In one of those strange little turns where something appears in a movie that doesn’t exist at all in the book, Professor Slughorn seems to have acquired a handy little contraption that even the Harry Potter nonfans amongst us might appreciate: an hour-glass that manipulates time. The sand moves slowly when things are very interesting indeed, and rushes past when things are dire, bland or even boring. I am sure it would be quite divine to adapt it just a little and speed over the things we don’t particularly love in favour of extra time to spend on the things we enjoy. Between the the hourglass and Hermione’s time-turner necklace that allows her to attend double the classes that would fit in a day, it seems the magical world has a much stronger hold on how to make time work to one’s favour. The rest of must result to strategy rather than trickery, I suppose.
Aside from a few standard questions about adhesives, trimmers and 12×12 albums, the question most often asked in the scrapbooking world seems to be How do you find the time? and since a class with daily prompts starts a week from today, it seems like as good a time as any to hash out my real answer.
First of all, I definitely have to find the time. There is some lovely dream of mine wherein I wake up, the house is immaculate, all the bills are paid, my inbox is empty and I have the luxury of deciding what wonderful luxury I will use to fill an entire day. But that is most definitely a dream. As I write this, I have 38 messages in my ‘need to respond’ box, the dishwasher and the dryer are both running and there are scrapbooking supplies spread over half my dining room table that really should have been put away at the weekend. I have some big items still on my to-do list and four deadlines in the next seven days. Definitely not the dream. And I know that my schedule is not as insane as it gets—after all, there are only two people in my household, and we both cope pretty well with packing our own bag, arranging our own lunch and choosing usually-appropriate attire for the day. But we all have to start somewhere.
Secondly, don’t think this is some monumental change and I’m turning this into a self-help blog. I most definitely am not qualified for that and have no such plan! But it is something we all deal with and something that’s been on my mind lately. Turns out other people are thinking about it too, if yesterday’s post is anything to go by. I’ve included a few of those comments here (thank you!) but if you have time, it is definitely worth reading everyone’s answers.
Here are the twelve things that work for me: how I make time to scrapbook.
1. Step away from the television.
The biggest change in my time efficiency came when I started to live without a television in my house. Now you may be a fabulous person of strong will, but I am not. You may able to be in the room and enjoy the quiet and not turn on the TV. You may never channel-surf and simply turn on the television to watch a specific show and then turn it off again. You may never fall victim to inane chat shows, infomercials or reruns of Friends starting with The One You’ve Already Seen Ten Times. Likewise, you probably don’t feel the need to watch the news three times in one day just in case there has been a development on that one thing that you can’t explain, aren’t really affected by and are completely clueless about how you could change. You may be able to do all those things and thereby have no trouble living with one or more televisions. Me? Not so much. If it’s there, I turn it on and I get sucked in. The next time I look up, it’s three hours later and I’ve lost the time to do half a zillion things I had hoped to do that day. I am perfectly honest: I have no will power. So when by chance I found myself living without a television, I filled that time with other things that I loved. Crafty things. Photographing things. Walking places I hadn’t been. Five years later that still works for me. It’s not actually that I don’t watch any television, as we have online TV from the big channels here and we have a DVD player—but both of those things take effort, so I notice it and make an informed decision to watch. Very different to just walking into a quiet room and turning on the TV because the noise fills a void.
It’s less about throwing your TV out the window and more about being aware of your will power, I think. And of course, there are some sorts of crafting you can happily do while watching—but they vary from person to person as well as craft to craft.
2. Limit your supplies.
When I work on a daily project like Learn Something New or Journal your Christmas, I take a bit of time before the first day to choose my supplies and pop them in a box or basket that I can easily take from one room to the next or even on the road if need be. Last year I did a week of my Christmas Journal up a mountain in the snow, and time and space were both an issue, but a tiny box of supplies worked just perfectly and I put my daily entries together in a little window of time every afternoon. Even if I’m not going anywhere, limiting my supplies makes me scrap more quickly than starting every single day from scratch – choosing colours, letters, patterns, embellishments? That takes far too long for a busy day. I keep those projects for days when I have more time and on days when I know I will be in a rush, I use only things from the basket. Aside from daily entries, this can be done with regular pages too: arrange supplies in page kits, purchase your supplies in kit form, or make it a habit to scrap with the supplies left on your desk rather than having to clean up one mess just to start another.
