an enthusiasm for crossing off lists, I thought this was a great idea. I usually have a little list of things I need to get done, like groceries and ordering materials, but I don’t always add all the things I’m supposed to remember. It was a shock to finally sit down and put everything to paper- and yet five double sided pages seems so wrong to me. I wrote in little letters too….

Yes, I will have to do every single thing on those pages sooner or later. Some of the things on the list are vital to the continuation of my business… but instead of giving me a feeling that I have a place to start- I’m flabbergasted at what I’ve allowed myself to commit to!

What was I thinking? Well, what most of us think probably. How if I just work a little harder or a little longer, I will see that much growth for my studio. If I stay up an extra hour to work on my website- I’ll get that much more traffic. If I grow a vegetable garden the size of my house- I’ll save so much at the grocery store, and be healthier to boot. If I make my little girls their pretty dresses- they’ll have wonderful memories for their entire lives….

So I’ve become ruthless. I’m going to take the radical step to ignore what other ‘successful’ people advocate, and focus on what works for my life. And guess what? It was very liberating to take my big red Sharpie and cross off things by the paragraph. I’m not going to gain anything by working myself sick and sleepless- no matter how important the activities are.

I must admit- I did add a few things into my list. There are great big blocks of time devoted to blowing bubbles and drinking homemade lemonade on my front porch with the kids. I traded in working in the garden for going to the park. And I adopted a rather flexible schedule for all my paperwork that really does need to get done. If my list for the day isn’t done- oh well. My work day ends promptly at 5pm.

It doesn’t help that I really love most of these activities. I like making my girls’ dresses, and polishing my website. I will have to constantly guard against over-sechduling in the future. Right now, however, I believe it’s time for a glass of lemonade.

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I get so bogged down in the day-to-day minutiae of life that I forget, sometimes, how amazing it is to love what you do. Not just to find enjoyment in your day, and to feel satisfaction over a job well done- but to really, truly, love what you do. It makes me happy in a way that very little else in this life does- and rewards me with a near-instantaneous gratification of a finished project. Children take a minimum of 20 years or so to measure and evaluate one’s work in child raising before one knows if they have achieved success… A forged pendant may take me- at most!- a week, and (hopefully!) be gorgeous besides.

This is not to say that my life is conducive to my passions. Quite the contrary! I protect my art time with a zealous vigor- come flood, mashed french fries and my children’s squabbles. I think that having to do so makes the time I spend creating even more special. When I had all the time in the world to devote to my art, I certainly didn’t appreciate it. I didn’t thankfully go to sleep each night thinking, “I’m so lucky I can sleep a solid and un-interrupted 9 hours tonight so I can work a full day in the shop tomorrow.” No, no- I frittered.

I went to bed late, and slept in even later. I spent long, lazy afternoons reading. Oh I would work on my projects, sure, but I didn’t squeeze every moment for every last possible ounce of creation. I sauntered through life with a smile and a laugh and had a marvelous time- I just didn’t know it. I think about those days now with a nearly raw envy for all that ‘wasted’ time that could have been spent usefully. I know I enjoyed it at the time- and I still enjoy the idea of a long uninterrupted afternoon reading- but think of all the things I could create! I may have to admit to trouble letting go of my work now and again.

However, there’s one crucial difference between the artist I was then, and the artist I am now. Then I only thought I loved what I was doing. It was fun, and it made me happy- and the love for the metal was there, but I wasn’t consumed. There was excitement, but no passion. Now I stay awake long into the night filing intricate designs, and catching up on my paperwork. I get up early to start my day job as “Mom” and lurking in the corners of my mind are thoughts that say things like, “Look at that shadow- what if you wrapped silver in that shadow and nestled some white sapphires in the corners to sparkle mysteriously…” and “I bet if I spend another three hours tonight on the SEO coding for the website, I can squeeze in some extra shop time around 11pm tonight before I write up those new listings and do the photographs…”

The changes in my life between then and now seem humongous. I used to make sculpture- now I make jewelry. And, really, that’s only a matter of scale. I used to be single, now I’m married with kids. That’s a matter of company- and yes, the majority of my time is spent very happily there with my loved ones, but I really think that my passion stems partly from the very lack of time. If you are told you will die June 23, 2060- 50 years in the future- how would you react? You would probably saunter leisurely, and take your time doing things that are not of the utmost importance… But what if you were told you would be dead tomorrow? Every second would be a precious commodity, not to be wasted on the inane or the frivolous.

Please don’t misunderstand me- if I knew I were to die tomorrow, I would spend my hours with friends and family, not with my tools- but the sense of urgency I feel when working on projects seems very much the same. The creation of pieces is an endeavor pulled from my inmost thought processes, and if I’m going to appear anything like sane, and not permanently bowled over by the insatiable onslaught of ideas, I need to work in my shop to be truly happy.

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