I’ve been talking about energy, and how when it come to accomplishing our goals, it is actually more important than how many hours we have in a day.

If we drag ourselves through the day with barely enough energy to complete one task at a time, we won’t be able to look ahead and plan our time efficiently, or invent shortcuts, or even begin thinking about working ahead for the next day.

Having the energy to embrace the day with optimism allows us to use our creativity in everyday situations…see ways to cut time off our chores, combine tasks, or outsource to others. It frees our mind to see the larger picture…what should take priority in the day. Maybe one of those chores can wait for another time–or be dismissed entirely.

In my last blog I gave you a list of simple tips to do throughout the day as you go through your work day. And I have found they do make a remarkable difference in my energy level for each day. I hope you tried them and have achieved great results.

But today I’d like to discuss a larger concern that most of us probably fall victim to. And that is, not taking the time to do nothing–a free day.

In today’s frantic society this sometimes feels like a completely foreign concept. And I know what you are thinking. “How in the world can I possibly take a day to do nothing, when I’ve already fallen behind in my everyday tasks?”  
I know this feeling well, because I suffer from it as well. It doesn’t matter that I’ve proven to myself over and over that working without the benefits of a “time out” takes its toll. We become burned out at our job, get writer’s block, lose our creativity, turn bitter and resentful at the hours we have to put ourselves through. We forget how to have fun.

So I’m here to tell you that I know from experience that most of us will fight against the very thing that can set us free to find more creativity in our life, enjoy our work and find joy every day–taking time for ourselves. We will let guilt coerce us into working longer and harder than we should. How do we break free of this mindset?

Here’s the secret. Make it a part of your weekly routine–just like your diet and exercise. Sure it will take some planning in the beginning. You’ll have to set a date and promise yourself to hold true to it. But as my Sensei once told me,  “It takes two weeks to break an old habit, or create a new one.” Two weeks. We can do that!

So how do we begin? When I took Julia Cameron’s The Artist Way course, we were required to take an Artist Date at least one day a week. It was a time of being alone with our thoughts and feelings, a rediscovery of whom we really are…deep inside.

You see, when we constantly put out energy to complete our tasks, engage with others and work toward the future, we are going to need to “fill the well” once in a while–put energy back in. Otherwise we become depleted, empty and discouraged.

So what is an Artist Date? It’s whatever you want it to be. Here’s a hint: If you plan for some type of activity, you may find it easier to stick to you promise. After all, it’s not like you are just lying around doing nothing.
Sometimes I just had pure fun, other times I had healing experiences. But whatever I did, something wonderful always came out of my day, no matter how small. I came to look forward to those dates. I know from experience that they work and I still employ them in my life and work today.

For some inspiration, here are a few of the “dates” I’ve taken for myself. Have fun setting up your own dates. You’ll see that the more you do this, the more creative you’ll become. You’ll also discover that the longer you do this and make it a part of your life, you’ll find yourself sneaking in little “moments” for yourself, all day long. These are precious little gems of time…a gift you give yourself. I guarantee you’ll see your energy go up, along with the happiness factor.

• Went for a walk on the beach and collected seashells – discovered a small sandbar,  
   covered in tiny Sand Dollars, I didn’t even know San Diego beaches had them!

• Spent an afternoon in my favorite bookstore, browsing and reading – expanded the  
   types of books and authors I hadn’t yet discovered.

• Went to the toy store and bought myself fun toys (I still have some of them…I play
  with my slinky when I’m writing and thinking).

• Took a sack lunch to the Botanical Gardens – wrote down the names of all the plants,
   trees and flowers in the yard at my home and found a delightful spot to have lunch.

• Purchased a bottle of ‘bubble juice” –went to a park and blew bubbles for the
  kids that were there playing. Made me laugh.

• When I was in grade school my parents could never afford the large box of crayons and
   I always had to have the smaller box. I sooo wanted all those wonderful colors the other
   children had access to! So for one of my dates, I bought myself the biggest box of
   crayons there is and a coloring book – and colored in it. Liberating!

Every date will give you time for introspection, no matter what you do, because you’ll be doing it alone, with your own thoughts. You’ll end it feeling refreshed and with a brighter outlook on life. I hope you will give it a try ~