I've been asked a few times recently how I manage to find time to create art and have blogs, while raising three children. (And still get other stuff done too.)
Since it was super hard to get everything in balance at first (and I almost gave up many times) I can understand the sense of overwhelm.
Also, I think fears about time constraint hold so many people back from creating things, because we are pretty much taught that creating is a "hobby", not a priority.
*This post may contain affiliate products. When you buy or sign up via my links, I earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. Full disclosure here.*
I work from home, and my husband is retired. We homeschool our girls. And we pretty much shy away from any kind of social or extracurricular activities that require lots of stressful scheduling commitments.
(Meaning we don't join or anything with schedules obligations that have to be met at certain times.) This is because my husband is also partially disabled, and we just sorta plan our days around how he feels.
So there we are. We have lots of freedom and we are never rushing around to get to places. The downside is that I'm always pretty busy at home and don't have those hours in the middle of the day with the house to myself. Ever.
Also, I have to help my husband a lot, and take up the slack when there are days he can't do stuff.
To work around that, I divide my tasks into two basic categories:
- What I can do during the daytime between all those adulting tasks (while being bumped, interrupted and subjected to the sound of annoying cartoon voices in the background.)
- What I have to do at night after everyone has (usually) gone to sleep.
Once I figured these two categories out, it made organizing everything else a LOT easier.
What I can do in the daytime:
- Draw (outlines, sketches, basic line art)
- Color (with pens and pencils)
- Browse on my phone for inspiration
- Take reference photos for art
- Make lists of art topics
- Make lists of things I need to do that night
- Network and promote on social media
- Write out blog topic ideas
- Take photos for my blogs
What I have to do at night:
- Tedious art details (inking, fine lines,)
- Writing/creating blog posts
- Digital coloring
- Creating products for my Zazzle shops and other sites
- Making printables and templates
- Editing images for my blogs and social media
- Answering emails/comments
- Anything tech-related. :(
Of course, not all of that gets done every day. some of those night tasks could be done in the day, but I like to do them on my laptop and I don't have a place for it outside the office that is out of reach of little hands and big spills.
Here is how I fit in all the tasks I do want to do for one day:
First I prioritize what is going to get done for the day. That's everything from the dirty dishes to creating a new cartoon.
I have daily, weekly and monthly chore lists for house. That makes it easy to knock out the regular household chores.
For each day I choose which work projects I am going to do. Otherwise I'm all over the place, trying to decide if I want to make a printable or create a blog post or just sit on Pinterest and look at doodles for hours. ( I mean, network.)
I knew this morning I was going to work on this blog post, so during the day I wrote out my headline and made lots of notes for myself.
I also want to start making Halloween designs, so I sketched out several. I just do this stuff in between chores and caring for the kids, and sometimes those sketches are in the margin of my notebook, on the side of the grocery list, or stuck on Post-It notes around the kitchen.
I'm over being super-mom. And kinda over being super-blogger too!
It's too exhausting and who ever really notices anyways? If I have several things I need to do, or want to get done, then I'm okay with letting something low priority Not Get Done.
Basically, I may have meant to cook a pot roast, but I'm good with a frozen pizza on paper plates too if it means I get a big project or several small projects done, while still getting to actually enjoy my kids.
Sometimes I get crazy ideas for a home decor or DIY project and want to do it right now. That means the laundry can wait a day to be folded.
I am trying to keep my blogs and art as stress-free as possible, so I don't do sponsored posts, commissions or anything with deadlines. Still, sometimes I need to get things done in a timely fashion (like holiday or special event posts).
As long as the most important stuff off the list gets done, then I can always catch up the rest later. And yes, that means that not all my sites get routinely updated. I'm okay with that for right now.
For a whole year, I didn't draw anything because it was too much hassle to drag everything out of hiding. (I was always having mysterious crayon scribbles and drool stains show up on my sketches. Hmmmm.)
Now I keep my art supplies separated so I can take the basics into the kitchen and draw at the counter while cooking or waiting for the washer to finish spinning.
This involved a huge mindset change. I used to clear a big space, and prepare to work on an drawing until it was done. And it was always huge and elaborate.
