“The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.” — Stephen Covey
A couple weeks ago, I decided to embark on a writing challenge. My book, having been sitting at 12,000 words for over three weeks… well, I knew I’d never finish it until I gave myself a daily word goal and pushed myself to sit down and write. However, I fell off the challenge after five days when doubt and imposter syndrome crept into my mind. In fact, I almost deleted my entire novel after one writing session.
But, that’s besides the point.
In just five days, I had written 6,000 words that weren’t there previously, all because I prioritized my novel. And that right there is an achievement in itself.
A week passed and still, I hadn’t written any more in my novel. This happens when I “fail challenges”—I decide to scrap it altogether. However, just yesterday, I decided to spend the day writing, finish off the challenge, and push past the wall that had formed (good ol’ Writer’s Block). And miraculously, not only did I break down the doubt due to my novel easily unfolding past a dry spot, but I wrote nearly 4,000 words, surpassing my goal of reaching 20,000 words by finishing the night at jut over 22,000!
Once again, by prioritizing my novel, I was able to make time for it and therefore, get in that chunk of a wordcount.
You might be thinking, “Well, I don’t have that kind of time on my hands. I can’t just sit down and write a novel.” Whether or not you’re in the process of writing a novel, you might feel like you don’t have the time to work on the things that matter to you, such as exercise, a passion project, that new television show, etc. Instead, your life is piled-high with work, classes, car repair, grocery shopping, and all the things that keep us busy.
But, I’m about to share something really corny with you that you’ve probably heard many times before: I don’t have the time, either. I make the time.
See? Corny. But, it’s true, and this is what I tell everyone who asks me how I found the time to write two novels while in high school and transitioning into college. “I made the time.” However, what if you have no time? Like, you actually have no time? Maybe you wake up at the crack of dawn and are on your feet until 10 p.m. and you have absolutely no time at all to do anything you actually want to do.
Well, then you might simply be right. Or, it may just be time to reset your priorities.
Scheduling your priorities
I’m sure we can all agree that work (unless you’re not really gaining anything from your job, of course), school, maybe a handful of friends or family, bills and doctor appointments… these things are priorities. Even things such as bathing, laundry, making dinner… these things are also priorities. We can’t exactly cut these things out of our lives.
So, what are not priorities? What can we cut out of our life?
Well, my answer to that is anything that doesn’t need to be worked on right now, any should’s (For example: I should go to that concert. You can actually determine whether a should is a priority or not by asking yourself if you need or want to go to that concert? If the answer is no to either, then it’s probably not a priority, but something you may feel pressured to do.) or anything that wouldn’t greatly impact the world nor your world if it wasn’t done. You can also list out your to-do’s in order of true importance and cut out anything at the bottom of the list that upon further investigation, isn’t so important right now. One method of doing this is using The Eisenhower Matrix, in which there are four categories for tasks:
1) Urgent; Do first, needs to be done that day (ex. writing assignment due that day) 2) Schedule; Not so important, but needs to be done (ex. exam next week) 3) Delegate; Urgent but not very important and you don’t really have the time; assign to others to complete (ex. clean dishes) 4) Don’t Do (unless you do have free time and actually want to do it); What's neither urgent nor important (ex. reading a book your friend suggested)
I also wrote a blog post on how to make more time for yourself, which you can find here. Now that you’ve listed out your priorities and have had a closer look at your tasks, we (may) now have space to do the things that matter to us, such as that passion project or the novel you’re writing. But, how do we determine whether that’s a priority of not? What if we have several passions and cannot decide on just one?
Well, that part is up to you. What do you really want to be doing with your free time? What is something you want to get done for yourself and not because it necessarily matters? Have your things? No? Maybe so? Regardless, let’s move onto the main part of this post so that not only can we make time for the things that matter, but can make sure our creative energy is flowing to the right places.
The Pie of Life
This theory was shared with me by a friend of mine when I admitted to having too many desires, too many priorities, too many interests, and I didn’t know how to do it all. I was burnt out all the time, my ocean of creativity far from reach, and as busy as I was, I didn’t feel like I was truly fulfilling any area of my life. My friend told me that my pie of life was simply, too full.
The theory is this: Everyone has a Pie of Life, a pie consisting of all the different slices of your life, those slices being priorities/tasks/people/etc.. This pie morphs and changes yearly, monthly, weekly, even daily, depending on your fluctuating needs. The sizes of the slices change, in other words the levels of importance regarding certain things or people in your life, and the amount of slices increase when more things are introduced into your life. However, if we don’t let unnecessary tasks go, hence the section on scheduling priorities and letting go of should’s, we will simply have too much on our plates, too much in our pie, and we won’t be able to focus on the important things because we’re simply being stretched too thin. We have to let go of things that are no longer priorities (or desires), or perhaps never were to begin with. Furthermore, if you have too many interests on your pie, your creative energy is forced to divide between all of them and you won’t be able to funnel it all to one project. Once again you’ll be stretched thin.
Example: You may or may not have noticed that I temporarily stopped posting on my blog as much. This is because I’ve been working on my novel, school, and other side projects, and I had little creative energy remaining to funnel into blog posts. There is nothing wrong with redirecting time and energy elsewhere for a time being, and I’m learning this now. In the past, I would post on here regardless of my energy or creativity levels and would end up posting things that didn’t mean that much to me, and weren’t really authentic.
Anyway, back to the pie. When I found out about the Pie of Life, it all began to make sense.
At the time, my pie looked something like this:
I had so much going on, I simply couldn’t focus on just one thing and ended up running myself completely dry. When I went out with friends, I was too tired, too stressed to enjoy myself. Or, if I was doing schoolwork, I’d stare off in a daze for an hour getting nothing done. I needed to make a change.
So, overtime, I have let go of some things, and have allowed my Pie of Life to naturally develop each week, sometimes each day. Some days, we may need more rest than others, and some days, we may feel creative and dive into a new project. It’s okay to add some fluctuation to your day and give in to what excites you. So, when things that were not priorities and no longer excited me, such as a blog post idea or my Instagram theme, I could let those things go. And I wouldn’t feel bad, but rather I’d feel free.
Now, my weeks look a bit like this:
The different sizes translate to the amount of attention I am giving to each thing, and those amounts change each week. And, if you’ve noticed, during the first week, my novel was my biggest priority, along with school because I had a big exam that week. The following week, my novel wasn’t even a priority at all, but YouTube, work, and my boyfriend were. I was so burnt out from school, I didn’t have much energy to work on creative projects so I binged a lot of YouTube and spent a lot of time hanging out with my boyfriend. And this is okay, because it satisfied that week’s needs. I may not have been super productive (what even is productivity, honestly) or got a lot of reading done, but I was happy, fulfilled, and relaxed knowing that what I was needing had been gifted. Some weeks, school is going to matter less, or more, and the same goes for passion projects, friends, hobbies, and health, and that’s okay! I’ve learned that it’s so, so important to listen to our bodies and our needs in a given time, much more important than getting 5,000 tasks done.
Now that my weeks are more minimized, I can direct time to the things that truly matter to me while also rarely feeling dry of creative juices and noticing when I’m feeling burnt out and taking that as a sign to let some things go.
In conclusion, the main idea of this post is to make sure you’re not overwhelming yourself with unnecessary tasks. Maybe it’s time to really evaluate what’s currently on your to-do list in order to determine what you have time for and what you simply do not so that you can carve out some time for the things you really love. It may not be easy, but I can assure you that normally, the time is there.
I hope you have a creative and energized week ahead of you!
Probably writing, Brittney