Developing your creative self requires personal time. You've heard it before: Learn to say no. Let me tell you a story.
I was a newish nurse working night shifts on a busy hospital unit. Our census exploded, and every evening the nurse manager called all off-duty staff begging until someone accepted the overtime shift. It is difficult to refuse another extra shift when it's your manager asking. This went on for an inordinate amount of time. Answering machines were new back then, and I resisted owning one.
One afternoon, my daughter raced to the ringing phone, picking up the call before I could. I heard my manager saying, "Hello, is your mommy there?" As I reached for the receiver, she blurted out, "You're not going to make my mommy go to work again, are you?" I grabbed the phone. On the other end, the manager said, "I'm sorry, I guess I've been calling too often. Enjoy the evening with your daughter."
The next day, I bought an answering machine. I learned to screen calls.
Not long afterwards, something positive happened: The manager took her overtime-paid hours to administration, along with the record of increased census. They discovered they'd save money by hiring another FTE. The overtime calls became occasional.
Moral of the story: it's not my personal responsibility to fix my unit's staffing problem. (Note: I'm not advocating refusing shifts during staffing crunches. In nursing, being a team player is essential. However, I found that if I work more than two overtime shifts a pay period, I get a diminishing return on the extra income because of taxes where I live. Therefore, my flexible policy is to limit overtime to two shifts a pay period.)
Knowing which problems are yours to solve, and which are the responsibility of others, is the key to learning to say "no," to coworkers, patients, children, spouses, boyfriends, girlfriends, parents, soccer moms, whomever.
Write this down and tape it to your bathroom mirror: "I am responsible for my own stuff, and that is enough."
Who are you married to?
The caveat to this affirmation is: "If you step in it, you're going to have to clean your shoes." Avoid drama. Evaluate commitments carefully. Protect your personal time.
Our ability to say no is strongly connected to the important relationships in our lives. We have learned that to say "no" to make time for ourselves is selfish. Add the nurturing nature of a nurse, and saying "no" becomes nearly impossible.
The book The Dance of Anger, by Harriet Lerner, PhD, was an important resource as I learned to take control of my time and relationships. You cannot grow creatively without time to yourself, and The Dance of Anger offers useful tools for saying "no," through recognizing what stuff is yours, and what belongs to others. What resources have helped you learn to say no?