“How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. What we do with this hour, and that one, is what we are doing. A schedule defends from chaos and whim. It is a net for catching days. It is a scaffolding on which a worker can stand and labor with both hands at sections of time. A schedule is a mock-up of reason and order—willed, faked, and so brought into being; it is a peace and a haven set into the wreck of time; it is a lifeboat on which you find yourself, decades later, still living. Each day is the same, so you remember the series afterward as a blurred and powerful pattern.” Annie Dillard (Source)
I just found this quote and it feels like the perfect description for both the power and the futility of a creative schedule. I have ideas about how I want to spend my time and they almost never match reality. But I try, week after week, to impose a sense of order on my days to help me feel like I’m accomplishing something and moving forward. As I’ve written about before, routine and habit help to cement our creative practice. Without this structure, our ideas float off and become lost in the flurry of our days, in the “wreck of time.”
This is what my daily routine looks like.
At the office
Three and a half years ago I took a leap and started working part-time— three days a week—so that I could have two days for making art. This was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made and I’m so grateful for those two days. But it also means that creating a schedule and routine is a bit tricky since my week is carved up into separate sections. After all this time my schedule is far from perfect, but I do have a pretty good idea of what works best for me.
On my work days, I have to get up between 5:45 and 6:00 to pack breakfast and lunch, catch the bus, and be at work by 8:00. I do production and editing work for management consultants and often have spare time when I can work on my own projects (like this blog!). However, since I have to fit my work in between the consultants’ work, I’m not able to set a schedule for those days. Instead, I set priorities for all my writing and administrative tasks, and do my best to work through them when I can.
I spend my evenings making dinner, cleaning, watching TV with Matt, taking belly dance or printmaking classes, going to Toastmaster meetings, or seeing friends.
Because I have to get up so early, and because I need at least 8.5 hours of sleep to feel my best, I try to be in bed by 9:30 on work nights. I’ve established a bit of a bed-time routine, which I try to start an hour before lights out: I wash the dishes, brush my teeth, write in my journal, and read something soothing (right now I’m reading and loving Radical Acceptance by Tara Brach).
On my art days, I usually get to decide how I want the day to go, though I often have to take appointments and other commitments into consideration. The schedule below is for an ideal day. The difference between this and a real day is usually quite substantial, but it’s something to aspire to.
Ideal studio schedule
7-7:30 – Stumble out of bed and try to wake up. This often involves cuddling with Matt on the couch before he goes to work.
7:30-8:30 – Drawing or other exploratory/playful art. This is an assignment from the Drawing Project from last month that is taking much longer than expected.
8:30-9 – Breakfast and reading. Usually this half hour stretches imperceptibly to a full hour as I sip tea and get lost in a book, or scroll Instagram.
9-9:30 – Shower and get dressed. I don’t put on street clothes or do my hair or makeup—essentially, I switch from sleeping pyjamas to working pyjamas—but I do shower every day. In the photo of my breakfast you can sort of see my leopard print “work” pyjamas. So comfy!
9:30-11:30 – Work on art. Usually this is either a sculpture or print for markets or galleries, but last week I let myself have some playtime and made a collage instead.
11:30-12:30 – Yoga, walk, or dance practice. This is the room where I do my yoga.
12:30-1 – Lunch. Usually leftovers from the night before—last week it was fajitas!
1-3 – Art/social media
3-4 – Admin tasks that I wasn’t able to finish on my office days
4-5 – Household chores
5-6 – Dinner, often in front of the TV.
I spend my evenings in much the same way as my office days, though I usually stay up a bit later, starting my bedtime routine at 9:30 or 10:00.
While my days tend to vary a lot, I’ve found that keeping my weeks relatively similar helps me stay on an even keel:
- I buy groceries on Sundays and make a big meal that will have enough leftovers for my office lunches. Every other week we have a friend and her two-year-old daughter over for dinner on Sundays as well. This summer I’ve been biking to the Farmer’s Market most weeks, which has made grocery buying so much more satisfying.
- On my office days I pack the same breakfasts every week so that I have some variety but don’t have to think about it on grocery days, or, more importantly, at 6:00 am when I am incapable of making decisions. Monday is oatmeal, Tuesday is a smoothie, and Wednesday is an egg sandwich. Then I have four days to mix up my breakfasts and try new things.
- I try to exercise every day, even if that just means a short walk. On my office days I either walk around the neighborhood or do yoga in the basement of the building. In the summer I take my bike on the bus to the office and then ride it home. It’s about 35 minutes and a pretty good workout.
- Ideally Saturdays are a sort of ‘sabbath’ when I spend time with people I care about and don’t do any work and Sundays are for grocery shopping, cooking, and taking care of the apartment.
- I try to meditate for at least 10 min/day using the Headspace app.