These days I try to at least doodle something every day, so I keep one of these cute, little sketchbooks handy, along with a pencil and some pens.
If I want to work on more than a doodle, I take my clipboard and paper with me, and silently thank Nickelodeon any time it provides me 10-20 minutes of free time. :D
I keep an open shelf in the kitchen cleared all the time so I can set my drawings and pens out of the way quickly if needed.
I also keep a blank writing notebook in the kitchen and it is insane. Basically, whatever comes into my head gets scribbled in there.
4. I Let My Kids Play
I don't think I need to "engage my children" in pre-planned activities 24/7. During school hours, yes.
And we play together at intervals ( until I get the "rules" wrong and they boot me from the game. Oops.)
But they are also very imaginative children and play by themselves a lot. Yesterday they spent an incredible three hours singing in front of my dresser mirror wearing different hats.
Some days they want to draw too, and that's also cool. We all sit at the table, sometime for hours, coloring or drawing illustrations for silly stories we make up, and I get a ton of inspiration from their art and chatter.
And yes. I let them have screen time. Which usually means the television is on, but the kids have left and I catch myself singing along with Sponge Bob. Alone. While sweeping or doodling.
I'm that sad.
Outside play is definitely awesome. We fenced in our huge front yard. While they are digging in the sandbox, feeding their snacks to the birds, or running around like psycho zombies, I can sit on the front porch and doodle or take photos.
This is when I like to create the drawings for my doodle art tutorials, because I can snap better photos of the process.
This is still a work-in-progress, and I know it sounds silly. How can that possibly help make more creative time?
Easy! It cut down drastically on how much pointless housekeeping I have to do each day.
For the last two years, I've slowly sorted, organized, decluttered and minimalized (sometimes more than once) all the problem areas.
Having a designated place to put everything means that everyone can help pick up. I also used lots of labels to eliminate as many excuses as possible, haha!
I was working every single night, trying to make sure every single site was updated at least twice a week. If I got sidetracked one night on Pinterest (or heaven forbid, Cracked.com), then I felt miserably guilty. Then I panicked and fell behind trying to catch it all up at once.
Now I just take a night, usually Thursdays, and have fun on the internet. That alone gives me tons of ideas for new posts, cartoons, and artwork, so it's actually not a bad thing at all.
(PS, my traffic is actually going up, so it can't be bad, right?)
I just keep a notebook handy in case I have sudden inspiration while browsing and want to take a note. Sometimes I take my night and do something offline, like watch a movie or finish a book I've been courting through the week.
I don't get paid for it, but I stay inspired, and that is worth a lot. I will admit I do tend to "accidentally" end up working anyhow, because when I have ideas, I want to do them now. But at least I try to relax. Haha.
When I started earning money online a few years ago, I started to establish a few ground rules (for kids and husbands). Basically, what I do is important, and therefore deserves to be treated so. That means a compromise.
Sometimes I have to say "I will do that in just a minute, after I finish this one thing." At night, unless it's an emergency, I kinda don't like to be bugged at all. Especially if I am working on any coding.
(Emergencies do not include questions like "where do we keep butter knives? Because they have been in the same place for 6 years, and I'm not coming out of the office to point to the butter knife drawer. :D )
As long as my crew more or less respects my time, I resist the temptation to slide in front of their tv shows in my socks and do weird chicken dance moves whenever a catchy song comes on.
Fair is fair, after all.
In the end, I get a lot done by thinking a lot about what I want to get done for a day. Not just vague ideas either like "write a post" or "draw something".
I "write" a lot of my content in my head while I'm going about my day. I try not to get sidetracked by other projects or tasks. For example I know I need to be making new pin images for my elder care blog. BUT...I know I want to finish this post first, so I don't dare open the photo editor yet.
It may not be "pro blogger" to say so, but I think it's okay to not get all the things done in one day. Especially if you are DIY'ing it all. I never feel like I've done as much as I should, but I know it all adds up in time.
As I said earlier, what works for me may not work for you, but maybe this can give you some ideas if you are struggling to make time for creativity.
I would love to hear your tips if you are a work-from-home creative who is balancing it all!