How to Escape Survival Mode and Make Time to Be Creative

  • Save

Stuck in Survival Mode?

As a busy mom it is SO hard to find 15 minutes of downtime during the day.

If I’m not careful 4 o’clock will sneak up on me, with crying kids (it’s always right before dinner, right?!), a kitchen to clean, a meal to prepare, and I’m stressed out and wondering where all the time went.

  • Save

This post contains affiliate links to products I recommend. I receive a small commission (at no additional cost to you) if you click them and make a purchase. Thanks for your support! See my full disclosure here.


Making time to be creative is the last thing on my mind when my schedule is running me instead of the other way around. It feels so overwhelming just trying to get everyday things done.

So, a few months ago, I had enough. I decided that I needed to get back to feeling like myself. I was sick of survival mode and feeling like I was doing so much work and accomplishing so little.

It started searching for ways to “Work Smarter, Not Harder”.

Regaining Control of My Schedule

  • Save
Photo Credit: Canva

Since then, I’ve discovered several tricks that have helped me regain control of my schedule, my home, and I’ve even made time for my creative hobbies.

So, I want to share what’s working for me (although I’m far from perfect).

The number one thing that stops people from learning a new hobby (like knitting or crochet) is that they don’t have enough time.

I want to encourage you that it IS possible to fit knitting, crochet, crafting and other creative hobbies into a busy lifestyle, even if you only have 15 minutes to spare!

In fact, I’ve become so addicted to knitting mainly because it’s a craft I can pick up and put down even if I only have a few minutes to knit a row or two!

Thankfully, by following these tricks, I now have longer blocks of time set aside for knitting too.

These tips work for other hobbies also, not just knitting. So, you may go back to something you used to enjoy…but maybe there’s something NEW you can try that will be a better fit for your schedule.

Here are the 4 main topics I’ll go over:

  • Goal Setting
  • Productivity
  • Family Teamwork
  • Craft Time Management

Goal Setting:

1. Refocus on what really matters:

  • Save

Before you can get to the practical steps of scheduling time for the creative hobby you enjoy, you it’s important to get your heart in the right place. It’s often tempting to be resentful of how much time others require of us (possibly with ingratitude) but refocusing on why we do it will help us appreciate and enjoy our time “off” when we can get it.

Take a few minutes to write this out!

  • What are you thankful for?
  • What’s the most important thing in your life?
  • What are your long term goals for yourself and your family?
  • How do you want to be remembered by your family a long time from now?

Look at what you’ve written down. Does it match up with your lifestyle? Or do you need to do some work to turn around and start moving in the right direction? Decide that you’re going to go for it!

Simply reminding yourself of where you want to go can help so much with our daily perspective and attitude.

2. Define Your Goals

  • Save
Living Well Planner [affiliate]

After I realized I was aiming in the opposite direction of what I really wanted for myself and my family, I knew I needed to set some specific goals in order to make a change.

I don’t know why I didn’t do this sooner! So simple!

I took a FREE email course called “Crushing It Mini Course
by Ruth Soukup. She walked me through setting long term goals, then breaking those down by year, month, week, and daily goals with a short video series and downloadable worksheets.

This process made my goals feel attainable. I only have to do the small steps for today that will add up over time bringing me closer to where I want to be. It is motivating to see progress immediately!

3. Set Priorities

  • Save
Photo by Emma Matthews on Unsplash

Another tip is to figure out what daily activities are highest priority. Thinking about this helps me evaluate what tasks are essential vs extra for the day.

The best help I found for this was the “Must Do” section in my planner where there’s space to write down the TOP THREE THINGS I want to focus on that day.

This helped in a few ways:

  • Three things feel doable.
  • I feel like I’m accomplishing something, even if nothing else gets done.
  • The most difficult tasks are done and out of the way first!
  • Checking things off motivates me to keep going on the rest of my to-do list.

Don’t forget that you can put yourself and your family in the “must do” column!

Put “Play with Kids” or “Finish Knitting Socks” in the number 1 spot sometimes (especially on the weekends)! Refer back to your Goals to help you decide what really are “Must Do’s”!

4. Get a Planner

I picked up a planner to help me with all this goal setting and time management. Since I took the “Crushing It Mini Course” and loved it, I eagerly purchased the “Living Well Planner”, which includes similar pages for goal setting like you get from the course.

I have found it so helpful in organizing my day. The space for goal setting at the beginning of each month, helps me get a general idea of what my big focus will be. Then, I use the month spread to schedule out deadlines and important dates.

