Sunday, January 15, 2012

Make Time for What's Important by Alison Henderson

Even if you don’t believe in making resolutions, and setting goals feels like too much pressure, January is the perfect time to take stock of your life and look for ways to make the coming year more satisfying. All of us have interests, activities, and passions that give life spice—those things you do just for yourself. You might have the full support of your family and friends, or you might be nurturing your interest in secret—not yet ready to share it with the world. Whatever your situation, you’ll probably agree the main obstacle is finding time.

Personal time is one of the most valuable commodities in modern life. It takes commitment to carve out precious hours from already limited family and work time to devote to yourself. And then there’s the guilt… I don’t know about you, but guilt held me back for years from making time to pursue my passion.

As women, we are used to putting ourselves last, especially if we have families. They NEED us every waking second. Or do they? This is a critical question you have to answer for yourself. Under some circumstances and at certain stages of life, the answer may be “yes”, but it’s so easy to stretch that “yes” well beyond necessity.

I’m a writer, but I’m also a wife, mother, and full time executive. I’m all too aware of the trade-offs and conflicts of trying to “have it all”, but you can have more than you think. I turned a corner in the struggle when I picked up a copy of Time to Write: Professional writers reveal how to fit writing into your busy life, by Kelly L. Stone, at the RWA national conference a few years ago. This little book is a compilation of practical tips and strategies from dozens of successful writers on finding time.

The authors specifically address time to write, but the advice could apply to pursuing any interest or activity. First, you have to give yourself permission, and for many of us that’s the biggest hurdle. Once you’ve surmounted it, scrutinize your life and schedule for potential blocks of time, however small. Are you a morning or night person? Could you squeeze in time for yourself before your family wakes up or after they go to bed? Are there points in your day when you feel you’re wasting time?

For me, the biggest time-waster was television. My husband is a big TV watcher, and I felt obligated to watch with him in the evenings because I was away at work all day and he was home alone (he’s retired). There are very few programs I actively enjoy, but I sat with him to keep him company. I decided to limit my viewing to my favorites, no more than one hour a night, and devote the rest of the evening to writing. It wasn’t easy to set the guilt aside, but my husband survived and I finished that book in record time! Now, I can ease up on the schedule when I don’t have a pressing project, but it’s reassuring to know the time can be there when I want or need it—like having extra money in the bank.

In 2012, I encourage you to examine your life and be sure to make time for yourself in it!

Alison Henderson


Barbara Edwards said...

I agree that's a large part of being a writer. Deciding what comes at the top.

Jannine Gallant said...

You're so right about wasting time that could be spent writing (or reading!) I never seem to have time to read anymore. Time on the internet is a major consumer of spare minutes. I need to limit the time I spend checking blogs, FB, etc. to a couple of times a day. Great post, Alison!

Alison H. said...

Jannine, it seems like I don't have time for reading any more either unless I'm traveling. Who would have thought I'd look forward to a few hours cooped up in a plane?

Jerri Hines said...

Great blog Alison. While I'm answering you, I'm watching the football game with my husband. You're right. With everything we do, we have to organize our time even with our family.

Vonnie Davis said...

It wasn't until Calvin insisted I take time for myself to write that the guilt eased on pleasing myself first. Wait...was there a double entendre in that? Now, I write for hours daily. Calvin supports me in this and has no problem doing little things around the house so I can keep writing.

Laura Breck said...

Alison, I solved the problem of my hubby watching TV alone at night. I bought him a Kindle for Christmas. Now he reads (silently) while I write in the same room.

Great post!

Margaret Tanner said...

Hi Alison,
I have that problem my hubby likes watching TV and likes me to sit with him. Laura's idea of buying him a Kindle has a lot of merit.