managing your time

4 Time Management Strategies for Writers, Artists and Creatives

By Elaine Calloway

Ah, time management—that elusive thing we attempt to harness but somehow it eludes us. Like a butterfly refusing to be caught in the net, time escapes from us at a rapid rate. When we do finally take a breath and glance at the clock, we think, “Where did all the time go? How can the day be almost over when I haven’t gotten much done?”

I’ve said these things plenty of times. And I’ve beaten myself up and sworn I would never get on social media first thing in the morning again. And guess what? Some days, I still do. But I’m getting better.

Below are some tips to let time work FOR you, rather than against you.

1.     Determine your “Best Self” time.
Figure out when your brain is at its most alert, least stressed and ready to work. For some people, it’s first thing in the morning before the day’s chaos pushes its way into our minds. For others, it’s late at night when everyone else has gone to sleep.
Determine your best time and then GUARD it with everything you have. If you’re more refreshed in the morning, get up an hour earlier to tackle your goals. If you’re a night owl, let the kids listen to a children’s story audiobook an hour before their bedtime, and then use that hour to get a jumpstart on your plans.
Do the essential chores during a time when you are not at your mental peak. Laundry, dishes, cooking, etc. actually allows your creative brain to think, which helps you when you do sit down at your most productive time.

2.     Postpone Social Media.
For your prime creative time, stay off social media. I know, this one is a struggle. It’s so easy to just grab that morning cup of Java and click the button to check email, read through some funnies on Facebook, check Twitter, etc.
Here’s the thing I’ve learned, though. Doing what seems like a relaxing task actually isn’t relaxing. The information (even the cute kitten photos on Facebook) gets into your brain and leaves less room for your most creative self to flourish.
There’s a fantastic book I’m reading called Your Brain at Work by David Rock. One thing he mentions is that the creative space in our brain, the prefrontal cortex, fills up quickly. He compares the amount of brainpower able to handle creativity to a performance stage. Once you have the social media, the worries of the day, the thoughts about what to fix for breakfast, etc. creeping onto the stage, then there is less room for your book, painting, or other endeavor.
We need to remember that the stage is a finite space, and we must choose who has the right to be onstage at any given moment. The author, David Rock, gives great recommendations on how we must manage our “stage” every day in order to be most efficient.
So remember: Social media is a great outlet, but only AFTER you finish your creative tasks.

3.     Keep a Notebook for Distractive Thoughts.
Our brains know how to distract us, to keep us from achieving our goals. We must manage our thoughts to be able to be our most effective. Keeping a notebook handy is ideal for this.
Whenever I sit down to continue writing one of my books, the inevitable happens: I get ideas for other books. This is a common procrastination technique, but I’ve learned how to tackle it and keep working. By keeping a notebook nearby, I jot down the idea that won’t let go, and then I immediately get back to work.
Jotting down the distractive idea does two things. First, it gets the pesky thought out of our heads and onto paper so we can continue working. Second, it gets the thought off our “stage” so we are free to choose what other work to put on our stage as we move toward our goal (be it painting, writing, photography, etc.)

Managing Your Time

4.     Use the Pomodoro Technique.
I love how popular this technique, and the phone apps for it, has become. Years ago, the most prolific writers recommended using an egg timer to time several writing sessions of 20-40 minutes. The Pomodoro has taken this a step further.

So, what’s the Pomodoro Technique?
It’s basically a timer that allows you to work in short increments, taking a break between sessions. Our brains are able to focus and work more productively because we know the task time limit will be short.

  • First, set the Pomodoro timer for 25 minutes.
  • Work exclusively on your task until the timer rings.
  • Take a 5-minute break and stretch.
  • Set the Pomodoro for another 25 minutes, followed by another 5-minute break.
  • After 4 Pomodoro sessions (2 hours), take a longer break for 20-30 minutes.
  • Repeat as desired.

You can download apps for the Pomodoro online or for your phone. I use Clockwork Tomato for Android, which is a free app. Browse the Google Play store here.

Using these 4 strategies for time management will help you stay focused and get more creative tasks done. Building a habit takes 30 days, and practicing these techniques will help you form good habits for time management.

Soon, you’ll be able to hold that elusive butterfly of time management in your hand. And the world will thank you for the creative gifts you have to offer!

Elaine Calloway is an Amazon bestselling author of paranormal fiction/ghost stories and a speaker on self-publishing and how to become a successful author. She has several online courses available for authors: The Writer’s Bootcamp – Your Complete Guide to Writing Your Book in 30 Days, and Marketing for Authors / How to Gain More Readers. When she’s not teaching self-publishing, writing or sleeping, she enjoys hanging out with friends and family and her very spoiled black-lab mix. Connect with her online at www.howtoselfpublishyournovel.com or www.elainecalloway.com.

