Cringeworthy words if you’re the creative type that procrastinates on every project. Do you burn the midnight oil to complete all your deadlines in the nick of time? Maybe you’re a morning person who manages to put everything off until you’re working way past bedtime. Either way, creatives can benefit from practicing good time management skills and constructing beneficial habits. Remember that creativity doesn’t just happen when you’re under pressure. It, like any skill, is a trait that you improve. Browse our time management tips for creative people below to learn how to better manage your work, and your time, more effectively.
1. Pencil it in
We can’t stress enough how important it is to schedule your time. An unscheduled morning can easily turn into a 4-hour Facebook binge. And by then you’ll find that it’s lunch time and you’ve just burned through your most valuable morning hours, ready to put projects off until tomorrow… again.
Break the habit of floating from one task to another by setting a strict ‘no ifs, ands, or buts’ schedule. It doesn’t have to be an imposing 8-hour day. You can start by saying you’ll draw (or paint, or write, or read) from 10:00 am until 12:30 pm, making sure to avoid distractions during that time. Or schedule yourself during your most productive hours, saving easier, mundane tasks for your end of day, or end of workweek. You can plan out your weekends, too, if you already have a full-time job and are just too tired to create after a long day.
Treat your schedule like showing up to work. You may not finish an entire project in a few hours, but know you’ll be working throughout. This will also prime your mind to get busy and stay busy. So whether night owl, morning riser, or weekend warrior, be sure to schedule your time and show up to your shift.
2. Just say no to distractions
Distractions are your enemy from getting any important stuff done. You simply won’t get anything completed if you keep checking your email (or Instagram, or Facebook, or searching for the perfect cat gif for every mood). Not only do distractions keep you away from the task at hand, they’re also a creativity killer, not allowing your mind the opportunity to concentrate so it can craft all the clever and whimsy you seek. And if you’re having a hard time staying away from online distractions try an app to help strengthen your willpower.
3. Prioritize your tasks
To-do lists can be helpful. But they can easily turn into a never-ending scrawl of must-dos, gotta dos, and absolutely have tos. Your list then becomes an overwhelming hurdle rather than a helpful organizational tool. Learn to manage projects by breaking tasks down into priorities: What needs to get done today? What can wait until tomorrow? What can wait until next week? There are plenty of apps out there that can help with this. Make an attempt to spend the first 15 minutes of your work day getting your tasks prioritized so you know exactly what you have on your plate for the day ahead.
4. One step at a time
Now that you’ve prioritized your work, focus on each task one at a time. You may be tempted to free-wheel from one task to the next as inspiration strikes, but your creative work deserves your uninterrupted attention. Similar to distractions, taking your brain from one rampant train of thought to the next can create a haphazard break in creativity. Let your mind ruminate and concentrate on the task at hand in order to perform at your peak.
5. No nightcaps
If you know you have an important project due you’re going to need to give it the attention it deserves. That means you need to perform at your best. And performing at your best means taking care of yourself. You should be getting enough sleep. You should be eating well. And you should be feeling rested. This likely means you’ll occasionally be saying ‘no’ to happy hour invitations, but know the opportunity will come again when you don’t have a major deadline looming! If you’re working, be sure take care of your brain and body and they should take care of the rest.
6. Snack time
This one’s a basic, and simple, reminder to have snacks around while you’re working. As a creative, you may lose track of time when you’re in the zone and can forget to eat. Having snacks at arms reach will ensure your hunger pangs don’t become an opportunity for distraction.
However, when it’s actually mealtime be sure to stop and take break. Step away from your workspace and enjoy your food. Take a few deep breaths. Zone out. Your mind needs a break from steady work in order to continue to be productive.
And even if you aren’t taking snack breaks, remember to break often. Shoot for 52 minutes of productivity before stepping away for a breather.
7. Your bed is for sleeping. Don’t work in it.
In a world of increasing gadget portability it’s easy to bring your work to bed with you. But don’t do it! You don’t want to work in places you associate with relaxation. A comfy bed isn’t going to motivate you to get crafty. Avoid the (strong) possibility of drifting off to sleep by creating a workspace all your own. A desk or easel with a sturdy chair should do the trick. You can try decorating your space, too, with inspiring artwork or images to help get you in a freethinking mood.
8. Carry your ideas in your pocket
Get in the habit of carrying a notebook (or download a note taking app on your phone). Use your real or virtual notebook to jot down ideas, notes, or any flashes of inspiration. Then, you can simply add your important notes to your schedule when you’re next planning out your day.
9. Don’t panic
Don’t beat yourself up if you don’t manage to finish everything on your plate. Not everything you planned to get done today will get done today. And that’s okay! Distractions will happen. Last minute projects will come up. Things will take longer than you thought. Basically, life happens. So do your best to prioritize your schedule and focus on the what has to happen. You can always work on other things tomorrow. That’s not procrastination, that’s productivity.
10. Have fun!
In the spirit of imagination and creativity, we want to remind you to have a little fun. You employ yourself through creative work because you inherently enjoy it. If you work tirelessly without a fun task or a laugh every now and then, you’ll burn out. So bring a sense of merriment and wonder to your work by taking on projects that challenge you, that you’ll learn from, and that will bring a smile to your face. Above all, find the time to have a good time.