Lately I've been taking a more intentional approach to how I manage my creative time. A lot of my time for producing calligraphy projects is very unstructured, and honestly the time can slip away. Anyone else get sucked into Instastories for 20 minutes at a time? When I do that, I feel so ashamed and LAZY! But it happens. So, I'm sharing some of my own strategies to stay productive and focused, even when your to-do list is miles long.
- See a job through to the finish line. If you're like me, you'll totally agree that when a thought pops in your head and you think, "oh! I need to do that!," you may stop what you're currently working on and get sidetracked. This happens to me all of the time! But lately, I've stopped sidetracking myself and urged myself to see a task through to the end. Of course, this assumes that all jobs are one-step and done, and that's not true! But organizing your projects into steps, or checkpoints, is a useful way to prepare your time. Writing down a to-do list might also help you focus on one job at a time. I just feel overall less scatterbrained as I train my mind to work on one thing at a time. Multitasking is overrated, and sometimes I feel like the quality is less than my best when I am rushing onto the next thing. Right?!
- Try organizing your to-do lists in a time frame period that works for you. When my schedule changes, so do my to-do lists. I find that during the summer, when I have more unstructured time, my tasks get accomplished quicker when I have a 2-day to-do list. I prioritize my tasks in order of urgency, and then proceed to "check off" my tasks in a 1-2 day period. This personally helps me keep the pressure off myself, while getting things done. Of course everyone's schedule is different, but maybe try this if you have a busy weekend coming up - it's the perfect time frame. I post my to-do lists on the fridge, or in my notebook, so they are visually accessible. The act of checking off a box is quite satisfying, no?
- Be intentional - don't start something you don't have a vision for *yet*. I used to break this one all of the time. Let's say I have an idea for a blog post. I might create the post, throw in a stock photo as a holder, and type a half-hearted entry that I end up putting off for months. Or never end up using at all. What a waste of time that was! I think creatives are prone to dreaming, brainstorming, and obviously, creating. There are steps to the creative process where you're not quite putting pencil to paper yet. All of this being said, having a clear vision is important to seeing a job through. I make time for trial and error, experimentation, drafting, and practice...but I don't feel accomplished if I develop half-thought out ideas that never get executed. Note, this is also true for shopping! I was at Hobby Lobby this week and had to de-cart (aka remove unnecessary items from my cart) so many wood pieces. What was I going to do with the wood pieces? Even I don't know. I didn't have a specific goal in mind, and I was just buying them to have them. Instead of buying them, I decided to de-cart and just make a mental note that the wood pieces would be there waiting for me for my next project, if they're ever needed :)
- Set a timer for your task. The funny thing with this strategy, it totally works! But I always end up needing more time for a specific task. Which is okay. Let's say I need to straighten up the apartment before heading to the gym. I might put a 15 minute timer on my phone and then focus on cleaning solely for those 15 minutes. It's more helpful than saying, "ok, I'm going to go to the gym at 9:30" and then working from there. Because we all know what happens...9:25 rolls around and before you know it, nothing got done. The timer serves as a reminder that your day is precious, and even the innocuous 15 minutes you budgeted to straighten up are passing by. Use them! Before you know it, another 15 minutes might pass.
- Mute your surroundings. Unless you're someone who thrives with noise surrounding you, make your workspace quiet and calming. It helps me, personally, to focus. Some people are different, but that's just my preference. If I listen to music, I like instrumental music or a soothing playlist. Audiobooks are also nice.
- Limit screen time. You've heard this before. Man, I just feel better when I'm offline! So why do I keep going back to my phone/computer? I think it's pointing to a wider issue (cough, cough, getting sucked into Instastories). Taking steps to regulate on-screen time is important for your productivity AND health! Have you seen the studies about blue light from our devices and how it effects our eyes? I recently turned off my cellular data for a lot of my social media apps, which has allowed me to be more present while out and about. I only use Instagram, Pinterest, etc. while on Wifi. It's a gamechanger!
Hope these notes on time management help you!