Making time for your hobbies

A friend, suggested I share how I make time for my hobbies and I couldn’t think of a better time than now to write this post as I hosted a few people recently for my husband’s birthday and baked his birthday cake for the first time yay!

Just so we are on the same page, I will start by giving the definition provided in the Oxford dictionary for a hobby:

An activity done regularly in one’s leisure time for pleasure.

Everything I say below is intended for activities done in your free time for pleasure and not as a business. A completely different mindset is required when you decide to turn your hobby into a source of income. The tips I will share below will not be fully relevant in such cases.

So here we go. I enjoy cooking, baking, hosting guests, organising parties, knitting, crocheting, sewing, reading and watching tv. To be honest, the list goes on, but these are the top of my list at the moment. 

Prior to getting married and having a child, I was able to do all of this relatively easily, without even thinking about it or having to compromise. However, with marriage comes responsibilities and even more so with a child. This meant I had to make time to do the things I enjoy outside of my normal day to day life. 

My husband’s birthday cake

It was hard at first, and even nearly upsetting when I realised I couldn’t do it all. However, I studied economics at A levels *geek alert* and I think it helped me come to terms with this. Basically, there are limited resources in the world and to focus on developing a product requires an opportunity cost, i.e. a forefeited alternative. This is a very hurried way to explain it but I hope I haven’t lost you yet. Applying this to my situation, I realised that to bake or knit or whatever it was I wanted to do, there was a forfeited alternative which came in various forms, from lack of sleep, not reading a novel, not cooking,to not spending quality time with my son and husband, and so on. Once I appreciated this, it was easier for me not to feel guilty when I decide to spend time on my hobby as I have already weighed the cost of forfeiting the alternative.

I hope that once you realise that spending time on your hobby means you are forefeiting spending time on something else you have to do, or you equally enjoy, you will find the tips below useful.

5 tips on how to make time for your hobbies. 

1. Maximise your commuting time

If you are fortunate enough to be  driven to work (either by train, bus, car share etc), count yourself lucky as you have precious time in your hands that those who drive themselves do not.

You can maximise this time by reading a book, knitting or crocheting a few lines of your project, draft your next article or blog, you can spend this time to do some general research for hobbies that are not portable. For example. As I have never decorated a birthday cake before, I spent the week before my husband’s birthday scrolling through pintrest and YouTube, doing some research on how to decorate the cake I wanted to bake and also buying the ingredients online. This meant I didn’t have to spend as much time worrying about this when I got home in the evenings.

It is very tempting to spend this time sleeping or browsing social media. It is okay to do this, but like I said above, there has got to be a forefeited alternative. If you are struggling to find time for your hobbies, you may have to forfeit sleep or browsing social media for this. 

Finally, as a Londoner, I am fully aware that you do not always be a sea on the train and so it may not be convenient to do anything. I find that it is usually busier in the mornings for me and so in most cases I can find a seat in the evenings. This is when, if I want to, I usually knit. If however you are struggling to find space to do something substantial on your commute, you can  read a novel or do some research. You can do things like that standing and a cramped train should not always hinder you.

2. It is okay to have WIPs

I used to beat myself up for starting knitting projects and not finishing them. I felt like I was in a competition with myself.  However, I recently came to the realisation that this was putting undue pressure on myself and stopping me from enjoying my hobby. Once you stop enjoying it, it stops being a hobby and becomes a responsibility. So now, when I start a project, I allow myself to take as long as it takes to complete. However, if I am knitting towards a particular deadline (e.g. a gift for a new born baby) then my attitude towards it is different. 

I also get bored easily by what I am doing, especially if it is not turning out as nice as I expected 😜. I love to see results quickly. This means that I keep researching new patterns and start working on another project before I even complete the first project. It is also important to acknowledge that some hobbies take longer to complete than others. If you are an artist for example, working on a portrait will usually take a lot longer than baking a cake or reading a book. So make sure you allow a reasonable amount of time for you complete your project so that you do not get unduly frustrated . 

I have shared two pictures below of my complete and incomplete project.

Incomplete: a quilt for my son
Complete: a mug cosy
3. Schedule your hobbies

Yes, you heard that right, schedule your hobbies. It sounds very obvious doesn’t it? However, if like me you have a lot of hobbies, I recommend that you firstly prioritise your hobbies otherwise your diary will fill up quickly. Firstly decide  which one, or two do you enjoy the most, and then which of them will be the most convenient and realistic to pursue. This makes it easier and more achievable for you to continue to enjoy this hobby. This is not to say that you have to dump the other hobbies, it just gives you the permission to focus on the few that is sure to give you more satisfaction.

Scheduling hobbies is particularly useful if you are into a particular sport, or a popular hobby. It is possible to join your local team, book club, knit and stitch group, toastmasters, crafts club, fitness class, whatever it may be, especially when you live in the Western world. You find that such groups meet regularly, it could be weekly, twice a month or monthly. If you do not have a group you can join locally and you are feeling brave enough, you could start your own, but may require more of a commitment from you than joining an already existing club.

