Code Name: Succulent – Prioritizing

No idea what this is? Code Name: Succulent is declassified here.

When I decided to start spending time on interests other than writing again, I needed to prioritize and make some decisions. A lot of people can just play it by ear, but my personality doesn’t work that way. I’m very driven when working towards something (say, a writing career), and it’s hard to break away from that to make room for other things. It has to be a conscious decision for me.

So I did what all organizing fiends & procrastinators do. I made a list.

This isn’t a comprehensive list of things I’m interested in by any means, but rather a list of all the things that I’d like to spend at least some time doing, and can never seem to work in. If you read last week’s post, you might have made your own list.

– Nail Art Tuesday (I do my nails weekly, but had let the blog lapse)

– Tea on Tap (ditto, sub “tea” for “nails”  and “daily” for “weekly”)

– Gardening/houseplants & outdoor

– Crocheting

– Stamp collecting

– Seasonal decorations

Then I took a hard look at the absolute minimum time requirement for these items to be meaningful to me: 

Nail blog: around 2-3 hours per week, not counting the actual manicure (because I’m already doing that). That’s for 1 blog post per week.

Tea blog: 1-2 hours per week, assuming 1 blog post per week.

Gardening: Bare minimum of 2 hrs per week for inside/outside plants together

Crochet: Really, just to keep my fingers nimble and make progress on a project, probably an hour or so per week.

Stamp collecting: Could be as little as an hour per week.

Seasonal Decorations: 2 hours per month

Total minimum time required for all these hobbies would be: 7 hours per week (plus 2 more per month)

That’s nearly an entire work day. Seven hours I could be writing or growing the writing business. So I had to really examine what these could give me that would justify spending the time:

Nail Art blog – may also bring in new readers, because it’s a popular blog with lots of visitors per day. Plus it’s a good way to stay connected and have something in common with other women – not something I’m generally all that good at outside the writing community. It’s one of the few “girly” interests I have.

Tea blog – the tea community is very centering, so aside from needing to really focus on a quiet, mindful activity once a week, there’s also a built in “calming” effect just to being a part of that community. And I do have a few tea friends who are also avid readers, so it could have an effect on readership as well, for short stories especially. Tea tasting/reviewing forces one to pay attention to taste, scent and sight.

Gardening makes my personal “setting” come alive. It keeps the air in my house cleaner, it makes the yard and outside of the house look beautiful, and it brings joy and a calm influence to my life. It makes me slow down and literally smell the roses. It puts me in touch with all of my senses. All of which could influence my writing and the way I approach the world in a positive way. And pulling weeds is great exercise – promotes good physical health.

Crochet is an amazing way to explore tactile senses. I love the feel of all sorts of fibers, and the different sizes and types of hooks as create a piece. The necessary tension and manual dexterity are good for strong hands, fingers and wrists. There’s always a new stitch to learn, or new patterns to follow or create. It’s a solitary activity for me, as most of the fiber groups in town are either spinning or knitting based (and I really have no interest in learning to knit). But crocheted items make great gifts too, and it would give me time away from the computer screen (which my eyes would probably appreciate).

Stamp collecting gives me a sense of history, of being a part of something bigger and archiving events and moments in time in a very creative and artistic way. It’s also incredibly easy to get sucked into both research and the philatelic community, so time constraints are pretty hard to stick to, and overall, while I find it interesting and satisfying, I think for now the time this would take would be better spent on other things.

Seasonal Decorations: I love doing tablescapes – creating seasonal arrangements for the dining room table and a metal basket in front of our house. It’s a creative past-time that gives me great joy & doesn’t require much time, but is really just an accent I can live without. So that’s coming off the list for now too. Perhaps later it will find its way back.

All of other four activities really do justify the time spent, in my mind. That leaves me with 6 hours of “hobby time” needed per week. With that in mind, I opened up my trusty calendars, and started playing with my schedule.

If you’re a person who can’t work within a structured schedule…you might want to skip this next part. Or get more caffeine so I don’t put you to sleep. I *need* structure – it’s hard-wired into my personality, so working without a schedule would mean absolute failure at all points for me. I know this from experience. We’re all wired to work a certain way – figuring that out is 90% of the battle.

I looked at all the time I have blocked out for writing, and all the time blocked out for personal stuff, and all the time blocked out for business stuff. The main part of my day is eaten up by the day job, so that’s blocked out too. All told, that left me with around 10 hours per week of unscheduled time – time I normally spend mucking about on social media sites, running errands with my husband, or generally doing nothing. Obviously I still need some unscheduled time leftover – one can’t be scheduled every second of the day and not end up pulling their hair out. Taking 6 hours from 10 just wasn’t going to work for me. So I needed to find a few more hours – and it had to come from my writing/business time since it couldn’t come from day job hours. I’ve sacrificed pretty much everything for writing for two years, so hard as it is, I feel like I need to do this.

It takes me about an hour to write a scene – so I cut one of my serial scenes to gain an hour on the weekend. I moved another one to the week, but will probably cut that too after the most recent story is finished. This will mean slower productivity for those two genres (just one scene per week instead of two), but better overall mental health. Here’s hoping it’s a good trade off (see? Even now I still fight it, mentally). That gives me 12 free hours to play with, which will work fine.  

This post is too long already, so I’ll end it here for the week. If you’re playing along and have a list of things you’d like to make room for, I challenge you to work through the list and figure out just how much time each item requires to be meaningful *for you*, and then really think about how those items will enrich your life (or whether it’s important to keep them or not). For me, the idea was to find the few things I’m *really* interested in pursuing that will give me the most value in terms of rest, relaxation, connecting with others, and experiencing the world through different senses.

Next week – how I’ve started assimilating these things into my schedule, and how it’s working for me. Caution: growing pains ahead…


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3 comments on “Code Name: Succulent – Prioritizing

  1. Brooklyn Ann

    Jamie, you are insane. 🙂 Really I’m envious of your productivity.

  2. Jamie D.

    Ironically none of these hobbies are really productive in any way…but they force me to think differently and take a break from being productive. I get antsy if I just sit, because my mind rarely slows down.

    I suppose it does look kind of insane though, if you’re not dealing with this hyper-active, over-analytical brain every day.

  3. Dolly

    I am excellent at making fixed schedules – not so perfect at sticking to them. But working on the discipline there.

    Good luck with all your activities. 🙂