How To Find More Time To Be Creative: 6 Sneaky Energy Leaks That Steal Your Time

Does this sound familiar? You wanna get back to taking photos or painting. Or maybe it’s playing guitar, dancing, or sketching in your journal. And no matter how hard you try, you can never find the time. It’s starting to drive you crazy, don’t ya know.

If being creative really lights you up, then why on earth can’t you make time for it? Why do you avoid doing what feels so good to you? And why does it feel like self-sabotage?


The truth about self-sabotage.

• You’re never avoiding the work itself.
Your resistance shows up in your overthinking about the work. You get caught in a loop of spiraling thoughts about not having enough time, not knowing how to start, not having the right materials, not being in the right space, not feeling inspired, etc.

When you think about the actual work, you feel excited.

You feel excited about using new materials you can’t wait to play with. You feel excited about finishing wherever you left off last time. You feel excited about trying a new technique.

So what you’re avoiding is not the work but the discomfort of your thoughts about yourself in relation to the work.

• You’re not short on time or energy.
You’ve been expending tons of energy pushing yourself down and squashing your creativity. And you’ve been spending way more time avoiding and thinking about not doing it than actually doing what you want to do.

Being creative is not hard for you.

What’s hard is your resistance to expressing your creativity. It drains all your energy, keeps you from trying new things, and leaves you feeling stuck in a rut.

By easing up on all the effort it takes to keep yourself down, you free up a buttload of energy.

You’re not short on time or energy. As soon as you drop your resistance, you get back all the energy and time you need.


The reason you don’t have a time problem.

You feel like no matter how hard you try to organize, prioritize, systemize, or automize, you just can’t seem to keep your head above water.

And you’ll never find a solution by searching for ways to be more productive. Nope.

And here’s why: You don’t have a time problem.

What you think is a time management problem is actually an energy management problem.


Crayon drawing of sad face with red hair and yellow crown and pink clocks floating above by Alex Mitchell.


The way you do energy is the way you do time.

And your resistance is creating some serious energy leaks for you.

The connection between your time and energy.
Think of your energy as your capacity to feel good, your source of creativity, and your wealth. In other words, your energy is your feel-good battery and your vitality depends on it.

Okay so if you depend on your feel-good battery to power yourself through the day, then you need to charge it daily. You do that by taking care of your physical and mental well-being.

But what happens when your battery has a leak? And no matter how much you charge it, it never fills up?

Well, what happens is that you feel drained, scattered, overwhelmed, and anxious.


Because you can’t function for long on a leaky battery. Life is simply too damn hard.


Fix your leaky battery and you’ll find more time.

Your resistance can show up as false needs like this:
• The need to stay super busy and perpetually distracted
• The need to hold on to stuff you no longer need
• The need to overthink everything
• The need to care too much about what others think of you
• The need to put yourself last
• The need to make every decision way too important
• The need to prove your worthiness because you don’t feel good enough
• The need to do it all yourself and avoid asking for help

It’s not hard to imagine how these false needs drain the life out of you.

These energy leaks are sneaky. They show up in your life as multitasking, clutter, worrying, caring too much, indecisiveness, and perfectionism. They drain your energy on a regular basis and you may not even notice anymore.

Yep. You've got time going down the drain, baby. That’s time you could use for self-care, learning, and nurturing your creativity.

Discover what’s draining your energy and you’ll immediately find ways to get your time back.


Think of this as a starting point to help you discover your own energy leaks and how to get your time back.


Here’s what’s coming up:
Part 1. Multitasking
Part 2. Clutter
Part 3. Worrying
Part 4. Caring too much
Part 5. Indecisiveness
Part 6. Perfectionism

Some of your energy leaks are super easy to fix. It’s all about becoming aware of where your time is going and making better choices. Others you’ll have to chip away at. But the good news is that as soon as you feel more energized, everything gets easier. And it won’t seem nearly as hard to make changes.

I’m personally struggling with all of these energy leaks and learning as I go. I’ve got some great TIPS to share with you.

And I hope you’ll walk away with a few ideas you can put to use. Oh, yeah.

Keep in mind that your energy leaks show up not only in activities that drain you but also in places and people that drain you. If you want help with identifying what’s draining or boosting your energy, check out the self-survey at the end.


Part 1. Multitasking

Our brains are not wired for multitasking. It turns out that what we think is multitasking is actually switching between tasks. And all that switching is a huge energy leak.

Think of multitasking as being in a state of constant distraction.

We’ve unfortunately adapted to a way of working that keeps us distracted and makes us feel scattered. You may think that this doesn’t apply to you. But chances are you don’t even notice you’re doing it anymore.

Most people’s office jobs require them to divide themselves in two. One part of their brain is supposed to concentrate on their work, while the other part is supposed to stay on top of emails and messages from clients and team members. A few hours of focused work without calls, meetings, emails, or messages is rare.

