If one of your New Year’s resolutions was to focus on growing your creative business through Patreon, you’re in the right place. And, if you’re overwhelmed by thinking about all the ways you can tackle this goals, focusing on your time management skills might be a good place to start.
It can be really difficult to hone good time management skills, especially for creatives whose day-to-day schedules are never the same. And, we know it can seem like there just aren't enough hours in the day to accomplish all that needs to be done. Time management isn’t about magically making more hours appear in your day so you can accomplish more (though, how amazing does that sound?). It’s about using the time you do have on any given day and ensuring that they’re as productive as they can possibly be.
Want to make this year your most productive, industrious, and efficient year yet? Here are a few tips to help creators master time management.
We all procrastinate, and sometimes that space to think can be beneficial since it’s often part of your creative flow. Maybe scrolling mindlessly through Instagram is exactly what you needed to spark an idea or complete your train of thought. It’s when procrastination starts to negatively affect your workflow (causing you to miss deadlines or decrease your quality of work) that it becomes a problem.
By giving yourself realistic and specific timelines for deadlines (example: “I want to meet X goal by this Friday” versus “I’ll grow my business substantially in 2019”), you’ll be able to work toward that goal mindfully while also keeping your procrastination in check. Sending out an email to your audience on Friday? Break it down into manageable steps: draft on Monday, edit on Tuesday, format on Wednesday, test on Thursday, send on Friday. Mapping out a course of small, actionable steps can help you from feeling overwhelmed by the large, looming project.
You’ll want to make this a habit, constantly checking in with yourself. If you set timeline goals but you’re still not hitting them, it’s likely a sign that you need to remove distractions from your schedule and make your steps smaller.
You know yourself best. If you’re not a morning person, you’re going to have a tough time forcing yourself up at the crack of dawn instead of playing to your strengths and accepting that a nighttime routine might work best for you. Regardless of what time of the day you decide to work, it may be beneficial to find a quiet environment for yourself where you can accomplish what needs to be done. This applies to those early birds who need to get a certain amount of work done before the day wears them out or the night owls who thrive after their mind and body are warmed up.
Some people think a work-life balance is an elusive, impossible reality, but that doesn't have to be the case. There’s a way to get joy from your work while also enjoying your free time. We suggest allowing yourself time to disconnect — no phone, no email, no “just one last thing then I’ll sign off.”
There’s always going to be more work to do, and trying to accomplish everything in one sitting will just leave you feeling exhausted at the end of the day. This is especially true for creators who are overflowing with great ideas. It’s easy to get caught up in work, finding new projects to work on until you miss out on that valuable downtime. By prioritizing time to yourself — that can be reading, playing video games, cooking, or really anything that’s not related to work — you’ll avoid burning out and crashing. You need to give your mind a break, which will also allow your creativity to keep flowing.
One surefire way to ruin a workflow is by multitasking. It may seem a bit counterintuitive — more work finished is a good thing, right? — but often when you’re multitasking, you’re spreading yourself too thin and not actually accomplishing what needs to get done. By designating specific parts of your day to different tasks, such as a segmented time for checking and responding to emails, you’ll be able to cut down on distractions.
It’s helpful to write up a schedule, and using verbs to start every task you need to undertake is a great way to boost your efficiency. This way there will be no guessing or deliberating when you come to your next item, and it will help you stay focused. For example, let's say you need to draft that aforementioned email to your audience, and you do your best work after you've caught up on your news and social feeds, around 11am. Instead of plugging in "EMAIL" in your calendar for 11am, enter "Write draft of email to audience announcing tour dates." This way your brain will know exactly what to do, and it will be easier to stay on task. It's easier for us to work with clear directions, so make sure you're givingthem to yourself.
Try writing your tasks and To Dos with an actionable sentence for your day and week; you might find it's easier to stick to your schedule, meet your deadlines, and achieve your various goals.
When you’re starting to feel like you’re getting close to your limit or are feeling a bit burnt out, it’s important to listen to your body and do what works best for you. Sometimes this means taking a break, and sometimes this means channelling your motivation to stay on course.
Enter the dangling carrot.
One option is to get the “worst” tasks out of the way first, and save the “best” parts for last so you can enjoy them and really savor the moment. For instance, if you finish the toughest part of your project on a Monday or Tuesday, you’ll open up the rest of the week to enjoy the other parts of your work. However, if you waited until Thursday or Friday to do it, then you might already feel exhausted, overwhelemed, and more inclined to procrastinate or drag it out. Finding something to give you the motivation to complete your project can be a crucial element of the creative process, even if that motivation is the feeling you’ll have when the most arduous part of your project is complete.
Getting to know your personal rhythm, when you work best, how you like to organize your tasks and schedule, will help you work in a productive manner. And, managing your time and energy will only prove beneficial as you work towards your goals, both professional and personal. Of course, life happens and your carefully crafted routines can be thrown out the window when you're navigating big changes and events. The great news, is that you can always come back to zero; you can always find a place to jot down a task, and get back to a system that works for you, and we'll be here to help.