There are two things to know about content creator Hannah Witton. First, she's breaking down all sorts of taboos, and second, she's insanely busy.
Since publishing her first video in 2011, Hannah has become an educational YouTuber, podcaster, and author (her latest book, The Hormone Diaries, hit bookshops in June). Using those mediums, she gives readers, listeners, and viewers her thoughts on sex, relationships, work, and disabilities.
With a packed schedule, Hannah has every excuse in the book (see what we did there) to forgo organization. However, she knows that the time she spends tracking and planning her workflow saves her time in the long run. She's even gotten her audience in on the fun, publishing her annual income breakdowns and minute-by-minute recaps of her workweek.
"I love systems, and I have to control myself not to spend more time creating the productivity systems than actually being productive!" she says.
But these sorts of activities are a great example of what Hannah considers the primary rule of successful time management: self-awareness.
"This is one I'm still working on, but it's where all time management has to begin: know how long it takes you to do things! So before you start coming up with an amazing plan, next time you sit down to do a certain task—edit a video, make lunch, etc.—time yourself," she says. Only from there can you schedule your creative and admin time. (If you want to get started with task tracking, Toggl and RescueTime are both great tools for that.)
But what about those pesky one-off things that inevitably pop up? "Make sure the important things are done first and then do it as quick as possible," Hannah says.
Here, Hannah shares the three ways she schedules her creative projects to make sure her must-do work is ticked off first.
There are probably as many time management hacks in this world as there are possible rows on an Excel spreadsheet. There's the famous Pomodoro technique (work for 25 minutes at a time followed by a short break), the Eisenhower Matrix (which categorizes each task into "do first," "do later," "delegate" and "delete.")
Then there are broader theme strategies, such as implementing focus days (for creative and long-term projects) and push days (for administrative and straightforward tasks) or instituting no meeting Wednesdays.
But Hannah takes a more holistic view of her time, focusing on one particular project on any given week. This schedule allows her to get more work done, and do to do that work more creatively, by staying in a specific mindset. This way, she can get ahead with video and podcast episodes, so she's "not scrambling every week to get them done."
"That way, some weeks the podcasts is the focus, other weeks it's YouTube videos. Obviously, when writing my books, they take priority. Some weeks I don't film a single video. Other weeks I film five," she says.
Over the last year, Hannah has digitized all her tools so she can manage her work and personal life all in one place. She uses To-Doist for her task list and Google Calendar, Google Drive, Evernote, and Asana to work on and track all her projects between herself and her team.
"And because I do miss writing in a notebook I have an iPad and pencil for all my scribbles and thoughts," she says.
"My main strategy is that when it comes to tasks and to do lists, everything must have a date."
Whether she's scribbling her thoughts down on an iPad or in a notebook, there's one thing Hannah always implements. "My main strategy is that when it comes to tasks and to do lists, everything must have a date. It's not really on the list unless I've added a day that I'm actually doing it."
By getting in the practice of assigning a date to every task, Hannah has been able to rely on another popular strategy: time blocking. While strict time blocking involves assigning tasks to every working minute of your day, Hannah gives herself more flexibility.
"When I'm having a particularly busy week, I like to use calendar blocking. Where all my to-dos are events in my calendar so you can very clearly see how much time you have to get sh*t done," Hannah says.
Hannah also takes advantage of Google Calendar by separating her tasks and due dates by color. This way she knows what she's spending most of her time on and when (if ever) she'll have free time. It also makes it easy to rearrange task if something runs overtime or needs to be rescheduled. Plus, you can set aside time to be creative—whether that's first thing in the morning or right after that mid-afternoon coffee run—without having to worry about anything else on your to-do list!
Hannah divides her calendar into three colors:
- Red: Hannah chooses bright red for her task, using this color to keep track of all of her scheduled to-dos.
- Yellow: Hannah chooses a bright yellow for events, meetings, and situation where she'll need to physically go somewhere. This is also the calendar where she shares notes with her manager and assistant, so sometimes the event will simply read: "Hannah's Day Off!"
- Purple: Hannah settled on a lilac hue for her personal events, mainly saved for events with family and friends or on nights and weekends.
So, as a creator who has clearly mastered (and color coordinated) the art of time management, what could Hannah possibly still struggle with?
"I struggle with remembering to eat when I'm really busy," she says. "I'm starving right now. Maybe I should time block out "lunch" in my calendar?"