Take it from me, working from home has its own set of problems. You’ve got more freedom to structure your day. But you’ve also got more distractions creeping in from your personal life making it harder to keep office hours.

Be that as it may, you have a lot more choices than you probably realize when it comes to how you use your devices. Don’t forget that your devices are tools meant to make your life easier.

• Add distance.
When you want focused time, put your phone in a drawer, closet, or another room. If you sometimes have an overactive squirrel mind like me, then you know that out of sight is truly out of mind.

And when you’re done, let checking your phone be your reward.

• Make yourself accountable.
There are focus block groups online that you can join to make yourself accountable. Typically, you’ll have 50 minutes of uninterrupted time. And also a few minutes for checking in and out.

Personally, simply being connected to the internet is too tempting. So although this is not a good option for me, I know a lot of people like it.

• Connect only as needed.
This is what works best for me. If you need to read, study, or write with a device, don’t connect to the internet until you’ve completed your task. You can always reduce this uninterrupted time to small 15-minute chunks.

Because it’s not about how long you can go without using the internet. It’s about how well you can work during the time you’ve given yourself. Amen.

Turn off notifications.
Giving apps the power to distract you every few minutes is making you feel overwhelmed. You can always schedule to check your notifications and your emails throughout the day. This tip alone has saved my sanity. No lie.

Don’t keep your phone in the bedroom.
I swear by this one. If your phone is the last thing you look at before going to sleep and the first thing you look at when you wake up, then you have no life.

You’re completely disempowering yourself by letting everyone else’s lives take priority over yours. Be that clients, family, friends, or social media.

I have 99% of all my insights in the morning. That’s when I’m most creative. Starting my day with my phone is creative suicide for me.

Not so long ago, calling someone outside of their office hours was considered rude. But at some point, it’s become acceptable to message people at all hours and even expect a response. Why?

Because you’re always ON. And everyone knows it. But there’s an easy fix. Schedule time to be OFF.

Check your notifications, messages, and your emails one last time before dinner. Decide for yourself what you consider to be urgent. And let all the non-urgent things wait until the next day.

Don’t keep your phone in the bedroom. Leave it in a drawer, closet, or another room. You can always use an alarm clock to get up in the morning.

Don’t look at screens in the bedroom.
The lights emitted by our screens stimulate our brains. You want the space where you sleep to be all about resting. Schedule your TV or movie time a few hours before bed. Create a wind-down routine that doesn’t include screens.

Read a book, write in a gratitude journal, make a list for the next day, flip through a magazine, listen to music or meditation audio, etc. And then see how quickly the quality of your sleep improves.


Part 2. Clutter

There seems to be no end to our physical clutter (like unwanted clothes and knick-knacks) and digital clutter (like notifications and messages). All this stuff is draining the life right out of you.

You’re expending your energy holding on to worries, relationships, friendships, projects, living situations, work, clothes, habits, guilt, judgment, old thinking patterns, etc. You think by holding on to your stuff, you’re making your life better somehow.

The irony is that holding on is only taking up precious space. It’s keeping you stuck.

Letting go is part of the process of honoring yourself. You can honor the life you once had, the choices you’ve made in the past, and your personal growth. And then you can let go of the things in your life that no longer serve you.

The ultimate reward for decluttering is you get more space for mental clarity.

I love to think of decluttering as a productive means of procrastinating. Not that avoiding my work is a good thing. But sometimes clearing stuff out and making space is the best way to prepare for things that feel too hard to start.

• Treat it like a break.
The best way to go about decluttering is to do it consistently for short periods. Make it a weekly habit to declutter some small areas. Treat it like a short break by turning on music, drinking tea, listening to a podcast, or whatever floats your boat.

Set a timer for 10-15 minutes. Grab an empty box or garbage bag and do what you can. Repeat until you can move on to another decluttering task.

• Start with what’s easy.
Some decluttering tasks are large and will take a long time to finish. So get some easy tasks out of the way first. Like any clutter that’s driving you crazy. It could be that desk drawer full of crap where you can never find a decent pen. Or that kitchen cabinet full of unusable Tupperware with missing lids. Smile.

And if you want a handy-dandy big-ass list of small decluttering tasks, click this link to check out my guide:
Why Decluttering Makes You Happy: Your 4-Step Decluttering Game Plan


Part 3. Worrying

Okay, so the reason we worry in the first place is because we honestly think we’re doing something to help. It makes us feel like we're taking action.

The only problem is that worrying isn’t helping us, it’s totally draining us.

Here’s why:
If your problem has a solution, then you don’t need to worry.
You can take the next step. You can ask for help. You can figure it out.

