Time management tricks for creatives

Article by ImpactHub Bucharest

As a creative, you may have heard this a lot of times: don’t rush the process! Inspiration and good things don’t come easy and take time. This is why you need good time management skills! It’s not enough for creative entrepreneurs to be masters of their crafts, they also need to deal with administrative tasks, and managing their own business. This is why we have put together a list of tips and tricks to help you organize your professional life and prioritize the things that matter most to you.

Prioritization is key

There’s a famous quote attributed to U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower: “I have two kinds of problems: the urgent and the important. The urgent are not important, and the important are never urgent.” This “Eisenhower Principle” is now one of the most effective tools to manage your workload and priorities:

Source: Hive.com

The important and urgent tasks are either those that couldn’t have been foreseen or those that you’ve postponed for too long, and you should take care of them before diving into your work. The important but not urgent tasks are usually the activities that help you achieve your personal and professional goals – focus on them and make sure you include them in your daily routine. Things that are neither important, nor urgent are merely distractions that you need to shut off.

Write down your everyday schedule and apply Eisenhower’s principle to discover the time thieves, eliminate as many disruptors as possible, and bring more clarity into your work process. But this doesn’t only apply to your schedule at large – it’s also useful when it comes to business and business projects. New projects may seem interesting and exciting but before committing to them you should ask yourself: “Can I really do it? Do I really have the time and clarity I need to accomplish some quality work? How will I benefit from this project if I were to say yes to it?”.

Learn to say “no” to unnecessary commitments, or projects you don’t find value in. Sometimes you may even be forced to learn to say “no” to things you’re passionate about because otherwise you would be sacrificing other projects that have been in the making for a long time, and other ideas that have been in the pipeline for a while. Pick your battles and choose wisely!

There are two wolves inside every creative

At this point you may be asking yourself: “Then how can I decide which projects are worth taking on?”.

The answer comes from Hugh MacLeod, an American Artistic Director & Lead Creative Writer who, back in 2004, uncovered a brilliant truth in one of his drawings. It’s called The Sex & Cash Theory, and it offers insight into how artists and creative types should approach their day job:

“The creative person basically has two kinds of jobs: one is the sexy, creative kind. Second is the kind that pays the bills. Sometimes the task in hand covers both bases, but not often. This tense duality will always play center stage. It will never be transcended.

A good example is Phil, a NY photographer friend of mine. He does really wild stuff for the indie magazines- it pays nothing, but it allows him to build his portfolio. Then he’ll go off and shoot some catalogues for a while. Nothing too exciting, but it pays the bills.

Or actors. One year John Travolta will be in an ultra-hip flick like Pulp Fiction (“Sex”), the next he’ll be in some dumb spy thriller (“Cash”).”

Another great artist (Adam Levine from Maroon 5 this time) once said “it’s not always rainbows and butterflies, it’s compromise that moves us along”, so you should always keep a balance between what is profitable for you and what nurtures your creative spirit because, at the end of day, time is limited. And so is energy, and focus.

Find the right tools to help you stay organized

From Evernote to Trello or Asana, and from workflow management software to time tracking software, there’s a wide range of tools you can choose from to help you stay on top of your game. The right tools will show you where your time actually goes so that you can optimize your workflow. Use these insights to determine the most productive and creative timeframes of your day, and protect them at all costs! No tool can work its magic unless you get to know yourself better and pick the right times for you to dedicate to your creative endeavors. Then you can set aside separate time slots for administrative tasks like replying to e-mails, billing your clients, or paying your suppliers.

Small steps that will take you a long way

  • Connect daily work to goals so you’ll always be reminded of how each task brings you closer to your desired outcome.
  • Snooze notifications and hack back external triggers: Nir Eyal’s book – Indistractable: How to Control Your Attention and Choose Your Life might be an excellent read if you want to find out more about the psychology behind the small things that make you lose your focus.
  • Choose your preferred approach: the Eat the Frog strategy (tackling big or complex tasks first before working on your less important or less urgent work) or Pareto principle (getting quick or easy tasks out done first, so you can feel more accomplished and motivated later on)
  • Just do it: be good, not perfect! Don’t slack and don’t procrastinate just because you’re afraid you won’t be able to deliver the best possible results. Be consistent in what you do, show up every day, and simply do your thing. You’re a creative – trust the process and, most importantly, trust yourself!

If you want to learn more about how to manage your time as a creative, we highly recommend this e-book by Mark McGuinness – Time Management for Creative People. Mark is an experienced writer who has coached hundreds of creatives over the years. In this e-book, he shares with us everything he has learned about what it takes to get original work done in the midst of the demands and distractions of the 21st century workplace.

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