 

 

How To Write A Kickass To Do List

By Smack Bang Designs

My desk is a total disaster.

It looks like a crew of teenage girls converged for a fluoro party with post-it notes and artliner pens. And scraps of paper. And paperwork I should have dealt with ages ago. There is what appears to be a designated section for empty teacups and a graveyard of scrunched up notes. There are three items that I’m unable to identify and two empty lunch containers that should most definitely go in the bin rather than the dishwasher.

I think my current desk situation is accurately reflective of my life at present. Chaotic, crazy and full. I’m in the midst of fulfilling three roles at Smack Bang, negotiating a rather large deal at Urban Growers and doing the legwork to set up my next business baby.

Busy, yes. Happy, absolutely.

I’m a Type A personality and I thrive on being busy just as much as I thrive on having a colour-coordinated wardrobe and matching skin care products. Being busy is my jam.

Over the years I’ve toyed with becoming a more chilled out, zen-like person. The idea of lunchtime yoga and slow beach walks is awfully romantic. In fact, one of my New Year’s resolutions this year was to slow down and learn how to do less in my two businesses. And in typical Tess style, on January 4th I thought of my next business idea and by January 5th I was knee deep in concept development. Four days Tess, kudos!

Being busy is bonkers, but somehow my brain has not yet flown the coop (this statement is most likely not supported by my boyfriend). I owe it to a great support network and epic team – oh, and by always writing a kick-ass to do list each day.

Without my to-do list I would probably be in hospital getting my limbs sewn back onto my torso from a classic case of trying to run in too many different directions at once. Without my to-do list I would likely be a nervous wreck trying to learn how to teleport so that I can be in two places at once. Without my to-do list I would absolutely be staring blankly at a white wall trying to slow my racing mind down to prevent one thought obliterating the next.

My to-do list is my bestie, and here’s the low down on how we keep sane together.

  1. KEEP IT REAL
    I know how it goes; you wake up, you smash a coffee and sit down at your desk feeling super pumped and ready to take on the world. With a never-ending landscape of time ahead of you, you fill your to-do list with a billion tasks knowing that you’ll easily finish them all by 2pm so that you can clock off and head to the local pond to feed bread to the ducks and ponder the meaning of life. Perrrrfect. Truth? That ain’t happenin’ anytime soon, my friend. Calm the hell down and be reasonable with yourself. If your to do-list isn’t realistic, you’ll end up finishing your day feeling like the kid that missed the Mr Whippy van – majorly bummed out.
     
  2. PRIORITISE THIS
    When you’ve got a long list of things to do in front of you, it can send you straight into paralysis mode. Prioritising your to-do list by order of urgency will show you what you need to concentrate on today and what can wait until tomorrow, allowing you to breathe easier in return. Start the list with at least two items that absolutely must get done today, so you don’t end up vacuuming under the couch instead of finishing a project report due tomorrow.
     
  3. ONE THING AT A TIME
    Easier said than done: pick one thing off your list and do it! Once that’s done, do another thing. Lather, rinse, repeat. If you try to juggle five tasks at the same time, chances are you’ll end up feeling overwhelmed and outnumbered. Write things down as soon as you think of them so nothing slips through the cracks. Then pick one thing first and see it through. Reward yourself with cheese or a Jimmy Fallon YouTube clip. Just one! Okay, three.
     
  4. NIGHT WRITER
    On the occasion that I manage to write my list the night before, I wake up to singing birds and talking deer and coffee brewing and wafts of almond danishes through my door. Legit, writing your list the night before gives you the clarity and rational mind to not assume you can dust off 15 blog posts and teach yourself HTML coding all before noon. Writing your list in the morning can sometimes make you feel like you’re already one step behind, which is sort of depressing when the goal is winning.
     
  5. TORTURE-FREE ZONE
    And on that point, step away from the cliff in your mind telling you that you’re a failure because you didn’t get it all right, all the time. Don’t write an unrealistic list the length of Santa’s just to remind yourself that it’s not possible. Break the habit of martyrdom and set yourself up for more wins. Unrealistic expectations on yourself do nothing but drain energy and make you reach (again) for the Cadbury block. Eat that chocolate because you’re stoked, not miserable!
     
  6. PICK A MEDIUM
    To-do lists come in all shapes and sizes, so it’s all about what works for the individual. Some research suggests writing information by hand helps us remember it better, but if you last picked up a pen in 1998, fear not: there’s a huge range of digital apps that help create personal to-do lists. Have a to do list that travels with you. I find that Google Docs are the bee’s knees.
     
