I work with so many creative entrepreneurs who claim they never have enough time. They say they are stressed out, overworked and exhausted. And they feel like they are working super hard with little money to show for it. Does that sound familiar? I find that when my clients come to me to help them find the profit in their business, we first spend time redesigning how they spend their days.
When I owned my publishing company, I often felt stressed-out, overwhelmed and wiped out. I printed a monthly parenting magazine and the business was very deadline driven, creating a lot of stress if I wasn’t organized. Plus, there were so many different moving parts to pay attention to: cover design, interior design, articles, ads, invoices… the list was endless. I needed systems in place to effectively manage all the moving parts of my business.
It took me a while to understand what organizational systems worked best for me. I needed to get things done without going crazy or feeling like I was abandoning my husband and two young children. The strategies for time management that I am going to share in the post are the ones that I have found to work best for me in my 15 years as a busy wife, mom and business owner.
Make your Time Management System Visual
While there are dozens of apps, websites and planners on the market that can help you get organized (trust me, I have tried them all!) I have discovered that for my right-brained creative mind I need a system that is visual.
That often means starting with a big sheet of paper, markers and sticky notes to brainstorm what I need to accomplish. I like to start by taking a bird’s eye view of the next 30 days. I look at what business events I have planned, what family events are on the calendar (I have two busy teens and a busy hubby) and what my marketing goals are. Once I have everything in one place, I can start to prioritize and break projects down into manageable tasks.
I use this type of planning to organize my blog content, newsletter content and other ongoing marketing that I need to do on a monthly business.
If you start by just making a giant to do list, you will create massive overwhelm plus your tasks aren’t organized or prioritized in a way that makes sense. To do lists are not the best time management strategy for creatives.
Once I see what I need to accomplish, then I have to take the next step.
Manage your expectations
When it comes to time management, one of the most important strategies for creative entrepreneurs is to manage our expectations. It’s so easy to create a mile-long to-do list and believe that we can get it all done. We think we can multi-task and we often underestimate how long tasks will take.
I am working with a young woman who is starting a fine art photography business and one of her biggest challenges is estimating how much time certain projects will take – whether it’s editing new photos or working on her social media. Time seems to fly by so quickly and a project she thought would take an hour often takes three or four hours.
When we started to really dive into what was happening, we discovered two things:
1. She wasn’t breaking projects down into manageable tasks but trying to finish them in one sitting.
2. She is a perfectionist! She was spending too much time trying to get everything done perfectly rather than just get it going.
Look at how you are spending your time. Are you managing your expectations? Are you overestimating how much time projects will take?
Creative entrepreneurs believe that we can do anything and we often love what we do, so it’s easy to get lost in our work which leads me to strategy number 3.
Manage your time by setting realistic goals
What is a realistic goal? One where you allow yourself enough time to get it done without feeling overwhelmed or stressed out. How do you do that? Follow these two steps:
1. Break your projects down into individual steps so you are clear about how much time it will take. Focus on one or two steps at a time in one sitting instead of trying to get an entire project completed. For example, creating my weekly e-newsletter requires multiple steps that don’t all need to be done in one sitting. Here are the steps:
- 1. Write a blog post
- 2. Write an intro/find a photo to go with it
- 3. Check schedule for upcoming events/add info to copy
- 4. Find inspirational quote to share
- 5. Put it all together for my VA
2. Clear your calendar and make yourself a priority! When I know I have a big presentation coming up, I schedule time in my calendar for preparation. Otherwise my time during the day will fill up and I will feel stressed out and like I am prepping last minute. Turn off email and your phone and commit to getting the work done. I produce two emails each week, one for my subscriber list and one for my 6-Figure Breakthrough Club.
3. Give yourself a time buffer – if you aren’t sure how long a project will take, add 30 minutes, especially if you are on a deeadline. Also, use a timer or alarm and stop when time is up. Figure out the next time on your calendar when you can focus on finishing the project.
Most creatives struggle to work on any one project for too long. We like variety in our day. Allow for flow and down time but balance that with commitment. Use your calendar to create structure and make your business a priority.
Following these three steps will help you manage your time and create more time for the work you want to be doing. If you are struggling to manage your time and make the money you want in your business, check out my latest free e-book. In strategy #4, I share how to create an effective marketing calendar that you can implement in just 30 minutes a day. Grab your copy here.
Copyright: fkdkondmi / 123RF Stock Photo
Copyright: sergey02 / 123RF Stock Photo