I’d like to share my take on some tried and true time management tips with fellow creatives, experts, and other people who use their brains to get their work done. Here’s my custom blend of techniques to save time, energy, and focus. These 10 strategies also help me earn more and add more value as a copywriter.
Prioritize: Discover Each Task’s True Deadline
When I have many tasks to do, big or small, the list can sometimes get overwhelming. One of the most useful time management steps creatives take is to prioritize the tasks to ensure I get the important tasks done each day. One way to do this is to give each task a deadline. Even if there isn’t a set date to complete a task, there is usually some date in the future when I could say wow, it would really be too late to do this task if I wait until then. Or, I might get the best results if I do the task by a certain date. This creative time management technique takes advantage of my personal values. I reliably meet deadlines when they affect others or when they have some other consequence. Setting deadlines forces me to think about what will happen if I meet, exceed, or miss a particular deadline.
As a time management tool, my phone’s Reminders app keeps track of these tasks and deadlines for me. It reminds me on the date and time I set, and I look at my list of reminders regularly. These reminders include all sorts of tasks such as follow-ups, invites, project decisions, and anything else I’m not ready to do right now.
Manage the Schedule: Calendarize Lengthier Tasks
It’s important to schedule appointments and tasks so that I can stay on track. While I do not schedule everything, carving out time on my calendar helps me complete many items on my to do list.
If I’ve been putting off a task, seeing it on my calendar helps me complete it sooner. It also prevents me from scheduling so many meetings that I can’t complete other essential business development tasks or, worse yet, writing projects. If I don’t manage my time this way, I may end up having one of those ultra-long work weeks. On the other extreme, I may end up doing too little, because I put off too many tasks.
One task at a Time, Usually
People have told me that I’m good at multitasking in some situations. Contrary to popular wisdom, there really are some tasks that are best done at the same time. If they don’t require my full attention, I can combine them more easily. When I’m doing simple social media tasks, for example, I might play a video or audio book. That said, I work best when I am engrossed in a task.
When I’m writing, I tend to focus solely on my words. Emails and texts often go unseen for a couple of hours. There’s no place for social media during that time either. Time management while writing helps me track how long a project takes. Yes, I admit it; I may make quick changes or jot down some ideas while talking on the phone. Depending on what’s going on in my writing process or in my conversation though, I may miss something important when I do this.
Limit Interruptions When Possible
I definitely work better when I’m in the flow of completing a task. I’m faster and more efficient. Interruptions can really break this flow state for me. When I get interrupted, other thoughts about other tasks begin to distract me. If someone interrupts me, I try and take a second to finish my sentence or mark my place in some other way. This allows me to spend less time on the ‘where was I’ question when I return to my task. If a concern or a good idea interrupts me, I’ll write it down elsewhere and go back to work.
There are lots of regimented interruptions people find useful. An example would be walking around the room every 30 minutes like clockwork. Yet, I don’t implement them, because my flow is more important to me.
Stop at Natural Breaking Points in Creative Flow
Breaks energize me, and they work best when I feel I’ve completed something. I walk away with a small sense of accomplishment, and I can more easily put aside thoughts of my project. Feeling refreshed ultimately improves my time management as a creative professional.
Lots of breaks happen naturally. Useful breaking points include:
- Finishing a section or paragraph
- Making a certain number of phone calls
- Finishing one or more emails
- Responding to the day’s social media notifications
Track Time Spent on Each Task
It’s really easy to lose track of time, especially when I’m multitasking or when I love what I do. When I’m focusing on one task, it’s simpler for me to track where my time goes. While I don’t keep strict time diaries as EXPERTS often recommend, I do track how much time tasks take.
This practice helps me as I price my services. My pricing structure is a combination of the time it takes to do the task and the value provided to my customers or clients. It’s better for me to overestimate then underestimate the time I will need to complete a task when I block it out on my calendar. If my estimates are good, this adds a nice buffer between tasks to deal with the unexpected.
Waste Less Time: Use Productive Periods
When I’m in Flo, I will often work longer than usual, until I find myself distracted. Also, I will rearrange things so that I get intense tasks done during peak energy periods and switch tasks when energy is lower.
Many people find that they are morning people or night people. My energy levels aren’t so black-and-white. My energy levels are highest when I’ve had some sort of refreshing experience. I keep this in mind when I set my schedule, and I waste less time coming back from distractions.
Switch Tasks When Focus Deteriorates
Close deadlines may force me to keep bringing my mind back to my work, even when I’m tired from working on a task for quite a while. I complete the project, but it’s not as efficient that way. If I can, I will switch tasks when I find my mind wandering frequently. This maximizes my time, effectiveness, and creativity as a writer. It also improves my listening skills in conversations.
Adding motivation moments into my workflow helps return my focus. These include a quick laugh or word with a friend, a reminder of the big picture, and a thought about the good things my task might lead to.
Remember the Why
It’s easy to get caught up in how or when to do something. When this happens, I lose sight of the bigger goal or long-term vision behind my tasks and projects. If I can’t realistically envision the result, and I’m not connecting with my purpose, I’ll start to lose motivation.
To get my mojo back, I use my past accomplishments. I remember them, and I think about what I can achieve now. Celebrating successes and mapping out possibilities are good journaling topics for me.
Reflect on Time Spent and Time Managed
After I finish a project or a larger task, I look back at how I’ve spent my time. Even after breaks or tangents of distraction, I look back and ask myself, did I really enjoy that? I keep doing what works, and I uncover changes I can make in the future to use my time more wisely.
If you write blog posts, notice my reflections as I finish this one. I’ve revised and contemplated more than usual, and the post is longer than most. I could split the post and create a series, saving future blogging time. However, I’ve decided to use the content as a long form blog post. This strategy adds more immediate value, and I’ve also inserted time management keywords for search engines. My longer, richer post is more valuable to search engines than short posts or those with added fluff to inflate their word count.
7 Budget-Eating Marketing and PR Mistakes to Avoid
Time management slip-ups are common mistakes we’ve all made. When you subscribe to my email list, you’ll receive my free guide on how to avoid 7 marketing and PR mistakes that are eating up your competitors’ budgets right now.