Advice Column #02: Finding Tinker Time

Hey Kat,

In response to your Tinker Time post: I LOVE this idea.

However, I find it nearly impossible to do with children around/in the vicinity... IF I have a few moments to myself to try to work on something creative, I feel so much internal pressure to get as much of what I love to do done in a short amount of time, knowing these times are far and few between (ie: play my violin, write a song, sew, write a letter, try to cook a new dish).

I end up short changing it all, or stopping all together, and resort to something mindless, like catching up on my latest binge Netflix fix. In the end, I feel unaccomplished.

This is not a complaint of my lifestyle (which happens to be a chosen lifestyle), but more of a challenge to be worked with. Any ideas on how to incorporate tinker time with wee ones around, who require an abundance of structure, time, energy? 🙂


Troubles in Tinkering Town


Dear Troubles,

I'm so glad you asked. Foremost: Thank you for everything you do in the job title of Mom. Mother's Day should come 12 times a year, in my opinion! #mamasdayout

A necessary disclaimer: Motherhood is a huge arena of human life I've yet to experience, so the ideas I invite you to try out are from one creative person to another, instead of not-a-mom to mom.

With multiple bambinos, it sounds like creative time feels rare to you. What I'm also picking up on, if I may, is a universal human tendency: an adversarial relationship with time.

The English language is pretty resentful of time: "killing time", "wasting time", "time's running out", "You need a time-out", "time's up", "time suck". It is no wonder most of us believe "There's never enough time" — we're always treating it like the enemy.

The first, crucial step to finding more pockets of creative time in your day starts with adopting a more friendly relationship with time. How? In this order:

How to Make Friends with Time (for more energy)

  1. Write an affirmation and stick it somewhere prominent. Something like "I have plenty of time for creativity today." Affirmations are beneficial beliefs that work their way into your consciousness and subconsciousness through the power of repetition. 3-4 places is even better!

  2. Start your day by playing an upbeat song about time. Time is on My Side by the Rolling Stones, or Plenty of Time by Connie Smith are great options. This will further help see time as your friend. I know it sounds cheesy, but I swear by it. 

  3. Carve out 1 non-negotiable hour of Tinker Time and hold it sacred. The sanctity you place around this time is super key, because you know and I know that laundry, dishes, and other never-ending maintenance activities required of adult humans can take over. You can read my post on important vs. urgent for more framing on this. One hour a day seem impossible? Try once a week to start and snag more as much as you can (tips on this coming up)

  4. Pick just 1 thing to do during your creative time. After a week of making eyes at your affirmation and singing along to Connie, maybe you're starting to make friends with time. You've committed to showing up for your inner artist at least 1 hour a week. By picking just 1 thing to do, you're reinforcing your belief that you have plenty of time for this, and there's more pockets of time where that came from.

How to Maximize Your Tinker Time

Depending on how old your little ones are, you can try a couple of different approaches to empower your kids to tinker, so you can have more tinker time for yourself:

  • Explore aspects of the Reggio Emilia approach to set up independent tinker stations for your children that they can access without asking you. For example, a painting station held up by strong magnets on the fridge, a collage station with interesting natural materials and glue.
  • Try "Ask 3 Before Me" rule: This is a classroom management tool commonly used in 2nd Grade and up, but you can adapt it for younger children. In some classrooms it means ask 3 peers before the teacher, in others it means first ask your brain, then a book, then a buddy, then the boss (you).

I hope you start to see more little pockets of time appear in your day!

With all my love and intelligence,