3. Don’t ignore the morning.
I am not a natural morning person, so don’t ignore this idea just because you aren’t either. On a morning when you have been able to get to sleep at a reasonable hour the night before, get up and work on something crafty before everyone else is awake. Get up and work on something crafty before you turn on your computer. When I was going through a long stretch of seemingly endless stress at work, crafting in the morning became my salvation. Even my night owl nature was too drained to create at the end of the working day and if I did manage to stay awake, I didn’t like what I was making because I was still tense and emotional from work. (I do not understand the switch off that some people can do, sadly. It turns out I didn’t even switch off after I quit the job.) So I got up a little early and worked on teeny-tiny pages so I could clear my mind and have some clarity before I had to plunge back into that stressful environment again. Now I don’t have that stress, but if I go through any sort of funk or the dreaded creative block, I go back to little pages, early in the morning. It is good for the watch and good for the soul.
I love how Robyn put it yesterday:
I started getting up early. Now I am up at 5am. I bake or sew or crack out something creative all before anyone else is even awake. And, it turns out, I’m a morning person after all.
Likewise, if evenings work for you, then go with that!
4. Set priorities and rewards.
I am so status-oriented it’s ridiculous. I send lots of emails and text messages to friends and work colleagues to say ‘so this is how far I am on that’ and sometimes they probably don’t want or need to know my daily status update. But it’s a way of keeping myself accountable. Pretty much every week day, I start with a list of things I want to get done and cross them off as I go. That’s clearly not rocket science. I try to write the list in priority order so I avoid too many things making it down to a final scary deadline. And if I have something on the list that I know will be unpleasant (or just a big pain in the neck!) then I make sure the next thing on the list is something fun and enjoyable – like scrapbooking. It is not ridiculous to put a scrapbook page on your to-do list once or twice a week. There is plenty of other stuff on that list that you do because it needs to be done: the crafty stuff is because you will feel better for it, right? Which in turn makes you a more balanced and pleasant person to be around. Why now it almost sounds like a duty! You’re scrapbooking to save the sanity of others, clearly.
On a less scrappy-note, I do this with other things in order to improve habits from time to time. Right now there is a chart on my fridge with four things I need to do each morning and two for each evening. Which sounds just like a sheet you would make to teach your kids to do their chores, I’m sure. Even more so when I tell you that I mark the sheet with smiley faces rather than ticks or crosses. The chart covers just over a month and is weekdays only, and all six items are relatively short in time (five are ten minutes at the very, very most and one is thirty minutes), so covering the entire sheet with smiley faces is possible, even though that end date is quite a while from now. I will admit that I am partly motivated by smiley faces alone, but there is also a concrete reward at the end. I have picked a few options but not decided just yet, but if I manage to fill the entire chart with smiley faces, then I can celebrate with a guilt-free reward. Plus if you do something like that for over a month, it often becomes habit so in theory it is easier to keep at it once the chart is gone. (Or there is always the option to just…print the chart again, for those of us who are clearly motivated by them.) I mention this because it’s the same concept really: whether you’re 6 or 60, you may be the type of person motivated by lists or charts that you can physically check and say ‘hey! I have done stuff today! NOW I can SCRAPBOOK!’ and that is a fabulous feeling indeed.
5. Stop staring and glue it down.
Seriously, I waste so much time in my day staring at things. If I look at the dishes, maybe they will clean themselves. If I look at the layout, maybe the brads will walk themselves over to the perfect place and take the decision away from me. Does anyone else do this? I constantly have to tell myself: alright already, just stop staring and get on with it.
