What if you reclaimed your time?

Paul X. Johnson

I made a decision about a month ago to not renew my contract as a creative lead for a PR firm. I had been in the position for only 3 months, but it wasn’t working out for me as well as I had hoped (remember this equation?)

I took it on to help out a friend, who needed someone to help out with the team on fleshing out the creative side of client briefs and campaigns. I was the go-to person when it comes to working out imagery that would work; the piecing together of visuals, style and form to form an effective campaign. That I did.

I went in without knowing if it would work; whether I was up for the job, or if I would fail terribly and end up embarrassing myself and the firm. So I took it on as a challenge. I told myself that it was something I hadn’t tried before (not in a formal capacity anyway) and so ahead I went. It soon dawned on me – it wasn’t whether I was up for the job or not; but in the end it really boiled down to me asking myself, “is this really what I want?”

It came in small whispers – it doesn’t feel right. You’re not happy. I had a knot in my neck that didn’t seem to go away. I felt as though time was slipping away like sand between my fingers as I tried to hold on as tightly as I could. Where did the time go?

Although I loved working with great colleagues, it wasn’t for me; it ate away at the time which I’d rather spend on other things – like Pikaland. Having the amount of hours you could spend on something you love cut short by other commitments really helped me refocus and find clarity. For example, I had been faffing around with the redesign of the blog for a few months, but when I left my position, I instantly got to work and got everything out there within a week. I started with just an inkling of an idea and turned it around into a full-blown working website design within a few days. I felt incredibly happy.

Maybe it was a burst of timely inspiration. And maybe it was. But more importantly, it was me realizing and thanking the universe for the gift of time that has been given back to me. And I didn’t want to waste time in getting back to the work I felt I was meant to do.

When I was working at the PR firm, I asked myself constantly – what could I be doing with my time instead? Don’t get me wrong – having built up a creative direction for a campaign really convinced me of what I was capable of. But I didn’t just want to do work that I was capable of. I wanted to do more. I wanted to do work that thrills me to no end (well, maybe for the most part!) I want sleepless nights not because of clients and their imminent deadlines breathing down my neck – but because I was excited that I couldn’t wait till morning came so I could get right to it.

It was a great opportunity, many people said. “You’re crazy – I would relish the opportunity,” said one. I thought so too – if it were 5 years ago. But the beauty of it was that if it were indeed 5 years ago, I wouldn’t be given the same opportunity. I could only laugh at the irony of it all.

What I gave up might be an wondrous opportunity for others, but I knew it wasn’t for me. So instead of hanging on to a title that would eventually kill me, I’d rather part ways to focus on things that wake me up with purpose. Plus, on the flipside, I like to tell others that it isn’t very nice to hang on to positions/jobs that doesn’t quite fit you – what if someone who really loves it comes along, only to have it occupied by someone else?

I didn’t regret the experience one bit – if anything, I know better what I am capable of. Learning through stretching myself has always surprised me in good ways, and I am grateful for the amazing experience that was offered to me. Rory Cochrane once said: “I do not regret the things I’ve done, but those I did not do.” – and it certainly rang true in my case.

The good thing about having your time given back to you? You’ll appreciate it that much more. I know I do.

SHARE WITH ME:

I’d like to know – if you could reclaim your time, what would you do with it?

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[Illustration by Paul X. Johnson]
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14 thoughts on “What if you reclaimed your time?

  1. If i could reclaim some time, aside from having a tidy home, I would spend more reclaimed time creating new designs, illustrating more and just less time doing the business part of things. and the packing side of things!

  2. hi amy! i just stumbled upon your blog today. thanks so much for sharing your story. 🙂

    i actually had a similar situation like yours – i was a storyboard artist for a company, without having prior experience on the job whatsoever, and like you, i pretty much just took it for the challenge. i’m an aspiring comic artist so i wanted to perhaps get better at drawing through this job.

    to be honest, it wasn’t the best experience i’ve had – it was physically and emotionally draining. there were some complications with the company so i only stayed for about 2-3 months. i took it as a blessing in disguise when i left the company and am now pursuing freelance illustration and drawing comics with a friend. 🙂

    while i definitely did learn a lot from my experience at my previous job, i do wish i might have done something better with those 2-3 months. perhaps i could’ve gotten a better job, or maybe spent more time adding more pieces to my portfolio or expanding my network. though things probably happen for a reason, and maybe i was meant to take that job to learn what i’m [not] capable of. i did get a few clients from that job, however, so i guess my experience was fruitful after all 🙂

  3. I would make a lot more art! I work full time right now, but I make a point of taking as much time as I can everyday, on my lunch hour, after my daughter goes to sleep, whenever I can, to make art, with goal of making illustration a full time career.

