It is so easy to get swept up in what you are doing, losing track of time whilst you’re creatively busying away. Try these time management tips to see if you can become more productive and efficient and make the most of your workday.
Before you get stuck in what you are creating, use the first thirty minutes of each day to plan which tasks you need to complete and briefly review the rest of the week ahead. Give yourself a break every 90 minutes to refresh your brain and keep yourself going.
Positive task lists
Write each task in your to-do list in the past tense, as if you’ve already done it. So instead of ‘Design research and concepts,’ call it ‘Research and concepts submitted.’ Help yourself succeed before you start. Think about each task you’re about to begin and work out what you want to achieve in the set timeframe. At the end of each task, review it to see if the desired result was achieved.
Group related tasks together and do the most important tasks first. The most important thing might not be the most enjoyable, but that isn’t how you are prioritising the list. Try doing this first thing in the morning, when most of us are the most productive.
Put a time limit on your tasks, giving yourself a maximum of 90 minutes to solidly work on each one at a time. If you work longer, make sure you have a break every 90 minutes. Setting constraints will make you more focused and, hopefully, more efficient.
Focus completely on the task at hand and train yourself to ignore distractions. Practice not answering the phone or emails. Turn them off and focus. If people are coming up to you, send a ‘do not disturb’ signal by putting on headphones, posting a sign, or going into a different room.
Use your calendar
A calendar isn’t just for scheduling meetings. Put in your deadlines and blocks of time to focus on certain tasks. Take responsibility for each hour of your day by scheduling what you need to do where and when, then follow it. Even if you don’t feel like doing it at that allocated time, just start it and follow your plan.
Approach your deadlines by planning to complete and submit the creative at least a day early. Put yourself ahead before you even begin.
Don’t spend ages sifting through emails. Speed up your communications by having your inbox organised. File messages into folders that suit you—such as by clients’ names, ‘urgent,’ ‘needs action,’ ‘complete,’ and so on. If you’re using Gmail, try installing Boomerang, which enables you to write emails in advance and schedule them to be sent at a later date. You can also put a hold on emails coming in whilst you’re working so you don’t get distracted.
Only do what is important; don’t focus on unimportant details. Don’t try and multitask, just do one thing at a time.
Keep your body moving. You don’t have to be a gym junkie—it can be as easy as going for a walk or taking the stairs instead of the lift. Not only does movement clear your head and enable you to focus, but studies have also linked a healthy lifestyle to better work productivity.
Jes is a ‘practical creative,’ managing the business end of a digital agency and working as an artist and university lecturer. Follow Jes on Instagram (@paper_chap).