It’s finally happening.
I’m wearing PANTS and SOCKS and LONG SLEEVES, and I am comfortable doing it (sometimes)! Glorious open window weather, I have missed you.
This fall brings a unique characteristic to it: reopening. I have been lucky in the pandemic in that my job continued as usual-ish. I maintained my fulltime work and pay and even had the added bonus of being able to telework for a while. Recently I went back to my pre-pandemic office schedule. This worries me.
As my blog shows, I have a lot of interests to find time for. When life inevitably ramps back up, I have to protect my creative time. I am good at not working past the hours allotted, but there’s more to it. My commute removes about 5 hours from my free time each week. Not to mention that work breaks, when I am able to take them, are limited to what I have available. I’m not dragging my baking ingredients with me to the office. Although the image of someone strolling up and seeing me kneading dough across my desk is pretty priceless.
My boss recently joked about expecting me to come in one day and say I am going part time to pursue my artistic interests. My response? “…………..” See, I have become a bit disillusioned with the work until you break style of the American Dream. Don’t get me wrong, I know I’m lucky in this country and in my job. But I have also looked up all the other countries I’d be lucky to live in that have averages of 28-35 hours of work per week.
Have you watched The Great British Baking Show? (First of all, if you have not, stop reading this immediately and go become a happier person. Second of all, they quarantined together to make the current season possible, and I want with my whole being to live in that tent right now.) It is a competition for home bakers. The contestants are introduced by their job, their family life, and one major hobby in addition to baking. That is what I want out of life.
Now, this is not to say that I hate my job. I’m one of the lucky ones who actually loves the work I do. But if money and sociocultural expectations were not a factor, I’d probably work half as much and half as hard. Time to do the work I love and time to do the other things I love too. Opportunity to give and opportunity to be rejuvenated.
I knew the transition back to working in the office would be hard and I like to be prepared, so I started my “how to survive COVID19 reopening” guide just a month into teleworking. Here is what I came up with:
- Wake up early so I have 60min for activities before work
- I’m a morning person. Do you know how frustrating it is to expel ALL your best energy on work? Waking up earlier was a struggle at first but very worth it.
- Take my breaks. And take them away from my desk (otherwise, bye bye break). Keep some realistic creative options available:
- Sketchbook I can take on walks to my favorite workplace spots
- My journal to brainstorm ideas
- Search online for new songs, recipes, craft ideas, etc. to learn
- Walk around – my primo brainstorming activity
- Talk to someone about fun, creative things (and NOT about work!)
- Use the drive home to decompress NOT to road rage
- I have yet to find a satisfying use of this time other than listening to the radio and shifting out of work mode. For me personally, when I try to use it for a creative purpose, it always ends up feeling like a compromise because driving limits how I would want to be creative. For now, I’ve decided not to compromise and just jam out and maybe sneak in an audiobook or two.
- Have multiple weekly protected times for creativity (like art / music classes)
- When the husband plays videogames, spend at least some of that time without the TV on so I’ll be forced to find an alternative way to entertain myself
- Actually USE my vacation time
Check-In and Adjust
I’m writing this blog, so obviously I have mastered all of these things. Ha, I’m funny.
Pretty quickly I learned that it’s not about figuring out the perfect schedule. Once I figured out a schedule, it just needed changing. Instead, I believe it is about finding the best way to check in with yourself so you pay attention to how you are doing and can readjust when you need to. Below are my favorite ways right now for doing this:
- Daylio is an app that pops up on my phone twice a day and forces me to pay attention to how I’m feeling and how I’m spending my time. You can also look at your data across time to look at larger patterns. (Google Play Store + Apple Store)
- I also like visuals; they are quick yet powerful. Below is a visual I adapted from The Artist’s Way which talks about a Life Pie – I adapted it to be a creativity pie of sorts. The further out from the center of the circle, the more satisfied you are with that area. I really like this visual because you can review a number of areas all at once to help you consider how to shift or maintain your time and energy.
What is “enough”?
A friend asked me a great question when I voiced my concern about having enough time for each of my many interests. They asked, “How do you know what is enough?”
After a long pause to consider the question, my answer was the quintessential psychologist response: It depends.
I bake less often than I write which is fine. I write less often than I garden which is not fine. I craft periodically and I do music regularly. These are personal gauges, not a map for every person. When I track how I spend my time, I am not trying to look for specific timestamps or accomplishments per say, I am paying attention to my internal sense of satisfaction about my growth and engagement. Overall, am I satisfied and content with how I have spent my time?
That is what I have chosen to be my marker for “enough”.