And if your problem doesn’t have a solution, then you don’t need to worry. It’s completely out of your control. Worrying about it won’t change a thing.

Worrying is like having a stupid song stuck in your head.
The harder you try to NOT think about it, the louder it gets.

So what you need is a better song to replace it. It’s not about finding a way to stop thinking, it’s about focusing your attention on something else.

• Get it out of your head.
Write down the big worries that have you feeling stuck right now. Name them. Get them out of your head and on paper.

Bonus points for saying them out loud in front of a mirror. It’s funny, but as soon as you say it out loud it immediately feels less important.

This simple act gives you perspective. It gives you the distance you need to think of solutions. Without that distance, even the smallest of worries can feel like an insurmountable problem.

• Replace that stupid song.

Write down a few activities you can do right now to focus your attention on something else. Like decluttering a drawer, going to a park, learning a new recipe, going to the library, etc. Pick things you’ve been wanting to do. Then choose one and do it!

• Be ready.
Keep your list of activities handy for the next time you’re stuck in worry-land. The faster you can react by jumping in to do something different, the easier it is to switch your focus.

• Never argue with someone who’s not in the room with you.
I got this one from the author and coach, Michael Neill. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve replayed or imagined arguments with people in my head. Not only is it completely ineffective for solving problems, but it can ruin your relationships.

Because if they’re not in the room with you, what you’re doing is having an argument with yourself and blaming it on them. Yikes.<

And if a mini workshop (taught by yours truly) to spark your creativity and surrender your worries sounds like fun, click this link to learn more:
Worry Dolls Play Time: A Guided Mini Workshop For Letting Go And Worrying Less


Part 4. Caring too much

Caring too much about what everyone else thinks is a huge energy leak. A lot like indecisiveness and worrying, you go into overthinking mode.

Over-caring can show up as never saying no to anything. Or never rocking the boat by avoiding standing up for yourself. It can also show up as doubting your decisions because others don’t agree with you. Or taking criticism way too personally.

The result is that you wind up feeling overwhelmed. You may even feel resentful because others don’t appreciate what you do for them. Or you may feel disappointed because your intention to make others happy backfires.

The bottom line is that caring too much isn’t making you or anyone else happy.

• Fill your cup.
Spend time doing something for yourself. Think about any activities or hobbies that light you up. What about being creative, taking a class, joining a book club, or walking in the woods?

• Take the pressure off.
Begin to accustom the people in your life to new boundaries. Instead of immediately saying yes, start saying let me think about it. Give yourself the space to decide if it’s something you really want to do.

Take the pressure off by simply allowing yourself to not have to decide on the spot.

• Live your values.
Recognizing when the need to people-please pops up is priceless. Because that’s when you give yourself the grace to remember your values.

You can learn to be mindful about spending time on what matters most to you. Remember, a “no” to one thing is always a “yes” to something else.

I’m pretty much on the other end of the spectrum when it comes to people-pleasing. I’m over-protective of my time. But I still struggle with doubting my decisions. I must remind myself consistently of my purpose to help me show up and live my values.


Part 5. Indecisiveness

When you want or need to make decisions that you can’t wrap your head around, you lose a lot of energy in overthinking mode. There are of course big life decisions that require months to figure out.

However, most of the decisions we grapple with are not so important. We make them important because we worry about what will happen if we make the wrong decision. And then we beat ourselves up about being indecisive.

It’s a horrible loop to get trapped in. And it can make you feel depressed and helpless about how to move forward.

• Start small.
Take action on small decisions every day. Keep yourself from overthinking about your options. Just decide on one thing and see how that feels.

At some point, you’ll inevitably choose something you don’t like. Maybe it’s the wrong meal, the wrong shoes, the wrong hotel, etc. But you’ll get over it. And you’ll be learning to trust yourself in the process.

• Get creative.
Take a class on something you’ve always been curious about. It’s okay to pick something that feels completely frivolous. Just follow your curiosity.

Making art is inherently about experimenting and making mistakes. So you’ll be building your confidence as you nurture your creativity.

Trust me when I say that expressing your creativity is always always always the fastest way to feeling good. I should know, I’ve devoted most of my life to my art. Smile.

And if you want some useful tips about how to give yourself the time, space, and energy to nurture your creativity, click this link to find out:
How To Woo Your Creativity (What’s The Big Idea, Part 3)


Part 6. Perfectionism

I’m a perfectionist who doesn’t give a rat’s ass about being a perfectionist anymore. I still care about doing my best, but I no longer confuse striving for excellence with being a perfectionist.

There’s a fundamental difference between the two.

Striving for excellence means taking pride in doing your best work. And if the results of your efforts don’t meet your expectations or don’t get the validation you were hoping for, you get over it.

I mean, you’re definitely not happy about it. But you think: I messed up and now I know better. It’s not personal.

