Oh, the life of a creative professional. There’s fun, excitement, and the inescapable feeling that you’re always on the clock or missing some crucial deadline! That last bit is unfortunate, but a reality of the modern, “always on” culture that has enabled us to work anywhere, anytime (even if we are cruising along East Coast), and without limitation. So, how do we get the job done with succumbing to the never-ending torrent of perpetual work? By employing some solid goal-setting and time management, that’s how.
Step One: Turn Big Tasks Into Small Tasks
One reason that things can always seem so daunting is that we have several monumental labors looming over us, and the best way to tackle them is often obscured. Where to start? How will you know when you’ve made a dent in your goals? The answer is simple: segment a large task into bite-sized chunks. It’s much easier to follow a string of little tasks than it is to wade into a big one with no plan. Breaking your goal into pieces allows you to organize the most effective way to the top, and effortlessly monitor your progress so you know you’re moving in the right direction.
Step Two: Shamelessly Copy Greatness
That was tongue-in-cheek, but only slightly. There’s a reason that the most commonly employed strategies are so common—because they work. If someone has figured out an effective way to organize a task, then don’t be afraid to take a look at how they’ve done it and adapt it to fit your work style. This attitude can be applied to things that you’ve accomplished in the past as well. Figured out a few shortcuts to cut down on the time it takes to get busywork out of the way? Work them in as a permanent part of your system. There’s no reason to spin your wheels figuring things out from scratch time and time again.
Step Three: Learn To Say No
There’s an impossibly huge army of distractions out there, all looking to stand in the way of your goals. The most effective way of circumventing them? Just say “no.” Say no to the endless meetings that go nowhere. Say no to the busybody that wants to give you a 30-minute ear beating about nothing. Say no to the Social Media traps and YouTube wormholes that can drag you in for hours on end. You can even start saying no to your Email.
That’s right; Email is draining your time and energy in a big way. How many times a day to go to check your Email, only to find that it’s nothing but fluff and filler? For most, it’s too many times, and the solution is checking your Email less often. Many of the “important” messages can wait, even if they’re gussied up with a faux sense of urgency. Establish a simple routine: Check email when you start the day, check it again when you’re done with the day. No more, no less. Sure, this strategy might not be possible for every situation, but if you can learn to get a handle on that inbox, you’ll find your time freeing up in a big way.
Step Four: Watch The Clock
Playing into all of these steps is learning how to time yourself. Using time tracking software, you can break your work into bursts of extreme productivity, then give yourself a chance to reset and get back at it. It might take some getting used to, but it’s the best way to keep yourself sharp and on task for longer periods.