Feeling Stuck? Here's why energy management > time management

Let me ask you this: do you ever find yourself feeling bored, uninspired, or just plain TIRED when you look at your to-do list for the day or week ahead?

I know I do.

It’s weird: sometimes I look down the list of things I’ve planned and I can’t wait to get to them – I even have to stop myself from getting on my bike and riding over to the studio at 11pm when I know I have an early morning the next day and it can wait.

Other times even the things I normally enjoy seem too hard, too exhausting, impossible.

I can’t help but wonder — why?

There’s a lot of talk in Western culture about productivity, efficiency and time management.

This is all good – we need systems in place to accomplish the things we set out to, without getting overwhelmed or forgetting things. There’s simply too much to keep it all in our heads.

But what if we know what we need to do, but we don’t feel we have the energy or motivation to actually do it, and do it effectively?

Here’s the thing: as much as we might like to pretend we’ve got it all figured out, and we’re constantly validated by capitalist culture for being BUSY, the simple truth is that we are human, and human beings aren’t robots.

Human beings at the core are sensitive, emotional, whimsical, curious. Of course we can also be logical, efficient, systematic. But to ignore the intuitive side is to ignore at least half of who we are, and how we operate.

This is why time management is important but it’s only part of the puzzle. Another part – an equally or even more important one – is energy management.

In industry, energy management refers to “the proactive, organized and systematic coordination of procurement, conversion, distribution and use of energy to meet the requirements, taking into account environmental and economic objectives.”*

NAUTILUS. An impomptu studio session produces a new edition of handmade prints.

NAUTILUS. An impomptu studio session produces a new edition of handmade prints.

Let’s break that down.

What does this mean, and how can you apply it to your individual energy, and your capacity to be effective in your own life?

You can have all the time in the world but if your energy is compromised, you won’t be able to accomplish all that much.

It’s taken me a long time to realize it, but the truth is sometimes when you’re looking down a to-do list a mile long and feeling dread and anxiety and exhaustion at the prospect of tackling any of it, probably the most effective thing you can do is lie down and close your eyes for 20 minutes.

Or go take a walk and notice which flowers are in bloom right now.

Too often in our lives we set aside imagination in favour of cold rationality, whimsy in favour of logic, dreams in favour of plans.

Not only is this a huge drag, it’s actually inefficient.

Your capacity to be effective in your own life depends entirely on the quality of your energy.

So do yourself a favour and next time you’re feeling drained, bored, and uninspired – put aside your lists, put aside your schedules and ask yourself: do I need to do any of this right now? If the answer is no, just pause and do something nice and easy for yourself. Hit the reset button — whatever that means for you – bake a banana bread, read a trashy novel, repot your favourite houseplant, whatever.

See what happens to your outer gardens when you take a moment to tend to your inner gardens.

Now I’d love to hear from you: when you’re feeling drained, what do you do to shift your energy? Tell me in the comments below!

Yours truly in vibrant creative energy and beyond,

maya_signed.png
 

*Definition of energy management courtesy of Wikipedia

CAN'T YOU JUST PHOTOSHOP IT?

OF PRINTING PRESSES AND OTHER ARCHAIC BEAUTY

IMG_2533.jpg

Every once in a while, someone discovers what I do for a living and says, “wouldn’t it be easier to just print it digitally?”

You mean, instead of taking my intricately detailed drawings and carving them painstakingly into a woodblock, and then inking them by hand and printing them using a big roller and a 2-tonne iron printing press built in 1891, just scan it and go – boop – and the machine spits it out?

Okay, fair question.

We live in an age of unprecedented technological growth and innovation, and while I want to be clear I’m not knocking the usefulness of digital technology, I do believe traditional craftsmanship has something uniquely important to offer, and is worth preserving and passing down.


Here’s the thing: learning to make things with our hands keeps us smart, remembering how to think and not just what to think.

