This year, on January 1st, I took a 90 minute yoga class that promised both a physical practice and time for new years reflection. Perfect. With a one-year-old at home, I figured this was the best I could do to carve out time for both. It was great. And somewhere in between Warrior One and scribbling a letter to ourselves, we were invited to pull a card out of a bowl with a word for the year.
Now I have some big creative goals this year. So, before I picked my card, I said a silent little prayer for a powerful word that would help propel me through it all. Maybe something TRANSFORMATION or IGNITION or EVOLUTION!
But instead I got this word:
Really? It zapped the creative enthusiasm right out of me.
Did the universe not believe in me? Efficiency. So very uninspiring.
But, as I’ve started the work towards my goals this year: finishing our film Second Coming and a memoir (along with launching my story coaching work AND, most importantly, being a present and well rested mom and partner), I’ve discovered this word to be my most important ally in getting it all done without burning out. Here are some practices that are slowly helping me get there:
EFFICIENCY PRACTICE #1: SCHEDULE “PROFIT” FIRST: I was recently introduced, by a writing teacher, to a book called PROFIT FIRST. The premise is this: while our usual approach to making money relies on this equation: REVENUE (-) minus EXPENSES=PROFIT, to get the profits we want, we need to switch it to this one: REVENUE – PROFIT=EXPENSES. In other words, figure out what you want to make (profit) and then reduce expenses to make that possible. Here is the translation to creative work: most of us operate with this equation: OUR TIME – OTHER STUFF WE NEED TO DO = WHAT WE HAVE LEFT FOR CREATIVE WORK. Here’s the switch: TIME – WHAT WE NEED TO DO OUR CREATIVE WORK=WHAT WE HAVE LEFT TO GET OTHER STUFF DONE. For most of us that “other stuff” is where we make money and do some really important things. It’s not that we don’t do that work, it’s just that we don’t let it take all our time leaving only scraps of it left for creative work. I have been trying this since January and so far it’s allowed me to schedule in non-negotiable writing time (the first work hour of every day instead of getting into emails), forgo getting hooked on new series TV shows (I sometimes just ask my husband to give me a 5 min recap at the end of the night…such a time saver!) and then either let some of the other undone busy work go or figure out a way to get it done imperfectly in the time I have left.
EFFICIENCY PRACTICE #2: MICRO SIZE THE WORK: Before having a kid I used to tell myself that I could only write in the mornings, only if I had absolute quiet, and only if I had at least two hours to really dive in and focus. When I became a mom I had to choices: 1) keep this mentality and never write again 2) change it and find a way to fit it in. So here is how I’m fitting it all in: I invite myself to think of the whole day as one filled with opportunities for creative work: I fit it in during my daughter’s variable morning nap time and during random breaks in between other work. Having been to a workshop where I did some of my best writing in 12 minute increments, I sometimes set a timer for 12 minutes and don’t let my hand leave the page. Amazingly, I have (not always but often) been more creatively productive in these micro sized bits than I have been with twice the time…and the beauty of not having time for procrastination is that I’m less inclined to do it.
EFFICIENCY PRACTICE #3: TRACK THE “GLIMMERS”: Ideas for creative work rarely come at times when I’m at my computer ready to receive them. In fact they never do. They come on walks, while driving, in conversation and sometimes in the middle of chasing my daughter on the playground. The writer Pam Houston calls these ideas “glimmers” …sparks of creative inspiration that come and, usually if we don’t write them down, also leave us. So I keep a glimmer notebook around and I throw these ideas down in one word or two so I don’t forget, then when it’s time to sit down to make something I have the inspiration right there. It reduces the time I get distracted or sit looking blankly at my computer screen because I’m actually excited to get to work.
Ok. These are just a few practices that I am (often times imperfectly) stumbling my way into.
I will always be here to remind you that bold creative work is not easy …but getting it done now is so much better than waiting on next year or the rest of our lives to start making things. Would love to hear of any practices that are working for you too!
Written with love, boldness and during my daughter’s nap time :),