But when you’re a perfectionist, it’s extremely personal.

Perfectionism isn’t simply about high standards and perfecting the things you do. It’s about perfecting your imperfect self. Ouch.

If the results of your efforts don’t meet your expectations or don’t get the validation you were hoping for, you’re crushed. Because your sense of self-worth is linked to the results of your efforts.

You’re coming from a place of not feeling good enough and a deep desire to earn your worthiness.

So a failure is not a sign of a project going bad, it’s a sign that you’re bad. And you think: I am bad so I must try harder and sacrifice more.

It’s not hard to see that being a perfectionist is the mother of all energy leaks.

• Ask for help.
Perfectionists tend to be control freaks. Trying to control everything is part of wanting things to be perfect. But it’s a completely unrealistic strategy and leads directly to burnout.

The only antidote is to let yourself receive help. Asking for help makes you feel vulnerable. But it also empowers you.

First of all, by asking for help you’re being kind to yourself. You can’t beat yourself into being better. But you can learn to forgive yourself for messing up.

Second, by asking for help you’re allowing for space. You can slow down, feel connected, and appreciate the little things. You’re focusing on what matters most to you.

It may feel counter-intuitive, but asking for help is a sign of strength, not weakness.

Try asking family members or friends for help. What if the kids do the dishes? What if a friend does your grocery shopping? What if you can pay a kid in your neighborhood to wash the car or pull weeds? What if you can pay someone to launder and iron your clothes?

• Watch your language.
Catch how you talk to yourself. Don’t be mean. Don’t be a bully. Set the intention to treat yourself the way you would a friend.

Here’s the thing, you can’t expect others to do for you what you can’t do for yourself. So it’s time to practice a little self-compassion, baby.

The irony is that when you like yourself more, you have more compassion for others. You end up liking others more. And this crazy and beautiful thing called life becomes a whole lot easier.

• Unfollow as needed.
Comparison angst is real. Unfollow anyone on social media that makes you feel bad about yourself. Period. I don’t care if it’s Mother Teresa.

• Let it be easy.
Make progress on small projects. Keep a journal for doodling, drawing mandalas, or collage. The beauty of small creative projects is that they feel very playful. It’s easy to jump in for short periods and quickly see your progress.

Perfectionists feel way too much pressure. And the best way to ease that pressure is to take tiny steps via tiny tasks that help you see you’re making progress.

• Practice being mindful.
You can practice mindfulness in a million ways. But my favorite way is to simply pay attention while doing the most ordinary of routine activities like folding clothes, chopping vegetables, or washing the dishes.

Notice your breath, your skin, the light, the air, the colors, smells, and sounds. Paying attention to your senses gets you into the present moment.

Being in the present moment helps you appreciate being part of the process of life itself. For a moment you forget all about not measuring up, failing, being rejected, or disappointing others. And you let yourself go with the flow.

• Learn something new.
Remember how I said that I’m a perfectionist who doesn’t give a rat’s ass about being a perfectionist anymore? Well, a lifetime of making art has shown me two very important things.

First, taking classes and learning new things is how I stay hopeful, optimistic, energetic, and enthusiastic. There’s nothing like making yourself a beginner for opening up possibilities.

Second, immersing myself in the process is where the joy is. Again, it’s about being in the present moment. But also it’s about learning to trust that the outcome will take care of itself.

And if you want some great tips to help you cultivate an attitude of being willing to try more, click this link to learn how:
Try Something New: 10 Ways To Stay Young At Heart


Growth mindset message: Feeling stuck is about not trying, not starting, not finishing, not failing, not learning.

It’s time for a little self-discovery. This quick self-survey helps you think about activities, places, and people that affect your energy.

Ask yourself:
1. What activities drain me?

2. Who are the people that suck the life out of me?

3. What places leave me feeling completely exhausted?

4. What activities light me up and energize me?

5. Who are the people that make me feel like dancing?

6. What places leave me feeling recharged and refreshed?

Being creative is not hard. What’s hard is your resistance to expressing your creativity. It drains all your energy, keeps you from trying new things, and leaves you feeling stuck in a rut.

The truth is that your resistance is creating some serious energy leaks for you.

These energy leaks are sneaky. They can show up in your life as multitasking, clutter, worrying, caring too much, indecisiveness, and perfectionism. They drain your energy on a regular basis and you may not even notice anymore.

Discover what’s draining your energy and you’ll immediately find ways to get your time back.

Keep in mind that your energy leaks show up not only in activities that drain you but also in places and people that drain you.

Some of your energy leaks are super easy to fix. It’s all about becoming aware of where your time is going and making better choices. Others you’ll have to chip away at. But the good news is that as soon as you feel more energized, everything gets easier. And it won’t seem nearly as hard to make changes.

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