When inspiration strikes- it is tempting to do one of two things- if you have the room, jump in with both feet- slack on the rest of your life and pursue your fantasy. Conversely, if debt or children anchor you in place- it is easy to drift off into fantasy about destinations to visit and completed projects without taking steps to actualize them.
So… where do you begin if the world is a dumpster fire, you are carrying massive amounts of debt, maybe running after a couple of fast growing kids while holding down a job?
There are two things you need: money and time.
Which comes first? Money or Time?
There was a survey in 2018 that indicated about 40% of Americans would struggle to pay a surprise $400 expense. And while there have articles written stating those statistics might not be entirely accurate- it is a sobering thought.
So- where do you fall- can you handle a $400 expense? What about $1000 worth of surprise expenses in one month? How is your credit card debt? Are you able to handle your monthly expenses?
I know it can be soul crushing- but you absolutely need to look at those numbers first.
I’m not going to scream at millenials about how to save money they should skip Starbucks and not spend $9 on Avocado Toast. That is completely counter-productive. If you are rocking five to six figures in student loans, Avocado Toast is the least of your problems and you can’t budget them away. (We will try to tackle student loans in another post.)
But I am going to borrow David Ramsey’s first baby step and say- figure out how to start putting aside money. This could be a slow climb, or you might find something you can sell and get chunks done at once. I completely recognize that this could take some people a year, and others a week. But move towards this. Save until you have at least $1,000 in emergency savings, and then take a deep breath.
Side note: I can’t stand David Ramsay’s political and religious views. He is a conservative Christian and a Republican (last time I checked) both of which tend to be problematic for this progressive queer person who is working to understand how race class and privilege are impacted by my actions and interactions with the world.
However, his financial education products really work, and he is great at motivating people to get out of debt. If you choose to follow his program, please bear in mind that when you give his company money, you are also funding his interests.
My personal belief is that if I am going to put money, energy or time towards a conservative company such as his, I will offset it with other time energy or money when I can, towards the causes I believe in.
Once you have that 1k, or if you already have it, that is time to reassess. Did the relief knowing you have some money to cover you urge you to continue to secure yourself financially? Did it light a fire to get rid of your credit card debt? Move towards that. (We will talk about different financial educational products in a different post.) Do you already have those things taken care of, or are you ready to make room to figure out time?
Time is often overlooked as a product of privilege. If you have to work three jobs to stay floating, have kids, have a bunch of debt and need to work to pay it off, live in a big city where the rents are sky high- you don’t usually have much free time.
So the first is managing what you have.
There are lots of stories out there about that great struggling author who got up at 5 am to write before the kids woke up and produced an amazing novelist career. Yeah, 5 am would probably kill me. If you are a morning person, go for it. If getting less sleep is the only solution, go for it. But if that is not possible for you due to necessity or disability, don’t beat yourself up. Your dreams or drives are no less valid than some supermom who has her life hacked down to the most minute multi-task.
Some tricks I have used:
- Lunch breaks– if it is a 30 minute, it is researching something on my phone, or taking notes about my project while I eat. If it is 1 hour, I’ve used it to work out or work on tasks I’ve specifically brought with me to get done.
- Working on the bus or train– depends on the project, and sometimes harder to do.
- Outlining/Listing– Getting very specific about the steps I need to take so that I know what I can knock out during lunch breaks while eating the next day at work
- Get in early or stay late at work– I’ve flex-timed my work so that I could make room for creative projects. But I’ve also used the time where I would normally sit in traffic, to sit in a break room and work on something. If i am using the internet, I will create a hotspot with my phone plan in order to not abuse the company wifi policy.
- Sleeping/Meditation to binaural beats or meditation playlists– If my sleep sucks, my day is going to suck and I won’t have room for any creative thought. While there is a lot of hype about meditation music with binaural beats in terms of whether they work or not, they pretty much knock me into a coma. I will use them to fall asleep, or for 30 minute meditations if I need a nap during the day.
- Outsourcing- aka, pay someone else to do it– obviously this one only works when you have spare cash. But when I am in the zone of a project, paying someone else to walk the dog, clean the house, or do the laundry every once in a while. If I had the cash, I’d be happy to pay someone to do that stuff all the time, especially if they have their own company. But alas, I don’t.
For the parents out there- google Mommy Hacks and see what comes up. I won’t ever tell you how to hack your time because I absolutely know I can’t keep up with you as is.
But the main thing I think is important to remember- that hour extra you leave your kid in daycare so you can do something for yourself isn’t going to kill them, and is highly beneficial to you.
One moment they are angels and the next, evil crotch goblins you have allotted a couple decades of your life running a marathon to turn them into good human beings. So, as I find good resources I will totally list them for you, but I know that every family is different, and finding that money, time and space is a challenge.
So, my main advice for parents:
- Your sanity is more important than your kids having your attention all the time. Whether it is daycare, play dates, or community support- don’t feel guilty for taking time for yourself.
- If you are partnered with someone who also has an itchy soul and is trying to accomplish something: play fair, negotiate time, and make sure you find balance with who gets the time to work on their dreams.
- Creating time for yourself won’t kill them. Having a parent that is more emotionally and spiritually fulfilled will benefit them. You will probably like your kids more.
- Ignore anyone who tells you that you are being selfish, you are not a good parent, you are neglecting their needs, or you are less than. If your kids are well fed, going to school, taken care of, not ignored, have clothes on their backs and are surrounded by love- they will be fine.