It’s also satisfying in a particularly special way. Handmade objects are imbued with an energy that comes through, for the creator and the audience alike.

I have a hunch that you already know this. 

Setting up the press at Atelier Circulaire. Photo by H Walkstrong.

Setting up the press at Atelier Circulaire. Photo by H Walkstrong.

Studying the markings of a butterfly’s wings or the specific way a vine twists around the stem of a plant will teach you a great deal about how the universe is put together.

FCEB3633-B04A-4B44-A1A6-4BFC91EAE25F.jpg

Recently I was at the print shop and the technician Carlos – an expert lithographer and endless well of fascinating history lessons – said to me, casually, 

“You know… to master this technique, one lifetime is not enough. It would take several, I think.”

And then he looked down at the new edition of prints I was signing and said, “Your woodcuts are magnificent. You must keep going.”

High praise, that. And a mighty call to action.

 It’s fun to think that you are continuing the work from a previous unknown lifetime, when you were a blacksmith or a baker or a termite.

Anyway, all of this got me thinking about how engaging with our creativity and self-expression has an incredible capacity to heal us, both individually and collectively. It connects us to each other and what it means to be human.

It’s a really beautiful thing.

And it feels special to have the opportunity and the honour to continue a tradition that keeps us connected to history, to each other and to the natural world – especially in an era when people are feeling increasingly disconnected and disillusioned.

If one lifetime’s not enough to master your craft, then your life’s work is just to set up your next incarnation as best you can, which is awesome because it frees you to simply focus on the journey, as you won’t be reaching the destination until much later when you’re a frog or a temple or a mushroom.

How cool is that?


Now I’d love to hear from you! What’s your favourite thing about traditional craftsmanship? What do you do to indulge your creative curiosity? What work from a previous lifetime are you continuing? Tell me in the comments below.

And for the love of handmade, thank you for being here.

maya_signed.png
 

PS. Don’t forget to subscribe to email updates - you’ll gain instant access to a FREE desktop calendar and special offers I don’t share anywhere else.

Hortense the Monarch

I recently had a wonderful experience that I would like to share with you. You see – I have this beautiful friend who works in a flower shop. Her arrangements would make your heart skip a beat, I’m telling you.
 
One fine day back in September, she called me up to say she had an unusual favour to ask of me. She proceeded to tell me about the unsuspecting little creature she had found inside a bouquet at her shop. It was none other than a chubby little monarch caterpillar.


IMG_6494.jpg

Of course I was thrilled to say YES when she asked me if I would care for it. She brought the caterpillar over in a little flower bowl with some sticks and leaves, and a big lush bouquet of milkweed to go along with it. I would later be amazed by how much leaf matter such a tiny creature could rapidly consume.
 
We named our new friend Hortense, it seemed to fit. Over the next few weeks, I learned a lot of new information about monarchs. Watching this creature do its thing, curiosities would naturally arise and pretty soon my whole household was googling monarch facts on a daily basis.


Here are some Important Monarch Facts we learned:

  • Monarch caterpillars eat only milkweed leaves, and a lot of them. One monarch can defoliate an entire plant during its larval (caterpillar) phase, which is up to about 200 leaves in 2 weeks. That’s a lot of leaves if you’re 2 inches long.

  • I also learned the word defoliate, which is a pretty good word.

  • Monarch caterpillars are very impressive poopers. Very. Must be all the defoliating.


The more I researched monarchs, the more I learned how many diseases, afflictions and predators they can encounter in their lifetime. I began to realize the odds were really stacked against this little creature, who had been transported as an accidental stowaway from much farther south, all the way up to Canada, presumably in a refrigerated truck. Thankfully at least food was not an issue, as there were plenty of plants in the truck to defoliate.
 
One day I came home and found that in the few hours I had been gone, Hortense had transformed into a chrysalis. I have no words to describe the wonderment I felt at coming home to find this completely transformed creature. It bared almost no resemblance to its prior form, having liquefied and reformed as a pupa in a matter of hours.

