Thimble of scraps: making time when you have none

Time Management Tips from

At a recent Time Management workshop, a participant asked me an all too common question: “I just went full-time at my job (we need the money!) – how do I juggle that and still work on my creative goals? Oh yeah… I also have a 3-yr old.”

Oh sister, I feel you! This situation is a tough one.

Many of us like to have the luxuries in life. You know, paying the mortgage/rent. Keeping the lights on. Having food to eat. Then we go and have kids. And, wouldn’t you know it? Those little crumbsnatchers want food and shelter too!

Unfortunately, the desire to provide basic sustenance to yourself and your family results in you giving away your precious creative time 8 hours a day, 5 days a week. In exchange for funds, of course.

Not to mention, those little crumbsnatchers need to be supervised and nurtured, lest they become sociopaths.

Factor in the annoying human need to sleep, along with other pesky tasks like personal hygiene and grocery shopping… It’s no surprise you’re sullenly staring at a sum total of 12 seconds a day to be productive with your creativity.

Want to make money with your creativity or create community around what you do? Well, good luck with that, amiright?!

Only having 24 hours/day & 7 days a week is never enough!

What can you do? Give your children away? Quit your job? Rip the space-time continuum??

If only it were that easy.

I will preface my answer by saying: it’s going to be tough. But all is not lost. Many of us have been in this situation and have worked past it.

Here is what I told her:

1. Face reality

I don’t mean this is as a downer. But it’s really important to understand that – short of straight up neglecting your family and being a no-good employee – you simply don’t have access to the number of hours that the childless and day job-less do. The reason I make this point isn’t to emphasize lack, but to remind you not to get frustrated.

You are doing an amazing thing by juggling your creative goals, working to make ends meet, and caring for your family. It will take you a little longer, but you WILL see progress. Even baby steps are forward motion!

Keep at it!

2. Focus on your goals

Because your time is precious, you will want to really get clear on your goals and focus on them. If building a creative business is your goal, focus on the steps that will win you customers and make money. If creating a body of work for show is your goal, don’t get distracted by new techniques. If drafting new patterns is your goal, take a break from starting new projects.

Keep your eyes on the prize! If your heart is set on your creative goals, and you focus on them, they will happen.

3. Get – and stay – organized

You don’t have time for procrastination and disorganization. Get in the habit of doing things in an simple way. Clean up your messes. Put things away. Document your processes. Stick to a good filing system.

This way, your precious time isn’t wasted on looking for tools, trying to remember how you did something “last time.”

4. Set boundaries at the day job

You certainly want to give your day job 100%. After all, that paycheck is buying all those food and electricity luxuries. But that doesn’t mean you have to be the best employee ever. It may or may not be appropriate to clue your boss and co-workers in on your personal creative goals – that really depends on your individual workplace.

BUT, you can be clear that your family and personal obligations are very important to you. Go above and beyond during your scheduled hours. And then draw a line where your personal time starts.

If you work in a place where staying late, taking work home, or being “on call” are the norm, you may face issues. You’ll need to be prepared to deal with this and find a way around it. Refer to focusing on goals/eyes on the prize.

5. Work on stolen time

Many creative people have accomplished amazing things by working on stolen time. Stolen time isn’t a bad thing! Stolen time is:

  • After the kids are in bed (or napping)
  • Your lunch break at the day job
  • Early in the morning before everyone is awake
  • Weekends where your significant other/friend/family member will entertain the kids/walk the dog/do the laundry
  • While dinner is cooking
  • While you’re waiting for the kids at soccer/ballet/gymnastics/karate
  • Any other snippet of time you can snag and get one or more things accomplished

Stolen time can be in 10- or 15-minute increments! While you are getting organized, identify things that you can do in these little bits of time. (social media/newsletter and blog writing/sketching ideas/making to-do lists)

Need some stolen time inspiration? I aim to deliver!

Abby Glassenberg gets some of her social media work done while her youngest is in the bathtub. She’s super organized and focused because she knows she only has 20 minutes. (Abby is my hero when it comes to focus, organization and all around time management.)

Victoria Findlay Wolfe developed her 15 Minutes of Play concept because she was tired and didn’t have much time after work to do much more with her quilting projects.

Toni Morrison and Alice Munro both wrote immense bodies of work while their kids were napping or while dinner was cooking or early in the morning before anyone was up.

I taught myself Illustrator, Photoshop and basic web design while my son took karate classes.

The time crunch doesn’t last forever!

The best part? If you stick to it, you will suddenly realize your kids are growing up. They can make their own sandwiches and clear their own ears. This equals more time for you to work on your creative goals.

And if you stick to it, you will start to see success. For many of us, that means making money from our creative endeavors. Which means you may be able to switch to a part-time job or quit altogether.

Keep the faith friends!

Time Management tips for Creative Peeps - from

Opt In Image
Have you joined my Friends List?
... membership has its privileges!

Receive my jam-packed organization guide, Kick Disorganization in the Pants, along with other (free!) goodies, when you join my Friends List. Enter your name & email address and click "Get the Goodies!" for instant access. I can't wait to hear from you!

p.s. My Friends List is 100% spam-free! Scout's honor to keep your info private. I send occasional updates and messages but you may opt-out at any time.