  7. SCHEDULE SCHEDULING
    You know you need to make a list, so now comes the actual crux: you have to write it down. Schedule time to schedule – sounds a bit wacky but you will relax in the knowledge that there is time set aside to write a nice list and take back some small bit of control over your life. Take that, chaos!
     
  8. START FRESH
    Make a new list every day so the same old items don’t clog up the agenda. It’s also a useful way to make sure we actually get something done every 24 hours and don’t just spend time decorating the paper with colourful smelly pens. Don’t use your email inbox as your to-do list. It’s just too tough to prioritise the big to-do’s from the small annoying ones that clutter up your inbox. Start fresh and start strong.
     
  9. FROGS LEGS
    Eat the frog for breakfast, and the rest of your day will follow on nicely behind it. Once you tackle that monster task, you’ll feel in control and on top of the world! And maybe a little bit French. Tres bon! And on that note, effectively prioritising means only having one to-do list. Keep it simple, keep it real and keep hopping until you get into a solid to-do list rhythm. You’ll get there

This post originally appeared on Smack Bang Designs and has been republished here with permission. To check out more of their incredible design work visit their website.

The Time Management Survival Guide For Busy Woman

By Sharon Freedman

You’ve finally made it! You’ve worked your butt off to get to this point and now it feels like everyone and I mean everyone is counting on you. The worst part is that now you seem to have NO TIME to enjoy any of it ‘cuz you’re so franticly trying to keep a billion and a half balls in the air. You’ve tried just about every organizing technique ever created and often beat yourself up for not fitting in that relaxing cup of hot coffee right after your 20 minute morning meditation and yoga practice followed by a productive and fulfilling day with your hair, makeup, and outfit looking chic and finishing the day with a delicious and healthy dinner and quality time spent with your loving partner. Ah, to be a woman that only exists in the movies.

Don’t worry, there is hope... and lots of it.

The secret is that Time isn’t a thing to be managed. WTF?!? I know, right.

Time is just a form of measurement and those pesky clocks just keep ticking no matter how much we try to control them. Our relationship with it is what we have control over. If you’re on the edge of throwing a mini-tantrum I totally get it. As a fellow passionately multi-hyphenate who desperately wants to feel in control of some part of her life it took me a bit of kicking and screaming to come around to be willing to try a new approach since my current one left me exhausted and frustrated. So without further adieu here are three (not time consuming and hugely effective) ways to change your relationship with time.

 1.    RADICAL ACCEPTANCE
Radical acceptance is accepting life on life’s terms. You know those weeks when you map out exactly what you’re going to get done over the next couple of days and then your car breaks down or your son gets sick or your basement floods and there go all of your plans there are a few paths you could walk down in this moment.

•  You could flip out about how much time and money you’re going to lose and that it’s not fair that this had to happen now.
•  You could accept that this is what’s happening right now, it won’t last forever, and that your ship will right itself when this storm passes.

Then, grabbing a post it note (it’s that size on purpose) and making your To-Do List of 1 thing that would make you so happy to get done would be the way to go. Everything else you may get done is gravy.

2.    THE POWER OF “NO”
Believe it or not people often respect someone who says “no” maybe even more than they do the person who says “yes” to EVERYTHING. It is not your job to do everyone else’s job. The key is to say “no” gracefully and authentically. Here’s how:

•  Empathetically acknowledge the person who is asking for your time and attention. i.e. “I could see how that would be really stressful” or “It makes sense that you’re really having a hard time with this.”
•  Be honest. i.e. “I wish I could give your situation the full attention that you and it deserve but I can’t right now.” or “Thank you for thinking of me but I, also, have a ton on my plate and wouldn’t be able to do my best work if I took on another project.”

 Short. Sweet. To the Point. Even if the person gets all snarky in the moment it’s not like they’re going to hate you forever this person already values your and your your opinions and abilities... and if they do who needs ‘em.       

 3.    CELEBRATION
Since you’re the type of gal who’s got her eye on the prize you may be whizzing past all of your wins along the way. That is NOT OK, Sister. Focusing on the process as opposed to focusing on the prize just may get you where you want to go faster, or at least getting there will probably be a lot more fun, and you deserve that.

 Make a three part celebration list.

•  Level 1: (I completed that thing that’s been weighing on me)
•  Living room dance party, happy hour with your best girl friend, and extra 30 mins of Netflix, a beautiful hike etc.
•  Level 2: (That was a ton of work and I did that s@#* like a champ)
•  That bag you’ve been eyeing, a new tech toy, a spa day, an impromptu three day weekend.
•  Level 3: (OMG! It really happened. I’m freaking out I’m so excited.)
•  That trip you’ve been hoping to take at some point, upgraded kitchen appliances, a new car.

Now you have to make it part of your routine (like every morning in the shower or when you brush your teeth at night) to acknowledge how cool you are then celebrate.

