Feel like you don’t have time to enjoy your own hobbies or creative endeavors? We have more time than we think if we think outside the box and use our time more effectively, especially when we can share our hobbies with our kids.
Over the last year or two, adult coloring books have been all the rage. I remember seeing several women posting their works of art on Instagram and wondering “How the heck do you find time for that?“.
I’m a big believer in “making time” for things that are important to me. I certainly can’t create more than 24 hours in a day, but I can consciously waste less time doing things I don’t value and reallocate that time to things of more importance to me.
When it came to coloring, though, I just couldn’t imagine swaping out reading or exercising or folding laundry for cuddling up with a fancy coloring book and some Crayolas.
Divide and Conquer (Multi-Tasking Fails)
As I paid more attention to my boys’ behavior, I noticed that they were in much better spirits when I was not trying to accomplish multiple tasks at once. (Maybe that’s not rocket science, but whatever.)
They don’t need constant attention from me. When I spend the whole day checking off items on my to-do list, however, while also trying to keep them entertained doing something different, the tone of the day spirals out of control.
Trying to multi-task, I end up doing everything poorly and nothing well. I’m a crappy and inattentive mom. I don’t accomplish my own tasks efficiently or effectively. My boys mischievously putter around the house or end up watching something on television or beating each other up. And everyone is in a bad mood about it.
It’s abundantly clear that I need to chose one thing to focus on at a time and engage wholeheartedly. It doesn’t always work, but when I make it my goal, our days pass so much more smoothly (and productively!).
Focusing on Spending Dedicated Time With My Boys
As this played out throughout our days, I’ve had a handful of opportunities to color with my boys. In the past, I would have tried to accomplish something else while they color. But lately, trying to focus more on doing just one thing at a time (and doing it well), I’ve been sitting down to color with them.
Both boys, and especially T, love to color with me. T won’t typically initiate a request to color together. But when I pick up a marker and a coloring book, he’s by my side in no time asking to help me color the page.
We often end up having some really great conversations while we color as well (even if it’s only for 15 or 20 minutes until they’re ready to move on to something new). T tells me stories (some real, most pretend). They both ask me loads of curious questions. Not only do I get to color, but I also get some fun insight into my boys’ lives and minds.
As it came to pass, I made time to color by doing it with my kids, not considering it only an activity I did on my own.
I found time for a creative hobby not by giving up time with my kids but by sharing the hobby with my kids.
We’ve been using this strategy for a while in other areas as well. I cook and bake with my boys regularly. We exercise and play sports as a family sometimes. I’m slowly teaching my boys how to use cameras hoping they might come to love photography as much as I do. It’s a bit silly, I suppose, that I didn’t consider we could apply the same strategy to coloring.
Focusing my energy on one task at a time makes everything so much more enjoyable. I also end up plowing through my to-do list much more quickly when I complete several things all at once before the boys wake up or after they go to bed, free from disruptions. And the days I spend with my boys are much more enjoyable and meaningful without an expectation that they have to always be “productive”.
168 Hours by Laura Vanderkam
In her book 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think, Laura Vanderkam writes extensively about how much time we really have in our weeks and how we can use our time more effectively to do the things that make us happy.
She discusses many strategies, often brought to light by completing time logs to track exactly how we really use our time. (Spoiler Alert: We aren’t very good at using our time well or understanding how we use it.) Specifically, she discusses the myth that multi-tasking is an effective strategy for ‘cramming’ more into our days.
It can be effective to combine certain activities like going for a walk with a friend to exercise and catch up on the relationship, because we’re using completely different capacities of our brain (physical and mental / emotional). Attempting to complete multiple activities that compete for the same cognitive space, though, like having a conversation or playing with my children while also trying to respond to a few emails generally takes longer than just doing each of the activities separately and with specific focus.
If you haven’t read Vanderkam’s work, I definitely recommend it. She offers a host of other insights about effective time management and self-awareness in her books 168 Hours and What Successful People Do Before Breakfast. She recently released a new book, I Know How She Does It: How Successful Women Make the Most of Their Time, which is on my list of books to read.
We Have More Time Than We Think
We all have 24 hours in a day and 7 days in a week. But just by observing those around us, it’s clear than some people use their time more effectively than others. When we get creative or think outside the box about how we spend our time, it’s likely we find that we’re not always allocating it to the things we consider most valuable in our lives.
Despite thinking I could never ‘find time to color,’ I realized that using my time differently created time to draft up my own “works of art” while also spending quality time with my boys. It’s not always easy for me to put aside being “productive” in exchange for dedicated time with my boys (even though that sounds like a terrible thing for a mom to say). But when I resist the urge to engage with my to-do list, it pays big dividends.
I have two happier little boys (and two lovely lizards) to prove it!