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Be Mused by Susan M. Brackney
Be Mused : Save Time, Make Time Priorities

Be Mused

Tick, Tick, Tick: Save Time, Make Time Priorities, Grasshopper

Dear Muse,

For those of us who are creative in our souls, but also like the security and stability of a regular job, can you suggest how to balance our needs of creative expression with the demands of full-time jobs, family, spouses, exercise, housework, house repairs, yard work and the general but never-ending tasks of day to day living? I try to be creative in the everyday things I do, but how do I find time to focus on solely creative projects that serve no tangible function? I often don't even start on creative ideas I have for fear of them ending up on my "To Do" list as a task unfinished. While it is still in my mind, it is fun, but as soon as I feel pressured (by myself) to work on something that I don't really have time for, it is not so much fun anymore. Short of becoming independently wealthy so that I don't have to work and can hire someone to do all the housework, I am short on solutions. — Content but Not Creatively Active in the Midwest

If you consider that a person generally is alive 8,760 hours a year, sleeping about 2,920 and working for someone else another 2,080 hours, you realize that time is a precious and limited commodity. We get to spend the remaining 3,760 waking hours a year flossing our teeth, driving in cars, walking the dog, cooking, paying bills, going to funerals and weddings and AA meetings. (And never mind the 1,000 hours of TV watching …)

You have what I like to call an ambitious personal schedule. Sort of like Martha Stewart. On her November calendar alone you'll find "Order plum-pudding bowls" on the 4th; "Dig peonies at Bedford and move them to Turkey Hill" on the 8th; and "Wrap plastic and burlap around outdoor furniture and urns" on the 11th.

On her mink-lined deathbed Martha will be saying, "Boy, I sure am glad I ordered those plum-pudding bowls!" right? Somehow I doubt that. We all must prioritize — and make time for that which is important to us. In addition to your creative goals, close relationships with your spouse/family and getting regular exercise really should rank higher than gleaming toilets and an alphabetized spice rack.

Now you may not have Martha's money or her army of drones, but you do have plenty of time-saving options. Among them is the concept of working smarter not harder. When you save time in every way you can, that time really starts to add up. You're right about the housework, yard work, errands, and miscellaneous personal needs. They are inevitable and time consuming. But having some hired help isn't just for rich folks anymore.

For instance, have you considered having your groceries delivered? There are online service sites such as that offer grocery delivery for a small fee. In Chicago, Peapod's delivery charge averages two to three dollars per 100-dollar order. You could spend that in gas — not to mention the time you would save. Many pharmacies automatically offer free delivery on prescriptions, too.

As for banking and bill paying, you can do that online as well. Does your employer offer direct deposit? Electronic financial management will be a bit of a pain to set up at first, but, in the long run, you won't be driving to the bank for deposit slips or the post office for stamps all the time. And online transactions are almost always free of charge because they save banks a lot of money.

Just how much is your time worth? Corporations have known for years that kids are a great source of cheap labor. Can't you spare a local teen six bucks an hour to do the bare minimum around your house and yard? If you have kids of your own, make sure that they have regular chores to do. Every little bit helps… You say you have to do your own home repairs too? If you indeed have a significant other, what does he do all day anyway? Many hands do make light work!

In general, it takes time to make time and you'll have to be patient at first. As you're able to prioritize and reclaim some of your valuable time, you'll want to examine your expectations, too. Does everything in your life have to be in perfect order? Does everything you do have to serve a tangible function? Try to commit to one creative project at a time and remember that we can't do everything at once and we certainly can't do anything perfectly. •

© 2001 Susan M. Brackney. All rights reserved.

Susan M. Brackney Need a little help finding your way on the road less traveled? Susan M. Brackney, author of The Lost Soul Companion will try to solve your creative quandaries. More »