10 Tried and Tested Time-Saving Hacks for the Busy Creative
Fill in the blank:
“I don’t have the time to _________.”
The next time you catch yourself complaining about how you don’t have enough time to do something, stop right there and ask yourself to quit giving excuses.
No matter what your boss says, no matter what the family says, know this–you own your time. And if you find yourself reasoning that you’re not doing XYZ because you don’t have the time, the actual reason is probably that it isn’t important.
Once you’ve understood and accepted that, inculcating time-management practices becomes easier. Here are some of my favourite hacks that help me save time (and thus have more hours in a day for the tasks that are important for my creative business).
10 of My Favourite Time Management Hacks
Use a calendar
I swear by the practice of blocking my calendar for all important tasks. Use either a digital or a physical calendar but definitely use one to schedule every major thing you do each day. This will help you measure how many hours you spend on each task, track your progress, understand where you might be spending more time than you actually need to, and evaluate what you could have done instead.
According to entrepreneur Chris Ducker, “When I say yes to something, I’m at the very same time, instantly, saying no to something.”
Draw the line, be clear about when you want to do what, and block it out on your calendar.
Identify your priorities
Most of us, by nature, are people-pleasers. We can’t say no to others because we don’t want to come across as insensitive or rude. We end up saying “yes” to everyone and everything.
Over the last few months, I’ve practised saying “no” to a lot of things that don’t serve me. I’ve realised my time is precious and I need to value it. Once I start valuing my time, others do the same. So, identify your priorities, set time aside for those, and say “no” to whatever takes away from you without serving your purpose.
Identify the most important task
Out of all the things you set out to do in a day, decide which one you’re going to tackle first. This could be the most urgent, the most rewarding, or the most satisfying. No matter how many things you have on your plate, complete this one task first. Even if some of the rest of your tasks get carried over to the next day, there are less chances you’ll beat yourself about it.
Use a to-do list
Use a physical or a digital to-do list to jot down what you need to do for the day. Keep it simple and always add your priority task to the top of the list. I use a combination of what I like to call the Post-it Method and Google Keep. A small, square post-it note can only hold 5 tasks (in my handwriting). I stick to those 5 tasks and once I complete them, I call it a day. Since some of my scheduled tasks affect my team members at work, I use a Keep list of common tasks to share with them. I check each item off as I work through them.
I use my to-do list in tandem with calendar blocking for best results. If it’s on my calendar, there are higher chances of it getting done.
Give yourself a deadline
When you give your brain free reign, it is bound to wander. What should take you one hour will take you two because you’ll either get overwhelmed with all that you have to do or you’ll get distracted and start doing something else in between. It happens to me all the time. Having a deadline doesn't mean my attention doesn’t get diverted at all, but at least it helps me bring my focus back to the task at hand.
Identify when you work best
While a lot of people will tell you to do all your creative work in the morning, productivity doesn’t always follow rules. You could be an early bird or a night owl, just choose the time you are at your productive best, and schedule all your creative tasks for those hours. Whether you want to work on that new piece for your portfolio or you want to write that blog post, schedule it during the hours your mind is fresh and ready to focus.
I always advocate taking breaks but with intention. After each task, reward yourself with a 15 to 30 minute downtime. If you want, factor that into your calendar. Step away from your desk (and your phone) and walk around, drink a glass of water, play with your pets or kids, talk to your parents, give your partner a hug. Do whatever you want during the break, just don’t scroll through your social media feed.
Delegate what you can
If you have the luxury, delegate whatever you can. Hire help for household chores or cooking, have a caregiver come home if you have kids or elderly family members. If you can afford it, hire a virtual assistant to help with the admin tasks of your business like answering emails, setting up meetings, and scheduling your social media content.
Schedule repetitive tasks
Schedule tasks that need to be done at regular intervals and then forget about them. I spend a few days a month drafting my newsletters to both readers and art directors. Once the writing aspect is done, I batch create images, and I schedule my emails to go out on a certain day at a specific time. Then I forget about it. I try doing the same with my blog posts and Instagram content, though I admit I have a problem with consistency when it comes to social media.
Organize your workspace
I can’t insist enough on the importance of decluttering your workspace the previous night and arranging it for the work you will be doing the following day. A clean and efficient workspace can help you save time when you’re in the thick of things and don’t have to look for the tools or documents you might need.
Planning to explore gouache in your sketchbook? Keep your paints, your sketchbook and any reference material you may need ready on your desk for the following morning.
These are but a few of the time saving hacks that work for me. But I’m always trying out new ways of streamlining my day so that I can take out more time for self-care or for the kids. Now tell me, what are some of your go-to time management strategies?