During the 2 weeks of the chrysalis phase that followed, I did more research and learned more about monarchs, especially caring for them in captivity. The more I learned, the more I realized the fragility of this creature’s life and all the potential challenges it could face. I began to temper my enthusiasm with a cautious optimism instead. I really wanted to see Hortense emerge victoriously as a butterfly, but I also realized there were so many ways the metamorphosis could be compromised, and I needed to prepare myself emotionally that she might not make it.

This was not an easy task as I had already become quite fond of this little bug. I managed to allow myself to detach from the outcome and focus on my amazement at what had already come into my life and happened. I have Hortense to thank for this lesson as well, which I couldn’t help but extrapolate to other areas of life. I think a lot of us, myself included, are in the habit of focusing on what we have yet to achieve, and we don't always take as much time to reflect on what we have already accomplished. We have so many dreams and goals and aspirations and we put a lot of effort and energy into taking care of things, so feeling like we're not yet where we want to be can lead to frustration.


METAMORPHOSIS

The chrysalis, dotted with gold flecks, slowly turned from a bright, soft green to a dark, translucent hue. One sunny afternoon, a wing moved and POP, the chrysalis opened. Then just like that, Hortense made her way down and out of the chrysalis. She hung below, gently flexing and pulsing. I was so transfixed watching her I almost forgot to capture the moment on camera. 

Once her wings had dried off and unfurled fully, we slid a chopstick into the bowl, giving her something to crawl out on and hang out. And hang out she did, for many days without moving too much. We were not sure she would actually fly. But we kept feeding her orange nectar every morning and she drank it up and that was encouraging. We all really liked her.
 
This whole thing got me thinking about how watching the processes of nature unfold around us in real time has the power to nudge us beautifully into the present moment. It’s very hard to stay focused on some minor irritation from your day or worry about the future when you come home to check in on your house butterfly. The magic creature just grabs your attention and fills you with wonderment by the simple fact of its existence.

IMG_6210.jpg

The amazing thing is these processes are unfolding around us all the time. They are as common as dirt (and they’re happening in the dirt, too). Even if you live in a city and don’t necessarily have access to old growth forests and wild animals on a daily basis, there are always cues to our connection with nature and environment that we can tap into if we so choose. The truth is, and I felt it so closely with Hortense, we are nature, and we are our environment. There is no place where nature ends and we begin. We are all part of the same ecosystem, growing out of it like fruit popping out of a tree, and then that fruit puts caterpillars on trucks that run on dinosaur bones and… wait, where was I?
 
Ah, yes. The infinite energy of nature and life itself. Pretty cool stuff.


Anyway, one warm and sunny October morning, I awoke to find Hortense fluttering around inside the little enclosure we had made for her. It was time for her to go. I took the mesh laundry hamper that was her home carefully out to the balcony and lifted the little flap of fabric I had clipped to the opening. She knew what to do. Just like that, she took off on the breeze, flapping her little wings. Seeing her fluttering through the trees in the neighbour’s yard before disappearing over the next block brings tears to my eyes now as it did then, this precious little creature surviving against all odds and flying away in the sunshine.
 
We were sad to see her go, but so glad to have known her, and we mused about her journey over the next few days. She was smart to leave before this terrible storm hit... I checked the weather in upstate NY, it’s looking clear and sunny – great flying weather.... She must be over the Carolinas by now... She’s probably sipping tequila in Mexico... Keep an eye on the mail, maybe she’ll send a postcard.


hortense_carving_bw.jpg

Over the weeks and months that followed, I crafted a piece of art that would become a love letter, a joyful ode to the lovely Hortense, who in our short time together taught me many things about life, death, resilience, temporality, and the infinite wonder of our beautiful world. Thank you, Hortense.

You can view The Mighty Monarch woodcut by clicking here.