Case Study: Finding Time to Create with, Vanessa M.

Vanessa M. loves to write. She’s an active blogger whose body of work includes short stories, poetry, and novel in progress. But, like many burgeoning authors, Vanessa sometimes struggles to find quality time to create while balancing a day job and normal life demands.

After working with me, Vanessa has made dramatic changes in her habits and her mindset, which has allowed her to establish more momentum toward reaching her creative writing goals.


The Goals

Vanessa works full-time, which leaves her evenings and weekends to devote to her own creative work. But she was restless and dissatisfied with her progress (or lack of) when it came to achieving her writing goals. One “biggie” for Vanessa was her schedule, which she knew wasn’t working.

“When I wrote in the evenings, I would continue on well into the night. I always told myself I was more productive burning into the midnight hour. Then I’m playing catch-up on the weekends and feeling like I’ve wasted time needing to sleep in.”

Vanessa was looking for balance. She needed new ways to better manage her time, and she wanted to develop habits that would not only help her write more, but give her a sense of peace and confidence when it came to her creative work.

The Work

Our work was all about getting honest about what wasn’t working, and developing those new habits. As we did so, Vanessa experienced big breakthroughs in several areas.

  1. Sleep. Vanessa accepted my challenge that her sleep patterns were likely affecting her work — and not just her creative work, but her day job as well. She wore a FitBit to track her sleep patterns, which revealed that in March, April, May, and July (didn’t track in June) was 5 hours of rest per night.

    Her reaction to that revelation: “How was I functioning?!”

    This simple experiment explained why Vanessa always felt like she was in a spiral, trying to catch up.

  2. Time Blocking. Another old, self-defeating habit — and one that’s common to most of us — was failing to properly control her time. Vanessa was not being intentional, or realistic, about structuring time for the things she wanted to do. Through the practice of time blocking, Vanessa learned to develop a realistic plan for how to use her time. Her new plan factors in the realities, like her commute to work, but still leaves her time to write and sleep.
  3. Creative Goals. Vanessa’s own words say it best: “I have a ton of dreams and wants in my head and it eats at me to not take steps to achieve them. But I wasn’t writing anything down, and I had no defined plan. My pattern was to look at gap, feel failure, think about even more ideas, plan nothing (tell self I’ll do it ‘when I have time’), do tons of other roles, resent the lingering gap several months later, feel failure, rinse and repeat.”
  4. Rewards. I showed Vanessa the power of rewarding herself for even small accomplishments. She immediately embraced this concept and applied it to all areas of her life.

But after making significant changes to her sleep and time habits, Vanessa saw things change. With more rest, she had more energy to tackle each new day. Time blocking gave her a sense of control. And overall, she gained more confidence that she could tackle her creative goals.

“My new mantra is ‘choose one and go’. Single point to start. No more all-or-nothing thinking. No more ‘if only’ mental stops.”

The Results

Today, the new-and-improved Vanessa is moving forward toward her creative goals with increased momentum. Here are some of the highlights:

  • She now gets 7 hours of sleep per night on average, a 40% increase! She also continues to track her sleep patterns, with a commitment to maintaining healthy sleep habits.
  • She requested, and was approved for, the option to work from home two days a week. This “buys her back” some time she would have spent getting ready for work, and commuting, that she can devote to her other goals.
  • Her new creative habits have led to healthier life habits — specifically, her diet and exercise. She now goes to the gym several times a week, and implements the reward system to keep her motivated.

<--- More information on working with Dan Blank.