Thursday, August 2, 2018

How to Manage Your Creative Time

** Originally published January 2016 on Self Known. Updated July 2018. **


As a human who likes to pack a lot of stuff into their day, I've struggled to manage my time, specifically when it comes to allowing enough space for creativity to enter in. Juggling piano practice, allotting time for blogging, and squeezing in writing + editing even though I've been on the computer doing school work all day are but a few of my daily struggles.

Now, don't get me wrong, I love being a multi-talented creator, but sometimes it can be harrowing when your brain is pulling you in 15 different directions and you have this innate desire to improve every day.

Many Master Creators around the interwebs have talked about organizing their time to get stuff done or how to use summer to be productive, so it seems I'm not the only one looking for a system that works for them.

It has been a battle, but here is how I manage my creative time as a full-time college student.

Set boundaries and know your priorities

For me, school work comes first. Everything else--blogging, writing projects, editing--it all sits on the back burner until school work is done.

However...

I do have a cut off time.

There's this "rule" that for every credit hour you take, you should spend about three times as many hours a week on that subject. As a full-time student, I take about 12 credits hours a semester, which means school takes about 36 hours of my week (or 6 hours a day) -- in an ideal world.

BUT if I'm having a rough day... My heart isn't in it or my brain isn't clear... and there's nothing due that night... My cut off time is 6:00pm. The rest of my evening is spent relaxing, focusing on whatever I want to do, and making progress toward my personal goals.


Takeaway

  • Put first what is most important to you
  • Know you are NOT robot and leave yourself time to breathe

Figure out what needs to be done

Before you can manage your time, you need to figure out what it is you want. What is your main goal and what is a simple action you can take every day to move toward that goal? Here are some of my creative goals with the daily actions written after them.


  • Goal >> Daily action step
  • Publish The Visionaries Book 1 >> Edit the book.
  • Publish one post a week on TPP >> Brainstorm and write.
  • Publish a piano cover every month >> Practice a song.

You get the idea.

What do you want to accomplish?

Do you want to build your portfolio, improve your photography game, or dedicate time to growing your blog? Then work on that sketch, take photos until the sun goes down, and spend time on your website every day.

Take the time you have now to figure out what you want to get done later.

Trust me, spending an hour or two planning out your week will save you so much time. I promise.


Create a to-do list

Some people love to-do lists, others HATE them. I personally get a thrill out of marking something off and seeing my progress. However, if you're like me, then you probably have a to-do list that’s eighteen miles long. And whenever you look at it, it stresses you out because there is so much to do and so little time.

How do you avoid that to-do list anxiety? How do you get to the end of the day and feel like you've accomplished something?

First, never give yourself busy work. Put down on your list what you actually need to take action on. It all goes back to those goals. What action can you take today that will take you even just one step forward? If you have “Paint cabinets” on your list, but have the goal of producing valuable content for your blog readers, you need to decide which is more important in this current phase of life.

Block off time (action step for to-do list haters)

This is something revolutionary I discovered earlier this year (and Abbiee reminded me of it the other day!)

Calendar blocking: Use Google calendar to chunk off your tasks directly into your schedule.

This is amazing because it can be hard for our brains to switch from one task to another to another, especially when we are in hyper-"productive"-but-actually-just-worrying-about-getting-it-all-done mode. So instead of trying to work on All The Things, block off the time you need for things you want to do that day. Time to exercise, read, and work on your passion project. It's also really helpful to schedule in classes and appointments PLUS the commute time, to get a real sense of where all your time is going that day.

Set a timer

The Pomodoro technique is your friend. It works like this:

25 minutes of focused activity. 5 minute breaks between. After the fourth cycle, take a longer break (15 to 30 minutes). Then repeat.

Reasons I do this:
  • I find that I'm more productive when I know that every x amount of minutes I'll have a five-minute break before switching tasks.
  • If I give myself a time limit, I do the bare minimum for an icky task in less time, giving me more time for fun tasks.
  • Timers pull me back into the moment and remind me that there's work to be done, effectively reducing distractions.
  • Mundane tasks get done quicker.

Reward yourself

Sometimes it's enough to plop back into your bed at the end of the day with the slight numb of your productive day on your mind.

Sometimes. But not all the time.

That's why you need a rewards system in place. It will not only motivate you to work harder, but it will also make completing a task that much sweeter.

But I'll admit, I'm really bad at this.

For some reason I find it hard to reward myself. I think it's because deep down I think I should feel like accomplishing the task is enough of a reward. But sometimes that simply isn't true. If something is hard, and I complete it, why stop myself from feeling good afterward?

Here's what I suggest, for you and myself: Take a break.

As I'm writing this, I am thinking about all the other things I need to get done. But my sister wants me to go to the park with her. Is it so bad to finish writing this, then spend time with her in this nice weather before we're both stuck in our Fall semester routines?

Hint: It's not bad. Not bad at all. Especially since the weather is so nice.

Conclusion: Don't be too hard on yourself

We all have days where, no matter how hard we try, we're tired and just not motivated to get anything done. And it's okay to have those days - it's usually your body saying, "Hey, you've been working hard lately. Why don't you take a break?"

Don't be like me, friend, and push yourself until you burn out. It takes longer to recover from that than it does to chew bite-sized amounts of work at a slower pace. So make sure to take hold of those days and rest when you need to. And don't be too hard on yourself. Just make sure to get up the next morning, prepared to manage your time.


"With the new day comes new strength and new thoughts." - Eleanor Roosevelt

What do you do to manage your time?





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3 Sweet Words:

  1. Great post! I’m preparing for school to start any day now, so I will definitely keep this in mind!

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  2. Time management is THE WORST. So thank you for this. <3

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  3. Yesss I love this post! My problem is that I have so many things I want to get done but I never write anything down. Then a lot of times I will start doing something like watching youtube and I'll lose track of time. Before I know it it's time for dinner and I've literally done nothing and then I just feel terrible.

    Nabila | Hot Town Cool Girl

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