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Back in the day, when I had a “real” job, I was incredibly productive. Now that I run my own business, I sometimes feel like I am chasing my tail all day. Why is that? For starters, when you work for someone else, you usually are just contributing a piece to a larger picture, and generally your job is something that plays to your strengths. For example, I wouldn’t apply for the job of managing a company’s website because that’s not really my forté, but in my own small business I totally do manage my website. And do the accounting, marketing, production, customer service and pretty much every single aspect of the business.
Another thing that entrepreneurs forget is that even though at a “real” job we’re clocked in for 8 hours a day, we aren’t non-stop working for all 8 hours. If you’ve ever had an office job, you probably don’t wait until the very last second to go to the bathroom and then rush right back to your desk to continue to toil away. You might check your self out in the mirror for a minute and fix your hair or stop by you office buddy’s desk for a quick chit-chat or whatever before heading back to your own desk and picking up where you left off. Back when I had a “real” job, I thought it was ridiculous that people forgot to eat. I didn’t even know how that was a thing. But when I first started working from home, I forgot to eat on a regular basis. Or worse, I would remember that I was starving, go look in the kitchen for something to eat and deem everything too much trouble and just head back to my desk, tummy grumbling. Which leads me to…
Tip #1: Have a plan.
I cannot survive without my planner. I am an introvert which means that I don’t do well when things are sprung on me. I need to have a little notice. So every night, I write down in my super rad planner what needs to be done the next day, and not all vague and mysterious. Specific tasks that need to be done and the smaller steps that will get them accomplished.
It’s not good to go hungry all day, so I make sure that I have food in the house. Stuff that is super fast for me to make and eat, so I don’t skip it because it’s just too much trouble. Which is funny because if you were coming over for dinner, I would pull out all the stops to make you a fabulous meal, but if it’s just me, then I’m mostly likely going to scarf down a peanut butter sandwich at my desk. Not even PBJ.
You should you definitely plan what needs to get done, but also plan what you do in between tasks. Because, like I said, it is unreasonable to feel like you need to be working sun up to sun down with no breaks just because you’re running your own business. That’s the fast track to burn out. schedule breaks. I not only schedule times for breaks but activities for said breaks so I don’t get sucked into endless Facebook as a default. And I set a timer.
Bonus: Consistently keeping a planner will also help you figure out what works and what doesn’t (see tip #3).
Tip #2: Make it efficient.
Plans are important, but efficient systems are even more so. Figure out what you need to do this month, then figure out what that means you’ll need to do this week, then break it down into daily tasks that you can batch together for maximum efficiency. For example, I have a big art fair coming up and want to have lots & lots of beautiful pieces in my booth so that the art fair is a success for me. So I used my project planner to help figure out my big goal, and then broke down the steps & batched the work. Last week I did a ton of designing, this week I’m doing a lot of making, and next week I will be packaging and working on the display. Batching is usually more efficient than working one piece from start to finish.
similarly, when I know I am going to have some busy days, I will make a big batch of stew that we can eat for dinner a few days in a row, or make a big batch of meatballs that be can used a bunch of different ways.
Tip #3: Make it effective.
One of the best ways to manage your time is to not waste it. I’m not talking about checking out what your friends are posting on Facebook, or taking the “What Full House Character Are You” quiz or watching cute cat videos when you are supposed to be working (see above tip on planning). Don’t waste time on Facebook, or Twitter, or Pinterest, or whatever for your business if it doesn’t bring your business results. If at the end of the day, you feel like you didn’t get anything done, well maybe you just didn’t get the right stuff done. Keeping a planner will help you figure out what is effective and what is tail-chasing.
By the way, the title of this post is “Top 3 Time Management Tips For Creative Businesses”, but you may have figured out that these are just three great tips for any business. Heck, for running your life in general. But creatives, including myself, like to play the “artist” card and act like they just can’t stick to a plan or a schedule because they are a special snowflake. And I like to say that yes, you are a special snowflake, but that doesn’t mean you are a flake. It won’t kill your creativity to give yourself boundaries, in fact it’s way more likely that boundaries will improve your workflow.
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