Joining local groups does not mean you have to attend every meeting, because let’s face it, life happens. However, it gives you a structure to follow and accountability. Once you discuss this with your other half, I am nearly certain he will not be too hung up about babysitting for an hour or two every other week so that mummy gets to have some mummy time. 

4. Include the family

Get your husband or children involved in your hobby. If you love to bake, bake together. It may be more messy than doing it alone but you will get the satisfaction of bonding with your family and also accomplishing spending time on your hobby. The more you do it together, they better they themselves become at it and before you know it, you have a shared bond.

Investing the initial time at the beginning to wet your family’s appetite for your hobby could help you in the future. See it as a long term investment. As they begin to enjoy it, it becomes easier for you all to do it together. It is also a way to teach them new skills. For me, my son is still too young to cook with me, but I get him involved with baking when I can. He is my chief taster! Also, like I said above, I enjoy watching tv so I watch his shows with him and he watches mine with me (obviously age appropriate). Finally, reading books, his attention span is still very short, but we are slowly but surely getting there with him reading books. In the future, I hope he too will enjoy reading books as much as his mum does!

5. Budget for your hobbies

Ah! I didn’t realise knitting and sewing was an expensive hobby until got into it! Needless to say, my husband asked me to start budgeting for it! I don’t blame him though, I would have done the same. It is easy for the cost of your hobby to creep up on you without you realising. When you are doing your monthly budget, include some allowance for your hobby. This way, you won’t feel guilty when you are buying the things you need and at the same time, you will not buy more than you need, at least until the next budget round. 

If your hobbies are expensive, save towards it and always look out for deals! I know from living in the UK that websites like wowcher, groupon, Amazon local and so on, always have deals, especially theatre deals. For those who like to travel, websites like iPods and Expedia are great for comparing flight and hotel costs. For those who like to dine in restaurants,  if you are in the UK buy a tastecard, which gives you two for one on meals provided the restaurant is on the tastecard scheme and you book a table in advance letting them know you will be using a tastecard. I have done this before and we saved a whole load of cash! Make sure you make use of such deals. For me, attending the knit and stitch show meant I could buy a lot of knitting products, from wool, to pins to buttons at a reasonable price. Do your research on how to save money on your hobby, you won’t be sorry. Saving money is the new black! Spending money you don’t have or more than you should is so yesterday! Lol 

I hope the above tips will help you make time for and save money on your hobbies! Feedback is always welcome and please do share your own tips on how you make time for your hobbies in your comments below!

Every moment counts

Today’s blog is about maximising time!
As working mums, we often have to juggle our work schedules with our home schedule together with being a wife, mum, daughter, sister, friend and the list goes on. We have established in previous posts that it will be impossible to make everyone happy and get an A star in every one of our responsibilities. However, there are ways to reduce the amount of times we feel like a disappointment. I have suggested a few for your consideration below.

Maximise your weekends

Weekends are God sent! Which is why I am sure you have wished on a Sunday night, at some point in your life, that the weekend was longer! You have this two solid days to focus on everything that is not work related. For me, quality time with my son is the top on my list. My mentality at the weekend is to do as much with him as possible. In as much as I wish he understands the need for a lie in on Saturdays, I am actually happy when he wakes me up nice and early because he is ready to start his day! Weekends involve taking him for activities, shopping together, watching his favourite shows and basically all the normal things you will do with your child, like telling them not to do various dangerous things their curiosity wants them to do and at the other extreme; messing about and getting a lot of cuddles.

Other than weddings and landmark events, I try not to entertain social functions that will take me away from home, my son or my husband during the weekend. I am happy to host friends at home but because there is just so much to accomplish during the weekend, I find that I maximise my time best when I am home. Thankfully I multitask relatively easy so doing my chores and cooking for the week also feature during the weekend.

Maximise your weekdays

Weekdays are also to be maximised. If you were paying attention you will notice that I specified above that I try to minimise social functions, other than landmark events, during the weekend. This doesn’t mean I don’t make time for my friends. That is the contrary to be honest. These days, social media and instant messenger along with FaceTime have nearly rendered it unnecessary to meet up physically. However, I am an old school girl and I still like meeting up with my friends. I find that if organised properly and in advance, majority of the time, you can meet up with friends during the weekday! I have gone out for drinks or dinner with friends during the week and it has been so successful! It is even more fun because you feel like you are being naughty (going out on a school night). Planning in advance means the necessary childcare arrangements can be put in place. You also find that, because you know you have to be at work the next day, you are good and tend not to have one too many drinks. You will also have, what I like to call, efficient banter because you know you only have a limited amount of time, so you skip right to the juicy bits of your conversations. 

Another tried and tested option is to lunch together. Albeit shorter, it does the job. Once again, planning is key. If you know in advance, you get into work early or plan to leave late so you can have a longer lunch to catch up with your friends.

