I've been having a good solid chat with Kim over the last couple of days about the creative process, and understanding time within that context. (Oh yeah, we are soooo elite.)
Kim was beating herself up about not getting enough time to create (something I've been fretting over lately as well) and that once she gets done taking care of house and home, there is precious little time to sit in the studio. She said 'I only have a few hours each day to grind on the shit and by the time I get concepts or sketches (in my head) down the time to make is actually gone.'
I think a lot of us suffer this problem- by the time you sit down, get grounded and relax into it, seems like you get about 2 minutes of solid crafting done and then someone somewhere expects something of you. (It's a curse born by women throughout time, so don't feel special!) I know as an Etsy seller there's a huge pressure to update your shop regularly and provide as much as you can for people, and we can worry ourselves threadbare providing a regular supply of inventory.
I used to harass myself all the time that I wasn't making enough work- I could sit at my desk 3 days in a row and still not have anything finished, and some stuff I even wanted to pull apart or throw straight in the bin. Meanwhile I would log on to my Etsy and see my shop front, shaking it's head disapprovingly at me because the latest listing is 5 days old.
But those days of tinkering and taking stock are not lost time. You need those times to think and experiment and move things around. Even 'organising' your space (and by organising I often mean 'looking through random boxes.') is good work. Playing with your materials and supplies is as much about communicating with your muse as actually making a piece is. Even when you make something and it doesn't turn out, it's still valid time spent. (The art of failure is a whole other post.)
One of the most important things in the creative journey is the thinking. Physically making and (gasp!) finishing something is grand and seems to be the golden fleece we all lament not holding on a daily basis, but you need that thinking time to feel out your materials.
There's a Carl Sagan quote: 'to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe'. And I LOVE that quote because it speaks to me it's about setting the foundations, feeling out the landscape. You can't make something until you have the energy of it around you, you need to create the world in order for the creature to live there. So all that time spent thinkin' and dreamin' and shuffling beads and string around the desk is all crucial to the process.
It's going to happen whether you like it or not, this tinkering. In fact it HAS to happen to get good work, so you might as well either square with it or consign yourself to the easy path of making frivolous trinkets. (And you know what Dumbledore said about easy choices.)
I've illustrated this post with random shots taken through my studio in the last few days. Every now and then walking around with the camera and snapping away at various things is helpful to my thinking process. This is just as valid as actually making something. Taking photos, observing, playing... it's all seeds for the harvest. So stop beating yourself up, and find validation in every minute of creative time you're blessed with. No matter how unproductive it feels.