Take the Time Out – And See Where it Takes You

Take the time out?

Humph – you’ve got to be kidding!
I’m way too busy to sit around and study my navel.

Drawing of a Mangrove trunk


Working from home is in so many ways a blessing –
I love the flexibility and fluidity to my day; but there’s rarely a moment where I feel I have time on my hands to indulge in ‘me’ time.

However, I recently experienced a bout of cabin fever!
It crept up on me quite unexpectedly and screamed in my ear –
You need to get out of here –
And no – Not go and do your usual walk, or ride your bike, or kayak across the Bay –
No, you need some time out to be totally in the moment.

Drawing of mangrove flowers and leaves

Taking the time out to smell the mangroves

1 . But Where to Start?

With no idea where this was leading I employed ‘my go to’ in these situations which is to follow the inkling gnawing at my stomach.

I grabbed a small stool, a blank journal and a pen and headed down to the muddy manky mangroves with no intention, no objective, no expectation, no ambition, no goal of going there to achieve anything –
I simply gave myself 20 minutes to go and be.

In business circles there’s an emphasis that there should always be a plan – If you don’t know where you’re going, how will you know when you get there?
But if you’re innovative and creating new concepts from fresh ideas do you always know the end result before you get there?!
I feel giving serendipity an opportunity to come and play will take you to places you’d never have been able to imagine, so I like Lewis Carrol’s take on it –

“If you don’t know where you’re going any road will get you there”

"If you don't know where you're going, any road will get you there"Lewis Carrol

“If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there”                    Lewis Carrol


2. One Thing Leads to Another

In other words if you allow yourself the simple act of starting who knows where you’ll end up and the chances are it’ll be a place you most likely could never have envisioned.

Essentially – One thing always leads to another!

And before you know what has happened you have something like the images on this page unravelling before you.

Hand drawing of mangrove roots

3. 20 mins + 20 mins + 20 mins = an hour

I, like most of you reading this I suspect, don’t have the luxury of taking off for hours at a time –
But I do stop to make a cup of tea a couple of times a day –

On that initial foray fleeing from the cabin-fever I also grabbed my afternoon cup of tea to take with me which I sipped as I studied the sculptural forms of the mangroves.
Then, for 20 minutes I perched on my stool and started the image at the top of this post – the one of the gnarled mangrove trunk.

Now, if I’d said I was going to take the time out to do some drawing – being a tad puritanical  – I doubt I’d have given myself permission!
But I headed off down there first and foremost to have my afternoon tea and while I was there I spent 20 minutes observing – being in the moment.

20 minutes is nothing when it comes to drawing – which is why I suspect so many people think they can’t draw as they never apply the time required to produce anything – but because I was drawing something I could return to at a later time, after 20 minutes I left off where I’d got to and returned to my work day refreshed.

A couple of times a week thereafter I’d make a cup of tea and head off back to my gnarled tree trunk for just 20 minutes each time as I sipped my tea –
Surprisingly – 20 mins and 20 minutes and 20 minutes adds up, and before I knew it I had a body of work evolving before me – All in the space of a tea break!

It’s so obvious, but I have to ask – Have you ever tried stepping out of your usual day and applying a 20 minute tea break to a project you’re perhaps putting off – or heaven forbid actually give yourself 20 minutes to spend being mindful of a moment?

Hand drawing of a mangrove branch

20 mins + 20 mins + 20 mins = this drawing!

4. The Process is More Important than the Product

The result or quality of the drawing you produce in this scenario is totally immaterial –

It is not for the product that you are intricately observing your subject –
It is the focus on the moment – being 100% present in the now –
How often can you honestly say you are fully aware of the ‘now’ rather than busily thinking about what you are about to do or contemplating something that happened in the past?


Hand drawing of an old mangrove tree trunk bearing the words 'Take the Time Out'

Take the Time Out

5. Mindfulness in the Mangroves

As a country bumpkin I’m most at ease when in nature –
So for me heading into an area of nature makes me feel the most relaxed.
I had never realised until a few years ago that there was a term for this – biophilia.

But for those of you who don’t have a patch of mangroves at the bottom of your garden most cities have Parks not too far apart where you can absorb yourself in blades of grass and the tactile textures of tree trunks.

So the next time you’re having a tea or coffee break – staring out at the view – consider the fact that after 20 mins both the tea and the view will be gone unless perhaps you too devote 20 mins to mindfully transcribing what you see before you.

And before you know it – You too will have a journal of sketches you never thought you had time to do!



“willingness or ability to show up fully in our lives and live them as if they really mattered, in the only moment we ever get, which is this one”
Mark Williams – Author of ‘Mindfulness – Finding Peace in a Frantic World’

Are you ever consciously fully present in the moment or are you always too busy thinking and projecting yourself off into the next thing?

Or, if you have tried mindfulness – do you feel it has improved your well being?

