As a freelance writer and creative person finding her way in the world, I have a hard time saying no. I like the excitement and passion behind launching new products, writing articles, and making new content. I also like to stay busy. So, it should have come as no surprise to me when I crashed and burned last Friday after a very busy and stressful week.
The week started out free and clear and slowly began to fill itself in. By Tuesday I had four 500-word articles to write, a poster to design, and various other items that needed attention. Plus, I had to eat and sleep at some point. I didn’t manage my time well and when I got to Friday I was a mess. This is not how I like to live so I turned to my tarot cards for a little clarity. The general message from the cards was that I needed balance between my creative work and down time. I needed to sit in the sun and enjoy. As a Virgo, it’s not easy for me to sit still but a friend wisely pointed out that when we sit in the sun we ARE being productive. We’re absorbing Vitamin D, we’re learning to breathe again, and we’re lowering our blood pressure.
So, in an effort to find my balance between creative work and relaxing, I came up with this list to help me stay sane:
1. Do nothing for 5 or 10 minutes – Take a few minutes each day when you’re stuck in traffic or walking to your car and just breathe. Don’t think about what you have to get done or what you’re not doing and enjoy the time by yourself. I have a short 15 minute walk to work in the morning so I make sure to walk by the river and watch the sun rise and just breathe. When I get work, I’m calm and ready to get going. I also do this at night when I walk home.
2. Honor your monkey brain – In the Buddhist tradition, the voice that chatters while you meditate is called the monkey brain. This is the voice that interrupts your quiet time and tells you what you’re doing wrong, about the chores you’re neglecting, what you’re planning for dinner. Instead of fighting the monkey brain during your quiet time, honor it, tell it you know you have things to get done and will do so once you have enjoyed the rain on the roof, the sunrise, or time petting your cat. I find this strategy is much easier than listening to the voice and beating myself up when I’m trying to relax.
3. Ask for Help – As a woman and someone who is very independent, asking for help is not easy. This weekend I was working on designing a poster and couldn’t get past a particular concept and wording for the poster. My husband clearly knew I was stuck and offered to help. My first response to was to say I didn’t need it but I let my ego go and allowed him to help me and we created something we and my client are very proud to display.
4. Eat, Exercise, repeat– When my blood sugar is low or I haven’t exercised in a few days, I feel like crap and when I feel like this I produce content fit only for my cat’s litter box. Stephen King encourages writers to exercise or take walks every day. It gets you away from the desk or studio for a few hours and clears out your head and helps you avoid making litter box-worthy product. Taking care of your body and mind is vital to creative health and can’t be neglected.
5. Prioritize and Say No- You know your schedule and you know what you are capable of getting done. Don’t add on new projects because you want to stay busy or don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. Analyze your to do list and let go of projects you just can’t do or don’t want to do.
These are just a few tips I came up with to stay sane when my plate is full. How do you do it?What works and doesn’t work for you? Drop me a line and share how we can all be a little saner.
Leo Babauta aka Mr. Minimalist wrote this excellent article on how creative people stay balanced and focused. Read it and wish you had friends like his.