I don’t know about you, but the lead-up to summer is cray. zee. School is ending, the graduates are partying, our big yearly competition is over but the clean-up is real–it makes me dizzy to think of all the plates that are spinning. Often it feels like my creative projects are the easiest items on my to-do list to put on hold. But I don’t want to lose traction! Here are a few time management tricks that make it possible to carve out a few minutes*:
The 80/20 Rule
You’ve probably heard of the Pareto Principle, but it’s oh-so-easy to forget when you’re bogged down in the fiddly details of your to-do list. Basically, we create 80% of our content in 20% of our available time. Now, you can look at that figure and feel discouraged or, like me, feel empowered. Knowing I’ll spend the majority of my limited time examining my cuticles and refilling my tea cup makes me anxious to get going so I can unearth that golden 20%.
There’s more to this one than the cute little tomato-shaped timers. If you’re anything like me, you get distracted ridiculously easily. I’ve got a bunch of tabs open on my browser right now (all totally necessary! every one!), and if I’m not careful, I’ll forget what I was going to do by the time I find the tab I need. Hey, at least I don’t need as many breaks, since my mind scoots off without me while I’m scrolling facebook instead of sending the message I went there to send. Sigh. Anyway, that’s where the timer comes in handy. I also like it for those days when everything is screaming at me for attention, and I don’t know what to do first. I’ll give each item fifteen minutes. Usually it becomes clear right away which tasks need prioritized.
Divide your to-do list into four quadrants, or sections. They are: Not Important and Not Urgent, Not Important but Urgent, Important but Not Urgent, and Important and Urgent. Most people have little difficulty identifying the tasks that are both important and urgent, and the ones that are neither important nor urgent. Hedgehog videos? A waste of time. Running the trash to the curb when you hear the truck rumbling into the neighborhood? That has to be taken care of right now!
So the way to make real progress in your day is to take a hard look at the remaining two quadrants. Attending to things that are important but not urgent will make an immediate difference in your overall satisfaction. Think of the things that mean the most to us. These are rarely emergencies, but if neglected, they will evolve into something both important and urgent. Spending time with your loved ones, taking care of your health and well-being, recreation–these are all crucially important but hardly ever beat down the office door. Be sure to prioritize your life, or you may find the most important people and qualities have left you when you need them most, all because of neglect…
The Miracle Morning
If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you know how I love the book, The Miracle Morning. For Creatives, the Miracle Morning can be life-changing, and that’s not an over-statement. Yes, waking up can be hard. But what other time of day is so completely yours? No one can claim your early mornings, and you’re free to knock out a few hundred words or the next phase of your project. Do it for a month using the quick start guide at the link above. If you don’t love it, you can go back to sleeping in.
Try one of these time management tricks this week and watch what a difference it makes. But don’t get so laser-focused you miss savoring the first few days of summer break!
Do you have a game-changing productivity hack? Share it with us in the comments!
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