The weekly spread is where the “Must Do” priorities for each day are found. I also use the meal planning section to plan out a week’s worth of meals at a time.

I write down my basic schedule, especially items that are not routine in the daily schedule and I also keep a running to-do list over on the side for the week.

“Powersheets” by Cultivate What Matters also looks like an amazing planner focused on goal setting. I use their Goal Setting Sticker book which is a way to make my planner fun (so I don’t dread doing it!) There are a lot of planners out there, but these two look the most straightforward and simple to use.

So far, it’s been nice to move away from to-do lists on scrap paper (that get lost) to having everything all in one place.

The main thing is to find a way to organize your schedule that’s easy to see and adjust as needed.

5. Get in the Habit of Using Your Planner

  • Save
Photo by Jonas Mohamadi from Pexels

It doesn’t do any good to get all your goals set and your planner filled out if you don’t use it daily!

Get in the habit of going over your planner every day at the same time.

I’ll look over my whole week on Sunday nights and plan out some of my big “Must Dos” according to my monthly goals.

Then, each morning, I go over my planner with a cup of coffee. I look over the day’s schedule and tweak anything that needs to be updated. My planner stays on my desk so I can check things off throughout the day.

I also started keeping notes on my phone so I don’t forget things (like ideas for projects). Just remembering to write things down can really help save time! Ideally you’ll write everything down in one place…your planner. But, having a backup list on your phone is a good idea too.

Productivity

Ok, now let’s move on to some practical stuff…what should you actually CHANGE about your schedule so you can start taking in charge of your time instead of IT running you!

6. Eliminate/Reduce Screen Time and Other Time Wasters

Weekly Screen Time Usage
  • Save
Weekly Screen Time Usage

I know I’m not alone in the struggle with screen time! Right?

When I started using the free Screen Time app (located in iPhone settings) I was SHOCKED at all the time I waste staring at my screen.

In the past I have deleted Facebook completely from my phone, which did reduce screen time…but it also disconnected me from friends and family!

So, instead, I started setting screen time limits. The Screen Time app gives you a weekly report of how much time you’re spending on each app. You can also use it to set limits on individual apps or whole categories (like social media).

This has helped me reduce my screen time by HOURS every day!
This change has given me back so much time for knitting and being creative.

I use it to:

  • Limit my Facebook and Pinterest scrolling…my 2 biggest distractions!
  • Set Downtime hours so that I’m not looking at my phone during dinner
  • Set Bedtime hours so I’m not starting at my screen til midnight without realizing how late it is!
Screen Time Settings
  • Save
Screen Time Settings

Are there other things stealing your time? Get creative and figure out ways to reduce or eliminate them. Set a Timhttps://woolysimple.com/xwpter to help you focus and only spend the time YOU decide on those activities without losing track of how much has gone by.

7. Multi-Task Effectively

This tip is more about quality of life than just saving time. Plus, it can help you take those time-wasting activities and turn them into productive activities!

Just be careful how you do this! Whenever you multi-task you can’t give 100% to more than 1 task. So, the key is doing things that don’t require all of your attention.

Some Good Ways to Multi-Task:

  • Folding Laundry while watching TV
  • Listening to podcasts while doing the dishes.
  • Knitting/Crocheting and listening to Audiobooks

Or any combination of the above. Adding background entertainment can help the time go by faster and make boring tasks more enjoyable. Or you can double the fun by enjoying TWO types of entertainment at the same time, lol!

Multi-tasking really helps me to enjoy my day more, while still checking off my to-do list. I even include the kids sometimes and we will all sort laundry and listen to music together.

8. Systems & Streamlining

Another great way to save time is to find systems that help your home and schedule work more smoothly.

Grocery Pick-Up/Delivery

Walmart Grocery Pick Up saves me hours every week! Plus I save money by avoiding impulse purchases and don’t take my kids into the store! YAY! I like Walmart the best because there’s

  • No fee
  • I can order other household items too
  • Low prices without coupons
  • Absolutely amazing customer service (at least at my location)
  • Plenty of pick time-slots available (even same or next day)
  • Easy refunds for damaged or missing items
  • Easy to use app

I’ve used other stores in the past and even the stores that charge a small fee have been worth using this service.

We don’t have grocery delivery in our area anymore, unfortunately. But it’s a lifesaver when you have a newborn, or if you have a medical condition, for example.

If we had Amazon Fresh in our area I would use it. It was available at our last house and it was amazing! I saved even more time with my groceries delivered right to the door.

We order a few things through subscribe & save, which does deliver to our address. So, we at least have non-perishables that we go through quickly auto-shipped. Snack food in bulk, coffee, allergy-friendly items…I’m careful about what I put on my list because not everything is cheaper.