  4. Thanks for writing this post ! 25 years ago I did something similar.

    I had worked for years to get to be hired by what I thought was “the ultinate job” in my field. I worked for several years when I realized that I felt ’empty’, and might never being comfortable living in the area of the country that the job required me to be in.

    The position was high paid and filled with a variety of amazing benefits. When I resigned (in order to move to a small, rural, island), my boss (who was also a friend) asked me if I really knew what I was giving up. I thought that I did. That was 25 years ago. I did have to totally re-invent myself since the work that I had done for 15 years was no longer appropriate to where I lived, but everyday I am grateful for “my” island and for the life that I have built here.

    I made/make MUCH less money, but I am/was happy, and most of all, I had time to explore many creative fields that I would not have had time to do had I remained in the high pressure job that I left. There are always choices, and leaping into the unknow is frightening at times, but taking chances is often well worth the “jump”.

  5. I have a sort of full time job (30 +hours a week.) My heart lies in the arts though, and have been exploring that side of me more and more. It’s hard being a single parent, and being happy with the work you do. I understand what you felt like, and wish I was able to leave my job and dive in, but I know not to until I am sure I can earn a living creatively. Thanks for sharing with us.

    Xx,
    Tania

  6. hi Amy, I really like your blog and your story, I’m always on that situation, have to take a full time job because of the money, and in that time I achieve a lot of work for the company, and always thinking of all the things I could make on that time for my own projects, but when I quit the job, it seams I have no more energy for my things 🙁 and I work really slow and can’t really focus… sometimes I wonder if I just need a boss who puts pressure and dealings on me. So for me is not what I want to do with my time but more how I want to use my time successfully and in a effectively way. Any suggestions? I need a coach!!

    • HI Amy, Spot on thing for me right now, & I love your blog and honesty,
      I would love to be as true to me as you are to yourself, you are inspiring me .
      Right now I am preparing for my jump out into the less secure, but more satisfied and fulfilled arena. I will be recovering a lot of lost time spent at piling $$ but also piling :-(((
      Many days spent thinking, “What could I be doing right now???
      Thanks once more,
      Holly

  7. Hi Amy,

    I’ve just stumbled across your blog and this post in particular has really struck a chord.

    Four months ago I left my full time job as a lawyer, putting seven years of training and five years of full time practice behind me in favour of a seriously fledgling illustration career.

    I’d been asking myself “is this what I really want” for years and, like you, would constantly wonder what I could be doing with my time. I’ve now finally taken the plunge and though it is petrifying at times, I’m so much happier and appreciate every single second of every day. I’ve never been so productive and I very excited about the future.

    The “you must be crazy” vibes from many people continue but I know I’ve made the right decision for me.

    Looking forward to reading more of your blog posts.

    Nic

    • Nic – good on you! One day, you’ll reach the point where you’ll be thinking the same thing (“I must be crazy”) and you’ll have a good laugh about it! I know I have, on many occassions.

  8. I have a part-time job which doesn’t take up too much of my time, but even still it does take away some of my energy and focus from making art and working on my illustration/greeting card/fine art projects. After some consecutive days of my day job, sometimes I need a bit of down-time first, but usually I feel that energy bubbling through and it’s surprisingly easy to get back into my projects again. Sometimes it’s nice to have the day-job because there are natural rhythms and cycles to my energy

  9. oops, accidentally hit send…
    Sometimes there are cycles to my energy levels and it’s good timing when it falls on the days I work at my day-job, so I have more energy on those other days! But I am so excited for the day when my art businesses are my day-to-day life and I can quit the other job. I think I’m getting close!

    • Hurrah Aijung!!! I know the feeling exactly – those ups and downs are much easier to weather when we get outside of ourselves for a little bit. Having your own personal space to return to after being away does wonders. I find my ideas when I’m away from my desk as opposed to just sitting there hoping to squeeze out some creative juice!

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