6. Work with the family.
This is a funny one – obviously it’s different for every household out there. But if there is some way you can work together rather than apart, surely everyone ends up happier? Okay, not if your toddler is at a stage where being anywhere near your scrapbooking supplies involves the possibility of a hospital trip and you pulling out all your hair. But in other circumstances? It may come down to where or when you work on crafty things. I actually took the doors off the room where I craft so it opens into our dining/living room. On the negative side, there is no way for me to hide a room that is rarely tidy and presentable. On the positive, however, I never feel like I’m being anti-social. We can carry on a conversation and this works for us. And although I am not one of them, I know there are scrappers out there who have made a space for their kids to work on crafty stuff with scraps of papers that would otherwise be in the bin, and I think this is both educational and adorable.
7. Take a class.
Let someone else impose a schedule and prompt you to do something. Let your classmates cheer you along on days when you’re struggling—and you return the favour for them on days when you’re ahead. Taking a class helps look at things from a new perspective, be it the photos, the supplies and style or the journaling. Either make it a date and go to a workshop or sign up for an online class and let the class come to you. I still find taking classes to be inspiring even though I’ve been teaching them myself for quite a while now.
8. Focus on the other things that make scrapbooking exist.
It takes less time to pick up my camera and take some pictures than it does to make a page. It takes less time to write some thoughts in a notebook than it does to make a page. It takes less time to sketch out an idea for a crafty project than it does to make a page.
And yet these things are all part of scrapbooking. They can fit into my schedule in just moments or in the time that gets wasted while sitting on a train or waiting for an appointment. These things totally count.
9. Adapt your style.
Sometimes I will spend ages on a scrapbook page and enjoy it. But I don’t always have the time for that nor the mood required to keep walking away from an unfinished project. Sometimes scrapping simpler or quicker really is the answer. Premade embellishments, following a sketch, taking inspiration from a page in a magazine or on a website, printing a big stack of photos now and then…all things that can speed up the process when I go through phases of just wanting to be able to get pages done quickly.
10. Get it on the calendar.
I wasn’t always productive at crops. I spent more time chatting and eating chocolate than scrapping. Somewhere along the line I think I learned how to multitask those three items because I tend to actually get pages done at crops now! Usually not the most in the room but usually not the least either. Putting a crop – be it an evening, a day or a weekend – on the calendar in a month when you really can’t find little pockets of time to scrapbook. Then you can make the most of your time there and enjoy the lack of other responsibilities!
Meg has a fabulous calendar system:
I put them on the calendar. If it’s on there, it happens. So yes, I write down: go for a walk, take camera downtown, get newly released book @ library, etc. Then, when other things start popping up on the schedule, they HAVE to go around the other things already written down. I have a very full calendar, but I honor it, all of it!
11. Embrace ten minutes.
My biggest block is that I usually tend to think I need some huge amount of time, and that is nigh on impossible to find. Ten minutes I can find. And truthfully, ten minutes can work. If my photos are printed and my supplies are within reach, I can put together the basics of a layout in ten minutes. The next day I can come back and add embellishment for ten minutes. The third day I can journal and add any finishing touches. Or in ten minutes I can make a minibook page. Or in ten minutes I can do a little online scrapbook shopping. Ten minutes will keep me sane and creative when needed. It can be a little reminder that I want to get some other things done so I can spend a bit more than ten minutes soon.
Photo by Kenn Wilson of a mirror I was too forgetful to photograph.
12. Stay positive.
I scrapbook because it is enjoyable. Don’t you? We scrapbook for fun. And even if life gets in the way and we don’t get to scrapbook for a while, there is no reason to make it stressful in any way. Go with the flow of life for a while: there will still be glue sticks when you come back. But only if you have a smiley face.
But it was Cate that was able to sum up in just a few lines what I took me the disseration above:
the things you love ARE the things that really need to get done… as women, not just mothers, we all have a tendency, for whatever reason, to put “everything else” before our own needs and wants, but sometimes the only way to get through the day is to put “everything else” in a big pile, ignore it, and get on with doing what WE want to do.
That is really what it is all about.
xlovesx25 August 2009