Meal Planning Apps

Other ways to save time include using a meal planning apps like emeals or realplans. A couple of years ago I tried both of these to help me to learn some great recipes that are easy and quick. I highly recommend giving either one of them a try at least for a short time so you can discover new recipes and save time in the kitchen. Realplans has more options if you have dietary restrictions. Emeals is better for budget and kid-friendly options. (These aren’t affiliate links, I just personally recommend them because I tried them and they were great).

Currently, I have a basic list of family meals and keep ingredients stocked so I can quickly make dinner without having to meal plan anymore! We just got an instant pot, too and that has also reduced my meal prep time.

I quit using coupons because it just wasn’t saving enough to justify the time commitment. That may have to do with our location though and the deals available here.

Amazon Prime–2 Day Shipping

Another time saver that keeps me from running to the store for small purchases is Amazon Prime. Getting orders with free 2 day shipping means I can order last minute items instead of trying to squeeze a run to the store into our already tight schedule. This has saved me with last minute birthday gifts so many times! I don’t need to ramble on though…you’re probably already doing this 🙂 !

Declutter Your House

Minimalism is trending for a good reason. Having less stuff means you have less to take care of! Fewer clothes means less laundry. Less clutter means less to tidy up. Taking time to get rid of things you don’t use will pay off in the long run. Plus, if you sell things you can use the extra cash on yarn…win, win!

I like to use Facebook marketplace and just meet up in a public place to sell things. It’s actually easier than having a huge yard sale every summer. It only takes a few minutes to list something.

9. Block Scheduling & Time Timer

Block scheduling is something I started doing recently that helped me stop running around half doing a hundred things without ever finishing any of them! This was the biggest problem I had, feeling like I never got anything done during the day. So many minutes and hours would disappear with nothing to show for it!

The solution: Blocking longer periods of time where you focus on just one task.

This has helped me with cleaning more than anything. Instead of doing little tasks here and there throughout the day, I’ll schedule a block of at least an hour for cleaning ONLY. During that time I keep working on one area/task until its completely finished.

A technique for block scheduling that helps me is using my Time Timer. This is a visual timer that lets you see how much time is left at a glance. It helps me stay motivated to keep going til the time is up. Bonus: It works great for giving the kids a task, or for time out too!

10. Task Batching

Task batching is not just setting aside a larger block of time, but using that time to focus on only one task. Prepping all your dinners for the week ahead on a Sunday is a great example of this.

I do this with larger tasks, like laundry. One day I’ll wash and dry as many loads as possible, then the next day I’ll fold all of it and the kids will put theirs away (see tip #11 😉) and I’ll finish the rest. Rather than doing 1 load start to finish each day, I can batch each portion of the job and get more done.

Grocery shopping, cleaning, meal prep, yard work, budgeting, are all things you can batch. Even my hobbies…I work to get all the essential, boring stuff finished, so that I have a larger chunk of time available for knitting.

I CAN pick up and knit here and there throughout the day/week, and I do. But it’s much more relaxing and enjoyable when I have a few solid hours to really get into the groove! Knitting becomes my reward for completing my to-do list.

Family Teamwork

11. Delegate

  • Save
Photo: Canva

It’s really common for moms to feel like we have to do it all. This expectation we give ourselves is not only undeserved, it isn’t the most beneficial for our family. Everyone in the house contributes to the mess and everyone has needs (including mom), which means EVERYONE is responsible to keep things running smoothly.

It is good for kids to learn to contribute to the household. Even very young children can help out by putting away their toys, getting themselves dressed, even helping with simple chores like folding laundry.

I don’t expect perfection, but I got my kids in the habit of helping since they were very little. This doesn’t mean they always like it, or that they don’t complain. I teach them that we get more time for fun when we all work together to get the house tidied up.

To make it fun we put on the Time Timer and play music. When we’re all working together we can get a lot done. My husband joins in to help when he’s home too. This also gives us more time together as a family and we often play games with the kids after a clean-up session.

Also, something I’m working on is not focusing so much on how my house LOOKS and making sure my relationship with my kids, teaching them, and nurturing their emotional health is a priority over our space and stuff. So, the goal of getting everyone on board with contributing to the household is to spend more time together.

12. Include Your Family

  • Save
Photo: Canva

Getting your kids and spouse more involved in taking care of the house is only part of it. We can also feel more fulfilled as moms and accomplish our goals when we include our kids and even our spouse’s in our hobbies.

