1. Prioritising your tasks and creating a schedule
It’s easy to get disheartened when you have a long list of things to do; but no idea how you are ever going to complete them, or even where to start. Everyone works differently, but there are a few things that can help to maximise your time efficiently. Firstly, create a long-term plan, looking at what you want to complete this week and throughout the rest of the month. Learn to manage projects by breaking down tasks into priorities: what needs to get done today? what can wait until tomorrow? and what can wait until next week or even next month. Set yourself goals and deadlines as this can help you stay focused. Being able to prioritise is key to success.
2. Planning your days
Now you have your long term plan sorted, you need to create your short term plan.
Spend the first 15 minutes of your work day writing your daily to-do list, so you know exactly what you have on your plate for the day ahead. There are also plenty of time management and workflow apps that can help you take control of your schedule. Remember to allow time frames throughout the day for breaks, even if you aren’t taking snack breaks, remember to break often. Aim for 52 minutes of productivity before stepping away for a breather. Allow time to go through emails, work on finances, networking and self-promo – even creative side projects.
Stick to a time schedule that works for you. Some people assume that they’re most productive in the morning, but this is not always the case for the creative industry. Dan Pink (author of Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us), explains that the mood cycle affects how productive we are with certain tasks. In general, our positive moods rise in the morning, dips in the afternoon, and rises again in the evening around 5 p.m. The research shows that analytical decisions are best made in the morning, as that’s when vigilance spikes. Some may find it best to tackle analytical problems in the morning and save creative tasks for later in the afternoon and early evening.
3. Stick to your schedule without getting distracted
Now that you’ve prioritised your work and you have your daily tasks, it’s time to stick to the schedule. You may be tempted to free-wheel from one task to the next as inspiration strikes but focusing on one project at a time is proven to be more constructive then flitting from task to task. You may also find yourself distracted by the ever-expanding world of modern technology, but lets face it, you won’t get anything completed by watching the latest cat meme, so ensure you keep phone, email or social media to break time only. Don’t let distractions keep you away from the task at hand, they’re a creativity killer.
4. Be honest about time scales
One of the best ways to manage your time and keep your boss or client happy is to be up-front about the time it will take to complete a project. Be up front about what you’re working on, when you’ll have time to begin working on it and how much time you’ll be able to dedicate to the project. Be clear, realistic and honest right from the beginning of a project. A white lie may keep everyone happy in the short term, but it’ll only lead to greater frustrations later on.
5. Life happens..
You’ve created your schedule and stuck to your plan, but sometimes other things crop up and you still can’t manage to complete everything in time. If this happens then don’t beat yourself up about it. Not everything you have planned will get done today. And that’s okay! Distractions will happen, last minute projects will come up or things will take longer than you thought – basically, life happens. So, do your best to prioritise your schedule and focus on what’s next. That’s not procrastinating, that’s productivity.