Jana painting en plein air at Bridal Veil Falls in Provo Canyon.
Few things bring me more joy than painting -- and especially plein air painting: Being immersed in nature, imitating creation! It is part mindfulness, part worship, with a soundtrack of rushing water and random birdcalls.
Why is it so difficult to make time for something so blissful and creative, and even social? My students really struggle with this dilemma. And I totally get it. I'm a wife and a mother too. There's always something that needs to be done around the house. As the adage goes, a woman's work is never done. (Sad, but true.)
Writer Anne Lamott, in her essay "Time Lost and Found," asserts that "time spent quietly in beauty" is absolutely essential for our mental and emotional well-being. She concludes: "I’ve heard it said that every day you need half an hour of quiet time for yourself, or your Self, unless you’re incredibly busy and stressed, in which case you need an hour. I promise you, it is there. Fight tooth and nail to find time, to make it. It is our true wealth, this moment, this hour, this day."
In that spirit, allow me to share some things that have helped me whittle away at my 24 hours each day to carve out time to explore and create.
1. The Full-Focus Planner: Productivity guru Michael Hyatt encourages you to shorten, rather than lengthen, your to-do list every day. To do this, you focus on the "Big 3," and getting those done first, and fit in the less important tasks around them, eliminating those that are unnecessary. Sometimes Plein Air painting is one of my Big 3, sometimes, just making half an hour to draw and paint shows up on my list. But I have learned after years of living with a creative brain that if you don't plan for it, it won't happen. —Seriously, though. This planner has changed how I work, how I think, and what I accomplish. I have used it faithfully since it first launched in 2017. Without this specific planner, there would be no Kitchen Alchemy cookbook, no painting trip to France, and several missed deadlines for shows. You get the picture. These are beautiful leather-bound volumes with two different ribbon bookmarks, and beautiful typography on the inside. The planners ship to your door a year at a time (four volumes). Priceless.
2. Instacart: I signed up for this service when our son-in-law got a job on their finance and strategy team, just to be supportive and see what it was like. But I quickly realized it was a game-changer. Some Saturdays I could either walk the dog up the canyon, or go shopping at Costco. Instacart made that decision easy. Other days I can either paint for two hours, or waste an afternoon running to three different stores to get all the ingredients for tonight's dinner. Over the past 18 months I have saved nearly 200 hours (not a typo) by relying on instacart to free up my schedule. That's a lot of time to paint, write, think, or walk the dog! (Save $30 when you use this link at Instacart, or enter this code at checkout: J3A1C09143)
(Note: I sometimes hear people say they can't afford Instacart, which has a small mark-up at some stores, and asks you to tip their drivers. (There is also a small delivery fee, but I get free delivery because I signed up for their Instacart Plus service.) So I did a little experiment. I added everything I needed at Costco in my instacart app. The total was $55. Then instead of ordering, I actually went to Costco and picked up those same items, plus a few random deals I found in the aisles. The total was over $200. True story. Avoiding impulse purchases alone will save you a fortune, let alone the time involved. Plus, use the coupon above to save $30 instantly on your first order.) Bottom line: you can't afford NOT to use InstaCart.
3. Dream Dinners: Ever since our days in Pasadena, when I was running a design studio out of our house, I have relied on freezer meals when I was in a pinch. My favorite of all of these is Dream Dinners. The meals are easy to prepare and delicious. Most are ready to serve in under 30 minutes. There is a wide variety of meals to select from, and the specialty ingredients alone will save you money and a trip to the store. Order only the meals your family will love, out of the available monthly options. Assemble them yourself onsite, or have them delivered. Even though I love to cook, having a backup of freezer meals is a godsend, and my family loves them! They have options for crockpot, stovetop, oven, instant pot, whatever works best for you and your schedule. Meals can also come gluten-free, Keto-friendly, whatever you need. I have experimented with lots of different grocery box plans in the past, but Dream Dinners offers the most flexibility and the best options. It's more affordable and doesn't spoil if you suddenly don't have time to make it that night. Dream Dinners is a lifesaver for us! It saves an average of 2 hours a meal, including shopping, prep and clean-up.
4. Our Place non-stick cookware. At first glance this doesn't seem like it would save much time at all, but here's the deal. These pieces are so beautiful and colorful, you can leave one (or more) on your stovetop as part of your kitchen decor. Best of all, they have the best non-stick surface of any cookware I've used! Eggs slide right off onto a plate. And clean-up is a breeze. Pan at the ready? Truly non-stick? Fastest, easiest clean-up ever? You just bought yourself at least 30 minutes per meal. Totally worth it. (I own 5 pieces from this company, and love them all!) Use this link to save $20.
I'd also love to hear what works for you! Please leave your answers and suggestions in the comments below.
Note: A few of these are affiliate links--they are the ones that also save you money! :)
I am an artist and art instructor working in water media. Just knowing I can watch colors run together makes it worth getting out of bed every morning! Helping students capture the same excitement is equally rewarding.