Teaching my kids to knit, crochet, and sew among other things has brought me so much joy! Sometimes I hesitate because I can get more done on my own, but it’s always been worth it to take a few minutes to work on a project with my kids.

My thinking is that long term my hobbies are things I want to enjoy sharing with them when they’re older. These skills we pass down can keep us connected as our kids grow older.

13. Be Proactive Instead of Reactive–Anticipate Interruptions

  • Save
From: Etsy

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with setting aside time to work on your own projects when you won’t be interrupted. It helps my attitude to remember that my kids “interrupting” me is not a problem, but exactly one of the things I’ve decided is a priority. So, I try to be in the right frame of mind to put down my knitting and patiently help my family with something they need.

Raising my kids to be kind, caring adults is one of the most important things to me…it’s more important than almost anything I might be working on at a given point during the day. So, I want to show them patience, compassion, and meet their needs.

This does not mean I bend over backwards and never take time to focus on what I’m doing. But, if the answer is “please wait til I’m finished with what I’m doing”, I TRY to make sure to say it to them in a gentle way, instead of expressing frustration or annoyance.

I’m a work in progress here, but I’m working to respond to interruptions with grace. My kids are more cooperative when I tell them how long it will be before I can help them, rather than just “wait” or “not right now”. And, I find that many times I really can put down whatever I’m doing and give them my full attention. This helps them to believe me when I say I need 5 more minutes on something that can’t be interrupted.

14. Ask for Help When You Need A Break

  • Save
Photo: Bruce Mars

If I know I’m going to start something, like making dinner, which will take 30 minutes, it helps SO much to tell my husband and kids how long I’m going to be unavailable. I can even set the Time Timer so they can see how much longer before I’m available again.

If you’re anything like me I forget that its OK for me to just ask my family for what I need. Communicating is so important in preventing frustration and resentment from creeping up.

If I notice myself becoming more impatient or easily irritated it helps to have 15 minutes to myself behind a closed door. Sometimes I need to go out of the house for a few hours to really de-stress! It’s much easier on everyone if I recognize and express that need early!

Thankfully, my husband is happy to take over as needed…but it definitely makes a difference to give him a heads up so we can plan the best time for my “Mom Time Out”, lol.

Note: If you don’t have a support system at home try to find a group that will allow you to bring the kids (like a library activity, MOPS group, kids art/craft lessons, etc). Get them involved in something fun that they can do and you can bring your project to work on while you wait or watch them play. You can swap babysitting with another mom so you each get a little time. Or, find other creative ways to make it happen. The point is to take care of your stress before it becomes overwhelming.

Knitting-Specific Time Management

  • Save
Photo by Paul Hanaoka on Unsplash

Here are some specific ways you can make more time for knitting and ways you can be more productive with the time you do have:

15. Create a Portable Project Bag/Kit

  • Save
Small Project Bag by Jesabelle B on Etsy

You can set up a small project bag that can hold your WIP (work in progress) and a couple essentials like a small pair of scissors, ruler, stitch markers, etc.

I’m currently improvising by holding a skein of yarn under my arm while knitting, which isn’t ideal because I can’t just set everything down safely or easily. I like to knit while my kids are getting ready for bed…it helps me be more patient when I’m distracted from their shenanigans with a calming stitch pattern, lol.

I plan on getting a portable bag like the one pictured above so I can have my knitting available during a long wait or wherever I find myself with a spare 5 minutes!

16. Choose Projects Wisely

The project you choose can affect how you enjoy it. If you know it’s likely that you’ll be interrupted, I’d advise against choosing a project with a complicated stitch pattern that requires concentration or counting, for example.

What works for me is to have more than one project going at the same time. One project that’s small and portable, like a pair of socks, mittens, or a hat. And a larger project like a blanket or sweater that I only do at home when I know I have time to sit and concentrate.

The small project is something I can work on here or there, take with me, and is usually a familiar pattern that I don’t need to re-read because I’ve done it a lot. If you’re just starting out, your travel project could be a pattern you plan on making repeatedly. It’s not hard to memorize an easy pattern once you do it a couple times.

17. Get your Craft Supplies and Space Organized

  • Save
Knitting Needle Case by Jesabelle B on Etsy

You can save time by simply knowing where everything is. Having your yarn stash organized so that you can either see everything or have a written inventory so you know what’s available at a glance will help a lot.

My yarn stash is small right now, but I plan on making use of the “Stash” feature on Ravelry, as well as keeping track of my projects there so I can have it all organized digitally. I’ll be sure to make a post when I get that all set up and let you know how I like it.

