Did you forget to turn back the clock yesterday? The end of Daylight Saving Time tends to cause minor problems for plenty of people. But for many creative professionals, the time management troubles are more pronounced and persistent.
The creative industry is not exactly slow-paced. The combination of hefty workloads, competing demands and near-constant deadlines can make for a tricky balancing act. While there's no one-size-fits-all fix, the following time management tips can help.
1. Devise a daily game plan. When you walk into a sea of assignments and feel like you don't have a second to spare, your first inclination might be to immediately dive headfirst into any task – even if it's a time-consuming but low-impact one. Instead, take 10 minutes at the start of the day to create a more strategic plan. Identify your most critical and time-sensitive tasks, and then make a prioritized to-do list. It's an upfront investment that'll save you time in the long run – if you stay disciplined and keep the constant mental shuffling (aka multitasking) in check.
2. Clear the clutter. It's been noted that many incredibly successful people have had messy workspaces. And as author A.A. Milne observed, "One of the advantages of being disorderly is that one is constantly making exciting discoveries." That's true I suppose, but clutter can also lead to unnecessary stress and wasted time. Personally, my desk fluctuates between "somewhat tidy" and "complete chaos." While it's never pristine (and probably never will be), I do find that I'm more productive – and more at ease – when there's at least a modicum of order. If you frequently have to dig for files buried underneath piles of sticky notes and lunch receipts, perhaps it's time to make a clean sweep.
3. Set (or reset) boundaries. There are limitations on what a person can achieve in a given time period. Spreading yourself too thin day after day isn't healthy or sustainable. While it's terrific you want to be a team player, constantly pressuring yourself to "do it all" can have some ugly side effects, namely burnout, mistakes and that dreadful feeling you'll never get caught up. The solution: Be willing to tactfully say no sometimes. Also, protect your time by guarding against scope creep. If you're a hard worker with a reputation for meeting deadlines and fulfilling obligations, don't feel guilty about occasionally delegating or pushing back against unrealistic expectations or an unmanageable workload.
4. Quit procrastinating. OK, I admit it, this is easier said than done. It's tempting to postpone less-desirable assignments in favor of tackling more exciting ones. But purposely delaying work on unappealing or highly challenging projects will only exacerbate your problems. Chronic procrastination creates headaches for you, while potentially straining your professional relationships. Don't be your own worst enemy. Seriously, as much as I'd love for you to read the rest of this post, if you're on the Web to avoid work, you have permission to stop reading here. Consider it a first step to ending the last-second scrambling.
5. Have an active life outside the office. Generally speaking, being dedicated to your job is admirable. But client meetings and brainstorming sessions shouldn't be the only events in your datebook. Schedule time to explore outside interests or simply relax. Keeping personal pursuits on the calendar – whether it's hiking or just hanging with friends – can provide extra motivation to manage your time efficiently while you're at work. Plus, it's hard to gain focus and perspective if you never disconnect and decompress.
6. Be "time sensitive." When you show that you respect people's time, they'll be far more likely to return the favor. So, don't keep others waiting. Avoid scheduling meetings that aren't necessary – and keep them on track when they are. Likewise, there's no better way to build rapport and gain allies than by volunteering to assist overworked colleagues if you're able. By kindly lending a helping hand when you can, you'll generate some goodwill that could come in handy the next time you're feeling the heat.