4 Simple Ways to Create Time When You Don’t Have Any to Spare

4 simple ways to create time

I don’t know how long I’d been complaining, mostly to myself, about how I didn’t have time anymore to be a writer. I had a long list of excuses — both valid ones and ridiculous ones — to justify my bouts with self-pity as I envied the generous writing lives of others. I camped out in my certain failure and assumed that I’m light years away from reaching a single goal, all because of time limitations.

That’s where I was in January. But more on that in a minute.

If you’re reading this post, perhaps you’re curious about how to move forward with possibility into something else — whether it’s something creative you long to do on the side, a ministry or volunteer opportunity you’d like to pursue, or how you can keep your day job while moving into other work that feels more in line with who you really are.

You know you need more time and you hope this post will tell you the big juicy secret.

I don’t have a secret. But I do have a story — my own story as a wife, mom, employee, and hopeful writer whose current season of life is bursting at the seams. Yet somehow, somehow, I’m recovering bits of time to write in the margins. From this right-now story, I have takeaways that you can implement right where you are.

Two things before we begin.

1. Ironically, I have a long history of being terrible with my time. It goes without saying that I am not an expert on this matter. Which is its own special qualification because I know what it feels like to be bad at this whole time management thing.

2. There are countless awesome resources on time management and how to pursue the work you love, books written by actual gurus. {I’ll list some of my favorite resources at the end of the series so stay tuned.} But here’s the thing. I haven’t read most of the guru books. I’m not looking for “40 days till my dream job” or “how to make six figures in six months.”

There’s nothing wrong with any of that but I don’t want to turn my life on its head in order to reach a certain goal. My husband and I have three kids who are growing up all too quickly; these four people in my life come first. I also have a sweet part-time day job that I work on when my kids are at school. So I’m looking for everyday ways to lean into my hoped-for work even as I’m busy with my right-now life. I believe that’s where most of you are as well.

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staircase

Here’s what happened in January:

I read this post by Ann Voskamp — “How to Make Time and Space for the Life You Really Want.” It was a re-post I’d read before. But something about it clicked.

I was sick of letting my limitations boss me around. I was tired of telling the ideas in my head that they would have to wait to be born into words, that maybe they would never be born at all.

I was tired of self-pity.

Instead of feeling guilty about not using my time more wisely, Ann’s post about the young soccer players of Ko Panyee challenged me to make time with the ingredients I have on hand instead of wishing for the ingredients I don’t have. If a bunch of barefoot kids in a developing part of the world could run toward their dreams by building a soccer field out of floating trash, surely I could wring out some extra writing time throughout the week.

ko panyee field

source

God gives us everything we need for space — but we will have to make space.

God gives us all the ingredients for time — but we will have to make time.

God gives us everything we need to live — but we will have to make a life.

No one just gets space. 

No one just gets time.

God gives you the raw materials — but you will have to make your life.

~ Ann Voskamp

 

I decided to make peace with imperfection and to receive the raw materials of my own writing life, even if it came to me in pieces instead of in plenty.

We’re halfway through March and I can tell you that it’s working. It’s messy and imperfect. But it’s working.

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So here are the 4 takeaways — how to create time when it doesn’t seem to exist.

{Keep in mind that these apply to any new tasks or goals you have in mind, even if they’re not work-related.}

1. Do the things that only you can do. Consider how you might outsource the rest.

I’m the only one who can be my husband’s wife and my kids’ mom. I’m the only one who can write the words that are burning a message in my soul. Because I’m personally contracted with an actual job that pays me real money that our real budget actually depends on, I’m also the only one who can meet those obligations.

golf brothers

{I’m not outsourcing watching my boys play golf together.}

 

Everything else is negotiable.

  • I can pay someone else to really clean my house once or twice a month. We’re not doing this yet but we plan to in a few months.
  • I finally taught every child how to do their own laundry and I decided not to micromanage any aspect of it. Because micromanaging takes time.
  • I gave up making the kids’ lunches every day. The cafeteria does the cooking.
  • Dinner is so simple right now — tacos, spaghetti, anything I can do in the crock pot, etc. We order pizza once a week. My goals are basic: dinner around the table together, easy prep, easy clean-up, something everyone will eat.
  • I’m on the e-mail list for an online grocery ordering service when it comes to our newest supermarket. Order my groceries online and then pick them up at the store without leaving my minivan? Yes please.

