Do you ever have that feeling that you've somehow lost hours of your day, but can't really say where they went? Lost like a sock in the washing machine. Mysteriously disappearing and never to be seen again. That happens to me a lot. But lately far less so because of this neat little trick I learned.
It's not even something revolutionary, but more like something I'd heard about before but never actually tried. Sometimes I think my head is just full of useful tips I never use. Like a junk drawer. But every now and again I hear about a tip that's already in my mental junk drawer and decide to pull it out. That's exactly what it was like with the trick that helped me turn drawing into a daily habit. It's Marloes De Vries approved.
And the most recent trick that I pulled out of my junk drawer was about time tracking. Sounds boring I know, but hear me out. I've been reading Marie Forleo's book Everything is figureoutable and one of the things that she really pushes for is doing what the book says instead of thinking "Oh good idea, I'll remember that and use it soon". So you can imagine I felt like she was directly calling me out or as we say in Romanian I felt the fly on my hat.
Track your time.
That's it! It's really just that.
I read that sentence in the evening and decided to start the next day. And that's when I realized that I actually sort of knew what my time suckers were, I just didn't want to admit it. I mean a 10 minute video isn't that long, right? And I have to do the dishes and make some tea anyway so might as well put an episode of Grace & Frankie in the background. And studio vlogs sometimes just make you feel like you're working with a colleague and get you feeling motivated, right?
If I would've written down my schedule with no adjustments it probably would've looked like this:
But I was ashamed. I wanted to be honest with my time tracking, but I didn't want that to be my honest answer. So I pushed myself to get to work quicker and leave no room for distractions or time suckers in the morning. And IT WAS GREAT! Not only did I manage to start work at a time of the day when I previously didn't even think my brain was turned on, but I also saw with my own eyeballs that 10 minutes here and there add up to A LOT, everything takes waaay longer when I do it with a show or a YouTube video "in the background" and if I start my day by letting my attention get stolen by something other that my own work then I'm much more likely to be easily distracted for the rest of the day. That's just how my brain works and I'm happy I finally figured it out.
But when I noticed I was striving to do things better as if someone was supervising me, it reminded me of something one of our professors told us in a sociology class. He mentioned a study in which someone was hired by a company to write a report about their workers' use of protective gear. During the first few days while the researcher was there the workers would be careful to follow the rules and always wear protective gear when recommended because they had the acute feeling that they were being watched and were acting like they knew they were supposed to. But after a few days, although the researcher was still there, the workers got used to their presence so they went back to acting naturally and wearing the gear on and off as they usually would. And that's when the research could start.
Knowing this I was afraid I would fall back into my old habits when I no loner had the feeling that someone was watching me. But now that I've been doing it for a while I don't think that's gonna happen anymore because:
- I like it! The difference between me and those workers is that they weren't actively trying to increase their use of protective gear, but I AM trying to maximize the time in my day. And the feeling I get after crossing off a little something on my To Do list before 9AM is so good!
- I honestly thought I'm just a slow starter, but I'M NOT! My brain actually works best in the morning. I don't get out of bed full of energy ready to run a 5k or write a book, but I do have enough energy to color in an illustration or sketch out something.
- Create before you consume has been my mantra and so far it's helped me not only be more productive, but also feel less likely to fall into the comparison trap. It's harder to compare yourself to anyone else if you're busy making stuff.
-I finally feel in control of my time.
Marie Forleo recommends tracking your time for 7 days then seeing where there's room for adjustments so you can't use the "I don't have time" excuse. I started tracking my time about 2-3 weeks ago and did it on and off. I don't do it every day anymore because I don't feel like I need to. Some days when I feel like I'm easily distracted I'll pull out a notebook and start writing it all down. I feel like pausing and writing down that I spent 25 min on random YouTube videos is enough to break the distraction curse and send my brain back into work mode.
But mostly I don't do it because I feel like I've gotten what I need from this exercise. I know the time suckers I need to watch out for and I know where my time goes!
But I still don't know where my missing socks go...