Do share your experiences and comment below 🙂

26 thoughts on “Take the Time Out – And See Where it Takes You

    • I think the thing is, even when we do take the time out, our minds are generally still elsewhere!
      We’re out for a walk… yet our minds are off buzzing with what we’re going to do when we get back rather than taking in the colour of the leaves or how the grasses are swaying –
      We’re nearly always living moments past or moments future – rarely what is our lives – which is the moment right Now 😉

  1. This was the PERFECT post to read. (And the first one for today) I have just taken up sketching and have been procrastinating, yet you are so right when you say the process if more important than the product. When I have put aside time to draw, the time flies but I am certainly ‘in the moment” and “mindful”. Thanks for a great reminder!

    • For some reason when we sketch it is expected that there will be a pretty picture at the end – yet when we do yoga classes or take tennis lessons we certainly don’t expect to be a yogi or a tennis pro at the end of it – we do it totally for the process 🙂
      And if you can find something close at hand to sketch so you can do it in 20 or 30 mins increments (say over a cup of tea/coffee) it is exciting to watch a body of work grow in front of your eyes, without having to set any time aside 😀

    • I think the importance lies in stopping –
      While you’re being busy the chances are you’re on auto-pilot and are not really aware of the busyness you’re carrying out!
      I remember you telling me when you were travelling with a friend who stopped to sketch something how when you sat beside her you took the opportunity to observe with her the details that would have otherwise gone unnoticed – That to me is taking the time out – time to be truly present 🙂

  2. Love this post! I am struggling with the transition from working to a strict timetable (as I was a teacher) to working from home and being a self-employed writer and the cabin fever hits hard!
    I like that someone else has mirrored how I feel – and thank you for helping me feel I’m not alone, and for teaching me that it’s OK to go and ‘be’ occasionally.
    Rebecca recently posted..Rejuvenate at Live-Bio, GreeceMy Profile

    • It can be a little too liberating not having a schedule one absolutely has to keep to (what with no boss breathing down your neck LOL), and yet equally confining as your work becomes your life and the boundaries between the work that is pleasurable enough that it doesn’t feel too much like work, and not work, merge! 😉
      Feeling the need to therefore take the time out and away from such a perfect life seems a tad contradictory – But replenishing the well with something that has no other purpose than enriching the soul is a must – more than occasionally 😀

    • No – I didn’t know of Dalya – So I’ve just been to her website ~ and what exquisite work 🙂
      I’m exactly like you – my tendency is to be on the go at all times of the day… and being a night owl – night too!
      So taking 20 minutes not to merely slow down, but to stop, and focus on a piece of nature – or a wonderful root artwork, I have found to be a saviour 😀

  3. I love your idea of snatching 20 minutes here and there to take time out just for yourself. I normally make a cup of tea and head straight back to my laptop to work. I do however love my walks through the National Park and along the beach near where I live and completely getting lost in nature. I normally find something wonderful to photograph with my iPhone and this makes me feel tranquil and at one with nature. Love your sketches. 🙂
    Kathy Marris recently posted..There’s more to Indonesia than BaliMy Profile

    • I know that tendency of heading straight back to your laptop with a cup of tea only to well LOL
      I think that was why I reached boiling point and had to find an escape!
      I love hearing how you get lost in nature – I, like you, love my walks through the woods and often stop to take in the tranquillity but I definitely need more than just that momentary encounter to replenish my well – 20 mins of focusing on something with no purpose/end product in mind, I’ve discovered, is for me mindful and restorative 😀

  4. This is just terrific. Such great advice wrapped up in a beautifully-illustrated post. I’m working on refinishing a piece of furniture I found on the side of the road. It’s a great way to take a break during the day.

  5. As I have said before, I am a huge fan of your work. I can only imagine what it would be like to have such a gift. I can barely draw a stick figure. Ha! Ha!

    Being in the moment is something I work on daily, but sadly, quite often fail. But, now that we are officially retired I think I’m getting better at it. I really like not having to be anywhere at a certain time and I find it frees me to just be in the moment, regardless of what the moment is.

    It’s a work in progress, isn’t it?
    Patti recently posted..Volunteerism – vs – Voluntourism ~My Profile

    • Now don’t get me started Patti!!!
      You know how I won’t believe anyone who says that LOL
      I’ve been invited to present a master-class at a writers festival in a couple of months – How to Map your Story Visually – I get the feeling I need to then turn into an on line course!

  6. Drawing and painting has such a meditative impact. I should do it more often and without being critical with myself. I love the statement: play will take you to places you’d never have been able to imagine. That’s so true.

    • That chattering monkey sitting on your shoulder, talking you down is a pain – isn’t he 🙁
      But he is so worth overriding or learning to ignore, because as you say – drawing/painting/sketching is so meditative –
      Maybe the trick is to draw something like the bark on a tree trunk or the leavened holes in a piece of toast where that monkey really can’t say whether its how you intended or not (being so abstract) so you can revel in the process, which is of course the value – not what ends up on the page! 😀

    • Thanks for dropping by Jeff 😀
      That journal of mangrove drawings is such a great reminder to me how by applying a mere 20 odd minutes here and there it can accumulate into a substantial body of work –
      There is no such excuse as not having the time when you discover you don’t need big chunks of it to have something to show for it 🙂

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