 

Sometimes we know we need help but our thinking is stuffed inside a box. Get out of that box and look around. There are almost always creative solutions. Maybe your kids want to earn some cash? Or a neighbor kid would love to get paid for doing some housework or mowing your lawn? Perhaps you can barter things with a friend? Maybe online grocery ordering is totally worth the time and energy it saves? {Bonus: No impulse buys.} These are just some ideas to get you started.

 

2. Create a new rhythm.

Once I finally felt inspired to “make time” where there didn’t seem to be any, the first action step I took was a game-changer. I decided to go to bed even earlier than I already did so that I could get up earlier. Maybe you’re in a season when you can stay up late and sleep in. Also, if you have babies or toddlers, you probably need all the sleep you can get. Different seasons of life rule out certain options. The point is, what are your options during this season?

My forty-something brain is not the same as my twenty-something brain. And my forty-something schedule is radically different too. This brain right here becomes illiterate after dinner. For me, right now, mornings are where it’s at. I love being up before the sun and before my kids / I hate getting up before the sun and before my kids. Translation? Waking up has always and may forever be painful for me. But the reward of having that daybreak time alone and giving myself a long runway to drink coffee, become coherent, read, pray, write, etc. before I have to go upstairs and make breakfast is a game-changer.

morning work

A scene from “morning time.” It’s dark outside and the house is quiet. Glory. Also? There are dead flowers but this is not the time to tidy.

This morning space clears out my brain’s cobwebs and sets the stage for the work that begins after I drop the kids off at school. Psychologically it says to me, “You are taking your work seriously. You are making time for important things.”

Here’s another idea. Depending on the kind of work you hope to do, consider blocking out all or part of a weekend every now and then. This is something I just did a few weeks ago and plan to do again this month. I went to my parents’ house 30 minutes away, hunkered down in a guest bedroom, and worked for most of my Saturday. It’s amazing what a gal can get done without refereeing fights and acting on the sudden urge to paint a wall.

 

3. Honor the sacred yes and no. {And don’t feel guilty about it.}

I have two writing goals I’m working toward. Because I’m saying yes to them during this season, it means I’m saying no to most everything else.

This is essentialism, something I define as “the art of editing your own life.” In his book, Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less {highly recommend}, author Greg McKeown says this about editing as it applies to our commitments:

a good editor is someone who uses deliberate subtraction to actually add life to the ideas, setting, plot, and characters. Likewise, in life, disciplined editing can help add to your level of contribution. It increases your ability to focus on and give energy to the things that really matter. It lends the most meaningful relationships and activities more space to blossom. 

To create time where none seems to exist, you have to get downright bossy. An edited life may not be popular or easy to come by. It’s painful in the moment to say no. But when you’re able to live in the assurance and abundance of your truest “yeses,” it’s worth it. Living like a bossy editor isn’t necessarily a forever thing. It’s just a right-now thing.

 

4. Wherever you are, be all there.

We’ve all heard this, right? In an age where tiny computers in the palms of our hands invite us to step through a thousand simultaneously opened doors, being present takes discipline, a word I sort of hate.

squinting girls

Recently, I read these words on Instagram from my friend and fellow writer / wife / mama / plate-spinner, Elizabeth Maxon, and they struck a chord:

Balancing an unconventional job as a writer and mommy / wife role isn’t always easy. Honestly, it’s messy. Here’s the best I can do — When I’m with them I can’t carry any guilt about what I’m not doing as a writer and when I’m writing I can’t carry any guilt about what I’m not doing as a mama. Being completely present is key. Wherever you are today, be all there.

I’m the worst at being “all there.” I blame part of it on my brain which has always fired a thousand thoughts at once ever since I was a child. Busy brains make it hard to be present. I blame part of it on my own propensity to feel guilty about pretty much everything. And finally, I blame it on not cultivating the habit of committed presence. Habits take practice. And one of the habits I hope to cultivate during this season of life is “all-in-ness.”

If I’ve set aside time for writing, I try to be “all in” and only write. I limit the distractions and don’t feel guilty that I’m not doing something else with that time. If I’ve set aside time to watch a movie with my kids, I try to be all in and not feel guilty for not writing or not cleaning up the kitchen. During this season of life in which the hat-changes are many and the energy is in short supply and the limitations seem to have the upper hand, the simple but challenging practice of presence is the key to making our time and energy count.

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I’d love to hear your ideas. Let’s talk about them in the comments or on the blog’s Facebook page. This is the good work of community; we’re better together. I plan to list all sorts of resources at the end of this series. I’d love to include some of your ideas on how to create time and save energy.

