Habits Live in Your Free Time – creative work as roommate

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It seems like it should be within reason to switch some of our daily free time to daily creative work. Our other time is clearly spoken for; work, people, animals, cars, bills, bodily needs, all these things occupy our non-free time.

But free time is not as free as we think of it. Our free time, every bit of it,  is already occupied with the world of our habits.Whatever we do now within our free time is something we selected to do a long time ago and it has been well practiced. It could be a few hours of television watching. For months, years (longer?) we sit and watch television. We stop on particular programming that strikes us. We open up to its content. We absorb it. Probably, this free time, we once declared, is our unwinding time, our hang out time. We worked hard all day and damn it, no one has the right to disturb us.

You think that it is going to be easy to change this long-term habit?  We can’t rush in and make this sort of change. We have to do it with tips, tactics, luck, and time.

Pick two or three times in a typical day when you might be able to do your creative work
It is important to pick two or three possible times so we indicate to ourselves that we will be flexible about our time. If one doesn’t work well, we will move on to another time. We won’t give up until we find a time slot, that will eventually work.

Learn about the habit that already occupies these times
Answer each of these questions and you will know what you are habitually doing in your free time now.

  • What happens in that time now? No matter how small or insignificant it might feel, you are truly doing something in that time. You are relaxing, or visiting, or zoning out, or problem solving, or problem finding, walking the dog or thinking about walking the dog, enjoying a snack, letting off steam…whatever. What are you doing?
  • How long have you been doing whatever you been doing in that time? A year or decades?
  • How did you end up doing whatever it is that you do in this time?  Likely this is something you gravitated to and may even be considered  as a special time to retreat from the world.

Cut a deal with your current habit if you can
Changing a habit by going cold turkey while introducing a substitute is very difficult work and can kill any new efforts. A way to ease the work a bit, is to see if your current habit can be moved or addressed at least partially. Take your answers above and:

  • see if there is another time at which you can do the same sort of thing that your habit has you doing now
  • see if the current habit (your needs) can be combined with another habit
  • see if the current habit can be altered a bit to fit another time period or another habit
  • or, as a last resort, see if your current habit can be put off just for a short work period. Once the work period is over, the current habit has your undivided attention. Make sure to follow thru on your promise.

Be comfortable with being the newcomer in this space. Your new habit of working daily will not get treated well and it will even be hassled by the long-term tenants. Hang in there and know that they had to go thru the same thing when they first tried to move into this time.

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Hey, as I have said many places before, the real power a stuck creative can find, is the power in working daily. What you need is 15, 20, 45 minutes and then you can do whatever you current habits dictate.  Power comes from small but steady steps of daily work.


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