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  • Elise V Allan

Busy Times

first published August 14th 2018


It’s been a busy time; I’m preparing for an exhibition, having learned basic InDesign skills after a tutorial and notes from a very helpful colleague – thanks Jo Petty - to put together a catalogue and invitation. All at the printer now, and I’m hoping there were no last minute mistakes! So, to-do lists are on my mind. A friend, who would like to be more organised, noticed my big open book with my weekly and daily chores, and was keen to try my current method and pass it on to another friend who is engaged in the battle against chaos, and things not getting done. I had already borrowed from another friend’s organisational methods; when my daughter was young, I noticed that my friend Catherine had a diary open in her kitchen with a list of the next week’s meals. I was impressed. I copied her, and have freed up time that would otherwise be spent sorting out dinners. There’s great information available about how to prioritise the important but not urgent things, over the urgent but less important things. (Artificial deadlines are the key). There was an excellent article about it in Oliver Burkeman’s column in the Guardian at the end of July, describing how we respond to urgency quite irrationally. But for those of us who value creativity, it’s not always clear how much importance we allow ourselves to attribute to all of our creative activities. A writer working on a novel is usually clear that writing is important, as a painter is usually clear about painting’s importance. We might struggle to prioritise it without deadlines, unless we have a good rhythm of work going, but we at least know it matters.  But what about the stuff that nourishes us, that is done for love or fun alone? My friend especially liked two things about my list. The first is that I include the things I like to do daily – writing my morning pages, reading a daily poem, along with bigger items like studio time. And within the weekly list I include things that are neither tremendously important nor urgent, but will make my life more beautiful – so the cushion covers1 finally got made a month ago – and doing this really energised the rest of my day - and the rag rug has had a couple more sessions. These things are so easily abandoned. A few years ago, I finally completed a patchwork quilt that I’d started when I was twenty; it was immensely satisfying to finish it, but not the type of time scale I want to give to any future projects... The other thing my friend really liked, is that along with the priorities and the lists of chores, I occasionally include two half hour sessions for pottering, or even complete time wasting. I figure that if I’m under pressure, knowing that I can have those two half hours of nonsense is a comfort. And to make sure the time wasting period isn’t extended, I put on a timer. Just like being in an old fashioned job when there were tea breaks and lunch times without meetings. Today, I haven’t managed to tick those two items off yet, but it’s 9.00pm - still time. And I’ve had a new rug2 delivered so I’m off to do some rearranging and pottering. 1As in photo above! 2I have to confess that an irrational feeling of urgency kicked in when I looked at a certain gorgeous rug for the umpteenth time on the website and found there were only six left.

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