How to Better Manage Your Time as a Creative in 2020

Looking back at 2019, how did you feel about your productivity level? Were you crushing it? Knocking items off your to-do list, achieving goals, and never, ever finding yourself lost down the Instagram Stories rabbit hole? 

If that’s you, we should be signing up for your life advice! But, if you’re like the rest of us and you have great days, okay days, and the occasional not-so-good day, then we’re here to help you better manage your time as a creative in 2020. We’re all figuring it out as we go, but these tips are helping us boost our productivity this year.

Define Your Long and Short Term Goals

Before you can figure out how to better manage your time, you need to know why you’re managing your time. What are you working toward this week? This month? What about this year? Begin your year by defining long and short term goals so that you understand why focusing on productivity matters –– it’s because you want to reach and successfully accomplish those goals. 

Turn to Old-Fashioned Lists

Now, these lists don’t need to be pen and paper (though they can be!). The key here is creating lists that will serve as a home for anything that pops into your head while you’re working on something else. These can be to-do lists, yes, but, they can also serve as a stream of consciousness brain dump that lets you free yourself of distractions. 

Let’s say you’re working on a commissioned design when a thought that must be addressed strikes. You could stop what you’re doing and shift your focus…but that’s not an effective use of time. You could also just ignore the thought…and risk forgetting it. Instead, write it down –– and come back to it after your current project is finished.

See if Batching Tasks Works for You

When you have a list of items that need to be checked off, assess whether these seem to naturally group together. Are there high priority items? Are there projects that can wait until tomorrow?

Then, once you have the tasks organized, look at your calendar and block time to tackle similar tasks. This is called batching and it involves working your way through your to-do list by grouping tasks that require the same type of thinking. The idea is that you’ll accomplish more when you charge through by checking off all your accounting items at once, working through all your social media scheduling at once, and so on. 

Use a Timer

Whether batching is working for you or you’ve decided to simply work through your to-do list in order of priority, consider setting a timer to keep on track. It can be a phone timer or a simple egg timer. Let’s say you’re sending out proposals. Set your timer for 45 minutes and work until the timer goes off. Then, shift to learning a new design program for an hour. Work through your list while sticking to a schedule and you won’t find yourself at the day’s end wondering where it went.

Set Aside Time for Back-End Tasks

You know the administrative work needs to get done, but it’s so hard to prioritize when you have your creative work (the work you enjoy!) in front of you. So, figure out how you work best and build time into your schedule that’s dedicated to back-end tasks. Maybe you prefer to spend one hour each day slogging through invoices and orders, or maybe you like to set one full day a week aside –– decide what works for you and make it happen.

With one caveat…sometimes the most efficient way to handle admin duties is to hire them out. 

“No” Can be a Time-Management Tool

One of your most powerful time-management tools is your ability to say no. You don’t have to go to every event, take on every client, or raise your hand every time. You can say no and focus on the projects that help you achieve the goals you set.

Allow Time for Exploration

Remember that list of creative resolutions we set? Let’s go back to that for a moment. We discussed exploratory goals, perhaps dabbling in other mediums for the sake of expanding our creativity, as well as daily, repetitive goals, like sketching once per day simply to flex creative muscles. Those are the daily commitments we should make time for, so we can better manage time when we’re working. They help us stay creative and fresh.

Don’t Forget to Relax, Walk, and Breathe

Lastly, don’t forget about taking time off. No matter how well you manage your time, if you don’t take a break, you’ll burn out. And, a burnt-out creative is not a productive creative. So, take a walk around the block, meditate, go out to dinner with friends, take a deep breath. Do what you need to do to reset and you’ll find you’re better equipped to manage time and productivity on a daily basis.

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