Say bye bye to the lovers tiff

Okay, not a total good bye as they can be useful in getting to know each other and in some cases, the added benefits that comes when you make up (I won’t got into too much detail here *wink*). However, when you begin to have one too many of these, they eat into the already limited time you are spending with your partner. Instead of being productive and happy when you are together, you are arguing, or still fuming from the last argument. This obviously means you aren’t saying nice things to each other, buying each other gifts, touching each other or just generally not being more than civil to each other (in some cases, even this is missing). Before you know it, you are mere house mates and then divorce begins to look like a viable option in the extreme cases. 

If this is you, or you just find you are doing more arguing than talking to your partner. Now is the time to take action. Stop it now! I have been there. It is hard to say sorry especially when you feel you have done nothing wrong. It is hard to be the bigger person and to let things go. But, I tell you from experience that it is only hard the first few times and before you know it, it becomes second nature. I’m not advising that you do not talk about issues, I’m simplying saying to learn to discuss difficult issues without it ending in an argument. You know your partner well enough to know their trigger point. Don’t push that button. Regardless of how tempting it may be. Walk away or agree safe words with your partner. For us, we decided to say ‘I don’t want to talk about this now‘ if we need more time to process what we have to say and communicate it in a way that won’t hurt. The caveat was that we made sure we actually had the dreaded conversation eventually. Find safe words that work for you and aim to edify your partner as opposed to condemning or critising them all the time.

I’m not perfect yet but I’m reaping the benefits already of making small changes. It means when we are back home from work we can actually have pleasant conversations and laugh together instead of aiming to spend time apart or reminding ourselves we are not speaking to each other. You will find you are looking forward to go home to bond with your partner!

I think these are enough tips for today. More to come.. as I remember or come across them. As always, I hope you will find these useful!

Reflections (part 2)

… continuation from the last blog
As highlighted in my last blog, it has been very challenging. I had to learn how to work with different personalities and I have literally had to practice patience and controlling my tongue. It may feel good to have a good come back to your boss or your colleagues when they are being snappy with you, but will the consequence be worth it? 
I like to think that after meeting a person a few times, I am able to study their personalities and relate to them accordingly. So if you are an extrovert, I can relate to you on that level and vice versa. For this reason I have a mixed bag of friends, with different personalities. I have been quite successful in the past in my personal relationships so I have tried to emulate this trait for work as well. However, as I have found over time with friends, it is genuinely not possible to get on at every level with everybody. There will be times you do not agrees stone where they do something that makes you want to write them off for life. As a Christian, I know I am called to love, so I try my best to look over and beyond any unpleasant behaviour, knowing fully well I am also not perfect, and love them.
 I have realised that at work, it is not just about the individuals personality, but also their seniority and style of work. For example, some people like to be chased and reminded about everything and others do not like being micro managed. I have made so many mistakes in the process of finding the right balance when loading with colleagues. I must confess that I do not like making mistakes, it makes me feel inept and incompetent and I am my worst critic. It did not help that I used to dwell and beat myself up when I made mistakes. However, I slowly began to realise that I wasn’t doing any good to myself. Instead, I started learning to grow a coping mechanism which involves considering what I could have done differently, or where relevant, how to rectify the error and manage the expectations of the stakeholders.
What makes it even harder at work is working with people with moodswings. It is commonly known that women have moodswings but I find that in my place of work, it tends to be more of the men that have unpredictable moods. One minute you are getting on well and actually being productive working together and the next, you are being screamed at or feel you are working in an unpleasant environment. At some point, it was so bad that I literally had to figure out whether one of my bosses was in a good mood before approaching him for anything. I personally don’t think it is professional to inflict wrath on employees because you are in a bad mood, by what do I know? They are after all, more senior than I am!
I have tried my best to navigate such people and like I said above, I find that preemptive what I think their mood is has helped me in communicating with them. You could say it is not your job to do that, but the consequences for me of not doing that is, he or she would inevitably say something they shouldn’t case that would make me upset for the rest of the day. I am in no way shape or form advocating abuse or to work where you do not feel safe. You will be the best judge of that for yourself and where in doubt, talk to friends and family and if necessary, to HR.
After 11 months of working full time, feeling frustrated most of time and feeling pleased with myself on some of the days, I received the greatest gift of all. I got promoted to a manager. My short term goal was accomplished! I am still surprised, not because I do not think I worked hard for it, but because I know how much stigma there still is on working mums. This happening has just renewed my faith that things are changing or better still, the firm I work for still believes in meritocracy underneath it all.
Of course with this comes a lot more responsibilities and I am still finding my feet. However, I trust that the God who has brought me this far and has constantly granted me favour, wisdom, knowledge and understanding, amongst other things, when it mattered the most, will continue to see me through. I am still working hard and looking for ways to best balance being a working mum and wife.
I hope this encourages someone somewhere.
Enjoy the rest of your week.