  • Save
Ravelry Stash

I keep my supplies in a portable tray on my bedside table, along with my knitting basket holding my current WIP. My stitch markers, a ruler, pencils & a pad of paper, a yarn needle, and my knitting needle organizer are within reach. I do a lot of knitting after the kids are in bed, so this is my main craft space.

18. Project Planning with Good Note Taking

Keep notes, make a gauge swatch AND save it so you remember what you did and where you left off. I have a binder where I keep my printed patterns, so I can make tally marks for rows, notes about the yarn and needles I’m using, stitch counts, any alterations, etc.

Digitally, I also use an app called LoveKnitting (there’s also LoveCrochet), which connects to my Ravelry library. I can sync my patterns, write notes, and use the counter to keep track of rows and where I left off. This helps a lot when I’m putting something down a lot and coming back to it.

Using stitch markers can also save you time while knitting. You can use them to help you count stitches as you cast on or mark every 10 rows, so you don’t have recount over and over. Avoiding mistakes will also save you a lot of time. Frogging back and re-knitting many rows is one of the most frustrating and time-wasting experiences.

19. Learn New Skills from Quality Classes

I didn’t find it worth saving a little money to try and DIY learning to knit on my own. I tried following free videos on YouTube, which can be helpful and I did use it to learn the basics of casting on, how to do the knit stitch, and binding off…but that’s about as far as I got before it started getting confusing and frustrating.

There’s a huge difference between free videos/tutorials vs professional classes that are well organized into lessons, step by step instructions, with coordinating patterns and materials that you can print and reference.

My experience with free resources lead to several failed attempts at learning to knit…including a lot of wasted TIME!

When I finally tried Bluprint, I was able to learn Continental knitting and go from casting on, simple knit and purl stitches, to using dpns, knitting hats, socks, fair isle colorwork, and even cables in a matter of WEEKS.

Learning from experienced professionals whose classes don’t miss essential info, are organized so you can find exactly what you need, and with teachers available to answer questions made a huge difference for me. Because my time is so limited it was worth the minimal price tag.

Of course, now that I have some solid foundation skills under my belt I enjoy using free patterns too! Bur, I still use Bluprint to keep challenging myself with more advance skills…or to review complicated techniques.

If learning online isn’t for you, I recommend getting connected locally. Check the adult education offered in your town or go to the library or a local yarn shop and ask what they have available. Knitters love to connect with each other. You may find there’s a club that meets regularly nearby that would love to have you. If possible, learn in person from someone experienced!

20. Carve Out Your Creative Time

So, once you’ve started to get more control of your schedule it’s time to take some of that time that was getting sucked away to other things and make your creative hobby happen.

Write your craft time in your planner. Make it a priority. Give yourself a deadline to get a project done…it can help if you make your first project a gift or donation if that will motivate you!

I find that having my knitting time planned out makes me more motivated to get my OTHER stuff done so I can really enjoy it as a reward at the end of the day.

Conclusion:

This whole process has really made a difference in my mood and the way I interact with my kids. I’m more relaxed about stopping what I’m doing to pay attention to THEIR creative activities, or when they ask if they can knit or do a craft project.

My kids are starting to follow my lead with doing chores with a better attitude. They see that we can do more fun projects if we finish chores first. So, I love that it’s spilling over to my kids!

I’m still working on organizing my craft storage and project bag. I have some posts in mind for stash storage, project planners/organizers, and how to make a travel project bag/kit. I’ll link to those posts as soon as they’re published, too.

For now, the biggest change personally has been to just get my daily schedule under control to free up more time to be creative.

I’d Love to Hear from You:

Let me know if any of this was helpful to you. Or if you’ve tried something that I missed that helped you make time for your creative hobby. I’d love to learn more ideas!

How to Escape Survival Mode and Make Time to Be Creative
  • Save
Escape Survival Mode and Make Time to Be Creative

This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. I know that I cannot live without my planner long term! Setting priorities is a must for me as well. I tend to pick 3-5 and then that way Even if all I get accomplished that day I know that I did what I needed to do. Great list very well thought out. I want to look in to block scheduling to keep my focus a little bit better it seems like I’m running in circles some times!

    1. You can find lots of ideas on Pinterest for Block Scheduling. The other day I stole my girls colored pencils so I could try color coding mine. It’s definitely helping me focus better, especially on the stuff I don’t like to do!

  2. What a blessing to read your article! There is only so much time in a day, but with some of your strategies, we can all have more to to create a life we love. Awesome!

    1. Thank you! I’m so glad it was encouraging to you 🙂

Leave a Reply

Share via
Copy link