Maybe, you’ve only remembered to meditate once in the past two and a half months, you’ve been wearing the same shirt for three days, and you’ve ordered Thai every night this week. As long as you’re practicing accepting the fact that your life is rolling that way at the moment, releasing the fear of what everyone else thinks about you, and celebrating the victories that have gotten you to this moment you’re leaps and bounds ahead of most people on the planet.

If you have additional ideas of how to change your relationship with time and things that have worked for you in the past share the wealth with your fellow wildly busy female friends in the comments below.

Sharon Freedman has been a professional actor and voiceover artist for over 15 years and trained at The Coaches Training Institute with a desire to be more of service. A few years back she looked death in the eye and found that mindfulness and other evidence based therapeutic methods like DBT saved her life which inspired her to create her coaching practice Stress Reduction Joy Production.  She owns being a work in progress and practices bringing as much fun, creativity, and authenticity to the world as she can. Join us on FB at: https://www.facebook.com/stressreductionjoyproduction/

#blogtribe // An Introverts Guide to Rocking Your Calendar & Prioritising Alone Time

An-introverts-guide

By Claire Deane

If you identify as an introvert, which quite a few of us bloggers do, you’ll know that spending some delicious time alone recharges your batteries. But, it’s often self-care that’s the first thing to go out the window when there’s a looming deadline, particularly if you’re working with people who don’t understand the importance of managing your energy when you’re an introvert. or, how to prioritise self care and alone time, when you’ve got a business to run, a blog to manage, and a job to ace? It’s as simple as rocking your calendar!
Typically, if it goes into your calendar, it somehow gets given the same level of importance as client meetings or doctors appointments. Carving out time for self care, and actually writing it down, means you’re much more likely to stick to it, and it means your co-workers won’t be tempted to book annoying meetings if your calendar shows you’re unavailable!
There are seven things we always make sure to schedule:

  1. Exercise. This is probably the thing that gets put on the backburner when demands on our time are high, but as the #fitspo posts affirm, an hour of exercise is only 4% of your day.
  2. Meeting-free days. This means uninterrupted time for creativity, thinking, regrouping, admin...Better yet, nominate 1-2 days a week as meeting days, and stick to it. You will get none of your actual work done if your days are interrupted with conversations that you have to prepare for. A full day of meetings can be an introvert’s worst nightmare, but if you’re managing your energy well every other day of the week, you’ll be surprised at how much time this will save.
  3. Grocery Shopping. If it’s in the house, you’ll eat properly, so make sure you set yourself up for success.
  4. On days filled with meetings, we schedule an ending time for each meeting. It prevents too much time spent on small talk, and provides additional security of a set end time. Introverts aren’t big on small talk, preferring to get down and deep, to really understand the problems of their clients or readers, and cutting down on the introductory chats at the beginning of a meeting will not only save time, but will allow you to go deep much quicker, which makes for much more effective problem solving.
  5. Date night. You’ve gotta look after your (wo)man.
  6. Time to work on our businesses, not in our businesses. Since networking is on par with getting stabbed in the eye with a fork, blogging, social media and outreach is the key to growing our businesses or building your own personal profile.
  7. Times we’re not going to respond to people. Like, 11pm at night, and weekends. We, as introverts, prefer to communicate via email, but that might make us seem available 24-7, when all we really want to do at 11pm is lie face down on the coach and binge-watch Orange is the New Black.

If the re’s one tip you take away from this article, it’s that you need to manage your meetings. Don’t let them manage you! Here’s how we do it:

  • Have a standing meeting. Things will get done quicker, and you’re not sitting at a desk all day, which has health implications in itself!
  • Don’t go to any meeting that doesn’t have an agenda. No agenda means nobody has thought through whether there is actually a point to the meeting. It doesn’t need to be some formal, full blown document, but it does need to be written down.
  • Where’s the rule that says meetings have to go for an hour? Schedule 10 minute meetings, if that’s all getting an outcome will take.
  • Having an “out” is key. Plan back-to-back meetings, wear a watch or casually let your clients
  • know you have somewhere to be in the next hour. You’ll bypass the small talk and get things done!

Are you an introvert? What would you add to the list?

Claire Deane and Allie Lehman, are co-authors of a soon-to-be released eBook, Charge Up | Build Your Business And Manage Your Energy With Your Introversion Superpowers. Charge Up is about proactively managing your life and career, filling your tank full of delicious alone-time goodness, so that socialising, networking, building your biz and spending time with people is awesome, not awful. It’s full of tips, tricks and hacks from Allie and Claire (both entrepreneurs themselves at The Wonderjam and Claire Deane Marketing) as well as insight from other successful bloggers and entrepreneurs from Columbus to Brisbane, Australia!