OK. So you’ve got that list you made yesterday, the one that shows you how you spend your time. If you put a little effort into it and were honest, you should be able to see some of the ways that maybe time is being eaten up by things that don’t really deserve to get a slice of your valuable life. Like, you know, games on Facebook. Sitting in front of the mirror looking at your pores. Organizing your sock drawer. Or your tool box. You know: stuff that doesn’t have to be done and doesn’t really make you happier/richer/more productive. That kind of stuff.
What you’ll do first is divide that list into Things Only You Can Do and Everything Else. Go through and highlight things that nobody else can do. That would include all the self-care maintenance stuff like eating and brushing your teeth and the have-to-do-it stuff like going to work at the day job, but it would not include cooking dinner (unless you’re the only over-12 human in the house) or mowing the lawn or picking up the dry cleaning or anything else that could, theoretically, be handled by Someone Who Is Not You.
Once you’ve corralled the things only you can do, look at everything that’s left. Divide this group of things into Things Someone Has to Do, and Things That Don’t Absolutely Have to Be Done. In the latter group you’ll put those hours spent surfing online, time spent making the bed (no, it really doesn’t have to be made; Earth will not come to a screeching halt in its orbit around the sun if you never, ever make up your bed ever again), watching television, reading the newspaper–all those kinds of things. It’s not that they don’t have a place in your life or that you have to give them up; it’s just that they don’t have to be done.
Back to Things Someone Has To Do. Go through that list and pick the things that, In The Real World, are going to fall to you. The grocery shopping, maybe. Or the laundry. But take a good look at the list, and if you’re doing all the household chores for half a dozen people, then maybe you want to have a meeting about that. Or maybe you’re spending four hours a week on lawn care that really has to be done but doesn’t necessarily have to be done by *you,* not when there’s an adolescent in the house who’s saving up for a down payment on a 1987 Dodge Dakota.
When you’ve finished highlighting and crossing off and marking up your list, you should be able to see what things you really do have to do and what things you just don’t. Those things that you don’t, which can range from cleaning the oven to watching three hours of Hulu every night after dinner–those are the things you can work on or give up or jettison entirely for a little more time to spend working on projects. Those are the things you’re going to have to think about, and you’re the only one who can tackle them. If time really is the reason you don’t make more art, this is your chance to take a good hard look at how you can make your time function better in your life. Because, really, it does belong to you.
For more useful stuff about time, and about space, check out my book, Creative Time and Space.