This post is part of a series: “How to Pursue Your Hoped-For Work When You’re Busy With Your Right-Now Life”

How to Embrace Your Right-Now Work Even if it’s Not Your Hoped-For Work

One Gift Your Right-Now Work Is Giving You, Even If You Smell Like Marinara Sauce

4 Simple Ways to Create Time When You Don’t Have Any to Spare

4 Reasons Why Your Right-Now Work Matters to Jesus {even if it doesn’t matter to you}

2 Ways to Give Your Hoped-For Work a Voice. Right Now.

3 Ways to Avoid Despair as You Pursue Your Hoped-For Work

“Never stop starting.” And 5 Other Truths to Keep Your Hoped-For Work Alive in the Midst of Your Right-Now Life

8 Favorite Resources to Help Make Your Hoped-for Work a Possibility in Your Right-Now Life

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Comments

  1. says

    Brilliant. And completely doable–if only I could wrap my head around the dreaded Discipline. Ugh. Also, Essentialism is sitting in a pile of books by my reading chair. I’d better move it to the top of the pile;) As always, your encouragement from life in the trenches fills me with an unexpected hope. We can do this!

    • says

      First things first. Crack open Essentialism. It has a way of smoking your true work right out of you. Always, thanks for your thoughtful, right-there-with-me encouragement. : )

  2. says

    Wow. You’ve packed alot of thought-provoking, gamechanging concept into one post. This is a keeper for sure, one to revisit, to mine more treasures.

    Thanks for sharing your learnings with us, Marian. We have more choices and chances than we realize, don’t we …

    • says

      Thanks so much Linda! Know that all of these “tips” are things I’m learning right now in my very own life so I’m right there with you. Here’s to finding time where you think it doesn’t exist!

  3. Susan says

    When we moved into this house I tried to have my desk just off the kitchen so I could see the kids as I worked and “keep track of everything at once.” In January I made a Mom Cave in the basement where I can retreat to my desk and just focus on my work with no distractions. That was HUGE for my mental sanity. Now to intentionally schedule time down there…

  4. says

    You’ve inspired me. I tell myself all the time I can’t write the way I want to write because I don’t have the time. I have all the ingredients to be a writer/mom/wife/Bible Study Leader. I need to make it. Thank you.

    • says

      Sandy, I was right there with you only a few short months ago. So glad you feel inspired to create time where it doesn’t seem to exist! You can do this.

  5. Beth Williams says

    Marian,

    I loved these ideas. I never liked getting up early, but for a few years I did it. It gave me a chance to read Bible, drink tea, exercise and ready myself for the workday! We, especially women, need to give ourselves spiritual whitespace! Don’t feel bad about saying no to something good. You can’t do everything!! Be all there! That is so important!! Your children want & need your full attention!! Take the time to put down the cell phone, be off computer & just be with people fully engaged!

    Blessings :)

  6. says

    Marian, this is OH SO GOOD! As I sit downstairs, up before the rest of my family, hopeful for a few minutes of writing time, I needed these words to remind me why choosing this over sleep is a good thing. I struggle with guilt when I choose to write instead of folding laundry or mopping the floors. The “all-in-ness” that you mentioned is a great way of approaching these feelings of guilt. I’m not sure exactly what your hope-for work is, but if it’s writing a book, you are gifted, lady. Do it! And, also online grocery shopping has completely changed my life. So excited that it’s coming to your town soon!

    • says

      Lauren, thanks for this kind comment! If you’re a writer, then own it and make the time. It doesn’t even have to be a lot of time, but it can be something. And yes, I am SO hoping that online grocery ordering comes to town soon. : )

  7. says

    I love this and can so relate! I also have been carving out morning time and weekends to write…it is so hard though to say no and also being present definitely takes discipline! I am subscribing to your series! Thank you for the inspiration!

  8. says

    Thanks for this post it really is a confirmation for me -that I am on the right track this year and encouragement to keep carving out the time to write. So many times I have felt guilty about spending time to write. Sometimes I feel like I am wasting my time with writing but I always feel this deep urge to write, you know what I mean?

    Marian you sound like you are in the same season as me. I have homeschooled 3 sons for the past 18 years and now I am on the final stretch – working part time and being taxi for my teenagers, and completing homeschooling for the last 2 sons.

    Thanks for the encouragement

Trackbacks

  1. […] One of the things that makes me a better mom is giving myself permission to write. Though I’ve written in scattered journals since adolescence, I discovered blogging as my “escape hatch” when I was in the season of mothering / homeschooling my young kids. Though much has changed with school, work, home, and kids, writing has remained my faithful companion. I’m learning to create time to write even when it feels like I don’t have any to spare. […]

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