Creating versus Processing, holidays, headspace and kids

My children went back to school yesterday. It’s lovely having them around but even though they are older now (16,15,13 and 7) I still don’t find it easy to work when they are all at home. I can manage ‘process’ stuff (answering email, updating presentations, doing the accounts) but I can’t do anything creative at all.

It’s a headspace thing. I just can’t get into the zone.

Yesterday I was chatting with prolific and awesome and super-creative author Rebecca Fernfield in the 100 Day Goal Facebook Group and she also finds it hard to be creative when her children are home. So with the the long summer school holidays coming up, her plan is to write like crazy on the remaining school days and then edit, edit, edit during the holidays.

I like the idea of planning around the holidays. Loading up the creative work in term time and leaving the ‘processing’ to when the kids are off school. It’s not always possible of course, but when it is, it’s much easier to change the work to suit one’s headspace than the other way round.

Not enough time is not all bad

This week’s been crazy busy, some unexpected things popped up which meant that everything else needed to get squeezed into a smaller time pot. Everything got done though, and while I’m kinda amazed that it did, in my heart I know it always does.

This from Leo Babauta, explains why:

“when a container is unlimited, you’ll just fill it with anything. When you have constraints, you’ll be more careful, and more appreciative of the limited space you have”

When we’re really REALLY busy, our brain gets focussed and super-selective about the things it sees and does. We literally do not notice things that would otherwise distract us. Our container is small. Our brain knows it can’t just fill it with anything. It closes the shutters on “other things”. Sure, there’s stuff which doesn’t get done, but that stuff wasn’t important anyway. Our clever ol’ brain knows the difference and gets everything that needs to get done, done.

It’s a little wacko, but we actually work better when we have less time.

What would your best self do?

I listened to the most unlikely podcast the other day: The Jesuit Guide to (almost) everything on the Art of Manliness. I’m not a man and not religious so how I stumbled on it I’ll never know, but I’m so glad I did. It wasn’t at all religious (or manly), just good advice for life.

The Little Gem I took from it was this: Regularly check in with your Best Self

Your Best Self

Your Best Self is like the ideal version of you: the version that gets stuff done, exercises, eats properly, works hard, doesn’t get cranky with the kids, doesn’t procrastinate, hangs their clothes up, recycles everything, doesn’t spend hours mindlessly scrolling…… Yes. THAT person.

The Idea

The idea is that you regularly check in with yourself and ask “Am I doing now, what my Best Self would do?”

There are some regular moments where it’s really super-useful to do this:

  1. In the morning when planning your day “ Is this how my Best Self would use her time?”
  2. When you are procrastinating “Would my Best Self do the work or find an excuse?”
  3. Whenever you pick up your phone ‘Would my Best Self spend the next 30 minutes scrolling?”
  4. As you open the biscuit jar “Would my Best Self eat this?”
  5. When you decide it’s too wet to exercise “ Would my Best Self let the rain stop her run?”
  6. In the evening “Would my Best Self be happy with how today went?”

And it’s also a really useful technique when you need to:

  1. Make a decision “Would my Best Self spend $400 on a new pair of shoes?”
  2. Choose your behaviour “Would my best self lose her sh*t when her daughter draws on the wardrobe?”
  3. Keep going “Would my Best Self give up because of one snarky customer?”

Give your Best Self a name

A little enhancement that’s worked well for me is giving my Best Self a name. In my head I’ve created the ideal version of me and called it Julia Eaton (same first name to keep me “me”, different surname to lose the less-than-ideal bits)

So today, when I was feeling full of cold and quite lazy and miserable and not at all in the mood to write this, I asked “What Julia Eaton do?”

And, you see, it worked.