Time management isn’t just about than hitting deadlines: it’s about setting your priorities and learning how to make more effective use of your resources.
Many time management techniques were developed for the corporate environment – they just don’t work for creatives. They might be okay if you have clearly defined role and goals, but the challenges that designers face mean that we need a different set of tools. Here are the top seven time management techniques to unlock your creative energies.
1. Respect Your Rythms
We all have periods of the day that are more or less creative. Our biorhythms determine whether we are night owls or early birds and you’ll get more done if you recognise which one you are. Organise your day around your creative rhythm. If you need to unleash your creativity for an exciting brief then protect the most productive periods of your day. This period of time is your seam of gold – it’s where the truly inspired design work takes place. Be ruthless: remove all distractions, switch on voicemail and really focus. Save meetings and admin for the times of day when you’re feeling least creative. Respect your rhythms, and make sure that others respect them too.
2. Stay on Top of the Admin
Organisation can feel like a drag: there’s very little creative buzz to be gained from sorting through your email. But respect your rhythms (see above) and use your “downtime” to stay on top of administration. Little and often is the way. Set aside an hour or two for invoicing every fortnight and do it in bulk. Use only tools like QuickBooks to take the pressure of administration away from you. Look for the tools that suit the way you work, from task-list organisers like Remember the Milk to the power-user features of your electronic calendar. Spend some time setting up mail filters and canned replies that will help you to speed your way through your correspondence.
3. Don’t Just Do Stuff, Get Stuff Done!
There is an important difference between working hard and getting things done. You should always know what your goals are for the short, medium, and long term. Keep them visible and up to date: design yourself a short mission statement and hang it somewhere visible. Focus your efforts on those tasks that tie in with your mission – if you’re investing in something that isn’t one of your most important goals, stop doing it and switch to something else.
4. Don’t Confuse “Urgent” and “Important”
Throughout human history, urgent and important have been interchangeable: if you were about to get eaten by a bear then that was pretty urgent and pretty important! While our lives have changed, our minds haven’t and our brains still seize on the urgent-seeming interruption and forget all about the things that are less urgent but much more important. Modern life surrounds us with things that demand our attention but that aren’t important: phone calls, emails, meetings: these things can drain all of your creative energy if you let them. Print out the Urgent/Important Matrix (Figure 1) and keep it somewhere handy. When an urgent request lands in your inbox, check it off against the grid. Things that are urgent but not important are interruptions: avoid them at all costs!
5. Know the Value of Your Time
As a designer you’ve spent years honing your talent in one particular direction. Your creative energies should be spent only on those things that you do best. Consider delegating anything that doesn’t fit with your unique skill set.
You don’t have to have a huge agency to find people to delegate too: make partnerships through the networks you cultivate. If your strength is logo design, specialise in visual branding and find someone else to write copy. Together you’ll get far more work, and be a more impressive team, than either of you could manage alone. Outsource the non-creative work too: online freelance marketplaces like oDesk and People Per Hour are great places to find administrators, PAs, accountants, PR consultants and many other kinds of specialists. You don’t need to take on someone full time, and you can leverage the growing market of remote freelance workers to free you up for more creative work
6. Take Care of Your Most Important Asset
As a designer, your creativity is your most vital asset. The perils of burnout are very great for designers: when the well of inspiration runs dry we find ourselves either turning in work we’re not happy with or, worse still, unable to deliver at all. Taking time away from the studio might feel like a dereliction of duty but it’s one of the most important duties that you have! Take an hour a day to reduce your levels of stress, regain some perspective, and to invest in your physical and mental well-being. Look on this time as essential maintenance. Try a new form of exercise, spend time with friends, go to the opera, and try something you’ve never done before. Make time to take care of your most valuable asset: your creative mind.
7. Stay Motivated
As creative we like to think that we have boundless reserves of motivation. But even the most rewarding project can turn into a hard slog if we lose sight of why we’re in this business. Spend time with other creative’s, but avoid the temptation to hold a pity party: focus on the things you love about the designer’s life and remind yourself why you made this choice in the first place. Keep a gratitude diary: remind yourself of the great opportunities your design practice brings; take time to be thankful for the clients who push you towards exciting horizons.
As a designer, managing your time should never be about rigid timetables and suffocating regimes but the right kind of time management can push your creative output to new heights.
About: Raja Writes on SEO, Blogging, Web Design, Web Hosting. He regularly writes on Web Hosting Reviews at WebHostingReview.info